Jan 12, 2018 in Literature

Western though Versus Non-Western Thought

Literature forms a very important part of our society. Through the major genres of drama, poetry and fiction, literature serves as a channel through which information and ideas are passed from one person to another, eventually enlightening the entire society. People’s opinions, values and knowledge system are conveyed through these forms ( Chitukudza). This implies that literature helps reflect the image of a given society such that its structure can be well understood. Every society has its cultural values that it upholds – the ones that make it unique among many other communities. At this point, there are many questions that arise. For instance, some of these questions include: How can we learn about our own culture as well as those of other communities? Also how can the world at large appreciate the beauty that accompanies cultural diversity?  This article will discuss the significant role played by literature in illuminating and developing the society. The essay will seek to answer the question of how we can depend on literature to learn about cultural diversity.

The role of literature in enlightening the society cannot be overlooked. It secures a position in the society that is irreplaceable and irrevocable especially through its genres ( Chitukudza). Information that is passed through literature books helps the readers to understand their cultures, values and origin. This information also helps to inspire them to project into the future. Major reformations have been made in the world because people were inspired to attain certain goals through the work of literature.  Literature allows great thinkers to pass their ideas and information to people on how the society can be improved ( Chitukudza).

Nevertheless, in order for the intended information to be effective, readers especially students ought to appreciate the work of poets and writers. Communication becomes effective only when a sender conveys information, which is accepted by the receiver without distortion. Furthermore, the information begins to generate effect when people read the literature material, conceptualizes it and eventually practises it (Hay 6).

Every community has its own cultural values and practices that uniquely define it. However, in general, societies can be categorized to be oriented into either western thought or non-western thought. Western thought is a collection of ideas and practices that are linked to the Western world comprising of European countries and the regions that they colonized. It is a set of scientific, philosophical, ethical and political as well as spiritual values that drifted the western world apart from other civilizations. Societies that practice western thought are normally said to be civilized and are associated with liberalism and their political systems are democratically based. These regions were mainly European colonies and therefore they inherited the practices from them. On the other hand, non-western thought is usually associated with societies that are ruled by tyrants. They do not welcome at all cultural practices that are associated with western civilization. These societies are normally regarded as uncivilized because their values and ideologies are not inclined to growth and endurance of civilization. However, it is worth to note that western thought is intellectually rather than racially or physically defined.

Reading Lolita in Tehran revolves around the life of Nafisi and other Iranian women who used to visit her. Nafisi had already resigned from her job at the University and was now coaching her own students (Hay 10). She dwells on certain books that inspire her and her students to embrace change that liberates them from the traditional customs that had low esteem on women. Nafisi uses the analogy of veils to pass across her intended message.

The use of veils among women in the Muslim world is predominantly the order of the day. Normally, Muslim women are expected to uphold their morality through their dress code. However, the writers have used the concept of covering female bodies using veils to in different ways. Hay (2007) suggests that both covering bodies with veil and uncovering them contributes to the development of liberalism. For instance, during struggle for independence in Algeria, women hid small weapons and messages under their robes (Hay 12). They took advantage of the harmlessness and submissiveness of these women in their communities to pass colonial guards undetected at check points. After this trickery was found out and posing as Muslim women raised suspicion, revolutionary ladies started to dress like western women and hid the weapons in their handbags (Hay 12). While analysing these scenarios, it can be found that the implications of a veil majorly depends on the context in which it has been used. We can say that the covering the body with a veil brings about liberty because it made the women to pass the guards unrecognized. On the other hand, unveiling can represent the liberation from customs that bound women into submissiveness and subjection.

Hay uses Nafisi’s story to address the issue of self-identity and self-worth, areas that are at stake among young women in Iran. Nafisi uses the concept of covering and uncovering a woman’s body in her story to address this issue of self-identity. She suggests that there is nothing ethically wrong with staying naked. According to her, this is what develops confidence and self-worth (Hay 11). She gives a detailed description of her experience in the leisurely shower to attract the reader’s attention into her belief on covering and uncovering of bodies. She calls other women who remain submissive to traditional customs as lacking shape and self.

The story and other poems in the article by Simon Hay help the readers to learn and understand values of different cultures. As a matter of fact, we can say that literature is a reflection of the society. According to Nafisi, literature helps students to develop critical thinking skills that are vital in the social life. 

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