Literature’s Social Commentary

Social commentary is a favorite part of authors.

It’s safer to make controversial remarks about a topic than to drag a group of people through it. It’s like holding up the mirror to society, but it’s not as direct. If they want to deny it, the deniers can continue to decline. My favorite is a story that takes a concept, puts it in a compelling plot, and makes a statement about society and life. It can be refreshing to read.

Jane Austen is an excellent example of social commentary in fiction. Although romance is the central theme of Jane Austen’s stories, the plotlines are often laced with humorous and mocking observations about the society in which she lived. You may have heard of “Pride and Prejudice,” 1818. It is her most well-known novel. Jane Austen’s timeless classic is filled with complex characters and a straightforward plot. She explores how 19th-century English society forces women to rely on marriage for economic security and social standing. It is more than 200 years old and still has a lot of impact due to how it depicts gender, class, and status differences.

Jane Austin, “Pride and Prejudice,” (1818), first edition cover

Let’s go back 100 years and look at “The Great Gatsby” (1925) by Scott F. Fitzgerald. This literary masterpiece is set in Long Island, New York, during the roaring 1920s. It tells the story of Jay Gatsby, a young millionaire, and his love for Daisy Buchanan. Many high school students, particularly those who live in the US, were forced to read this book. Although they might be skeptical, the book is so rich in sociology and status, and Fitzgerald’s somewhat cynical view of the American Dream is something I enjoy immensely.

“The Great Gatsby” (1825) Scott F. Fitzgerald’s first cover

Let’s move on to modern times. Authors have continued using social commentary in books. I recently read “When She Woke,” a novel by Hilary Jordan (2011). It is based on the theme of “The Scarlet Letter” and is set in a society that tints criminals’ skin to reflect their crimes. These markings make them vulnerable to physical attacks, ridicule, and even death threats. Although the story is decent, the ending could have lived better up to the promise, but it highlights the fascinating topics that the premise can cover. This story can spark many discussions about abortion, moral values, crime, and punishment.

Hillary Jordan’s front cover of “When She Woke” (2011)

Angie Thomas’s front cover, “The Hate You Give” (2017)

The most recent is Angie Thomas’s “The Hate U Give,” a novel about social commentary. You must have seen the movie if you have not read the book. I recommend you get a copy if you haven’t read it. This was the best piece of literary fiction that I have ever read. It can significantly impact youth more than any classic novel, as it is set in modern society and talks about police brutality. Starr, a teenage African-American girl, is the protagonist of the story. She witnessed her friend being killed by a cop who stopped them along the road. From this point, the plot progresses and raises vital questions about racism, gang violence, and human values.

Writing a book containing strong opinions and commentary about society can be risky, especially for authors with many stories to tell. It can be challenging for authors to see their hard work mocked by people they don’t know online. It is funny that some people won’t even read the book about which they are so mad. They have a mob mentality, where they join a group of people who are angry at a simple piece of fiction because they disagree with their views. Authors cannot express their thoughts adequately for fear of backlash, so their work rarely achieves the impact they hoped it would. Authors might also consider using symbolism to make comments. This is a safer way to express their thoughts and reduce the risk of backlash.

George Orwell’s 1945 novel “Animal Farm” was an allegorical novel. This is a novel that can be interpreted to uncover hidden meanings. The story is about a group of farm animals that rebel against their farmer to make the world a better place for them. The rebellion is defeated, and the farm finds itself in the same terrible state it was before, under the control of Napoleon, a pig named Napoleon. The novel is fascinating enough by itself. But it gets even more intriguing when you discover that the fable refers to events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then into the Stalinist era in the Soviet Union. Orwell wrote to Yvonne Davet that “Animal Farm” was a satirical tale about Stalin. In his essay “Why I Write” (1946), he stated that “Animal Farm” was his first attempt to combine political and artistic purposes into one book. Literature with allegorical commentary is far more interesting than literature with analysis.

George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” (1945), first edition.

We hope that more books will be published in the future, especially considering 2020 was an extremely volatile year in America and around the globe. In addition, many social issues have been raised in recent months. It is possible to expect more authors to make interesting social commentary. A book can make a lasting impression on the reader if done well. It can also be beneficial for many readers to be affected by a good story.

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