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Can writing change the world?

Daya­nara, of Quin­cy, Illi­nois, wrote:  “… my dream is to become an author some­day. My dad would nev­er approve of it though. He wants me to become some­one who can change the world, but he doesn’t under­stand writ­ing can change the world.”

Go Daya­nara!

Sophia's WarBut … can writ­ing change the world? Hav­ing just been emerged in the world of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion so as to write Sophia’s War, the evi­dence is clear that such writ­ing as Tom Paine’s Com­mon Sense, and “We hold these truths to be self-evi­dent … “  changed the world. But since Daya­nara wrote to me, per­haps, it’s fair to ask if fic­tion can change the world? More specif­i­cal­ly, can writ­ing for young peo­ple change the world?

I am struck by how many adults vivid­ly recall books they read as young peo­ple and with an enthu­si­as­tic mem­o­ry for detail that is strik­ing con­sid­er­ing the years which have passed. I’ve noticed, too, how many peo­ple recall, in par­tic­u­lar, a teacher who read a lot to a class. I’ve often been told by old­er women that, when younger, they read The True Con­fes­sions of Char­lotte Doyle many times. Only rarely how­ev­er, did they tell me what they did because of that reading. 

And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry StreetSpeak­ing for myself, I do believe And To Think that I saw it on Mul­ber­ry Street, opened my imag­i­na­tion. The Wind in the Wil­lows gave me a new aware­ness of the nat­ur­al world.  Trea­sure Island, informed me what a boy (Jim Hawkins) could do. 

Beyond all else, how­ev­er, I believe read­ing taught me how to think. And what I read was, of course, writing.

2 thoughts on “Can writing change the world?”

  1. Oh, ones I’m inter­est­ed (but that does­n’t mean any­one else is): Mark Twain, John Stein­beck, Antho­ny Trol­lope (at least his Bal­lis­ter and Barch­ester series and a cou­ple of his stand-alones), Eliz­a­beth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins (obvi­ous­ly I’m into Vic­to­ri­an lit­er­a­ture). Thomas Hardy, George Elliot, William Faulkn­er. I haven’t checked to see what’s already done. I’ll look at the Essen­tials and Sum­maries list, too. I did enjoy doing the com­plete works things, like Dick­ens and James.

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  2. Oops! Sor­ry, that com­ment was for some­thing else! Here is what I meant to say:
    Some fic­tion can direct­ly change the world, a notable exam­ple being “Uncle Tom’s Cab­in.” Most often, how­ev­er, the sto­ry changes the read­er, who in turn goes out to change the world. Fun­ni­ly enough, this morn­ing I am reread­ing Mein­dert de Jong’s “The Wheel on the School” and had just come across the state­ment, “…some­times when we won­der, we can begin to make things hap­pen.” The pow­er of lit­er­a­ture is in spark­ing and then direct­ing that won­der, which in turn can change the world.

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