There is little doubt that words have power. But they are not at the forefront of change.
As an aspiring author, I like to think that words can inspire change and elicit reactions so strong that the world is irrevocably transformed for the better. I dream that writers might have as much impact on the world as others do — that they might save lives like doctors, innovate like engineers and discover like scientists.
I like to think that words can elicit reactions so strong that the world is irrevocably transformed for the better
It’s undeniable that literature can push boundaries and be bold. Writers have dared to shout what others have been afraid to whisper, and what has not even occurred to some. They have created worlds that provide hope for what we can be. Writing about contemporary and prevalent issues can bring them to light, and with topics such as sexuality and mental health, literature can help remove stigma and redefine what is seen as normal.
However, there is no guarantee that the words will reach a wide enough audience to incite change. Certain types of books inevitably sell better than others, and works that tackle complex and difficult subjects may not be on the top of people’s lists.
Writers have dared to shout what others have been afraid to whisper
Even if a book develops an audience, the chances that they will be moved to action are small as well. Both writing and reading are passive activities, and actually putting ideas into motion is a different matter.
Literature seems more a device to escape reality than to delve deeper into it. For example, whilst The Hunger Games might bring to light some problems with society today, it is unlikely that readers will be left with a sudden urge or any means to improve the world.
Literature seems more a device to escape reality than to delve deeper into it
If prompt development is the goal, literature is not the appropriate vehicle, because words are not powerful enough to incite rapid change. If someone wants to change something, there are more proactive means to do so.
That being said, writing about issues remains a legitimate way to tackle them. Books may not lead to change at the pace and degree we might hope, but by constantly seeing certain topics or groups of people being represented in the texts we read, gradual change is bound to happen.
Words are not powerful enough to incite rapid change
Whereas a demonstration or social work scheme might see outright change for the near future, words have the power to work through the mind and heart, and slowly lead to long-lasting progress.