Why art can help us when nothing else can…

Painters, poets, writers and the like document life like a series of photographs arranged in a family album. How does this documentation help navigate through life? When we read a book of great literary value, we are, in a way, experiencing life. And this experience helps us understand the pains and pleasures that confuse us at times.

Writes- Omar Anees Salim, Student of BA English, KMM College, Thrikkakara

Painters, poets, writers and the like document life like a series of photographs arranged in a family album. How does this documentation help navigate through life? When we read a book of great literary value, we are, in a way, experiencing life. And this experience helps us understand the pains and pleasures that confuse us at times.

Take, for instance, the short story ‘The Last Leaf’ by the American writer O.Henry (1862-1910). The story is about finding hope in a hopeless situation. The main character Johnsy (whose real name is Joanna) falls gravely ill after catching pneumonia.  The doctor tells Sue, Johnsy’s friend, that her chance of survival is low and adds that she must find the will to live.  All the while, Johnsy lying on her bed grows increasingly obsessed with leaves falling from an ivy vine.  She tells Sue that when the last leaf falls, she will die.

Behrman is an old unsuccessful painter who lives on the floor beneath Sue and Johnsy. He always wanted to paint something great, but never started it. He dismisses Johnsy’s belief as idiotic. But he stays all night out in the cold to paint a leaf after the last leaf has fallen. Johnsy gets hopeful and recovers without realizing that all the leaves have already fallen from the ivy vine. Eventually, Behrman dies after catching pneumonia and his art gave Johnsy the will to live.

Another example is the poem ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953). It is a plea not to buckle under death and to fight till our last breath. The line, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” is a recurring prayer asking us never to give up even when you are dying.

So, navigating through life is not tough as it seems, as long as art and beauty is around us.

Written By- Omar Anees Salim, Student of BA English, KMM College, Thrikkakara

2 thoughts on “Why art can help us when nothing else can…

  1. Most of us have learnt and taught these two literary works, which stimulate our optimism even while facing very hard and tough situations in life. There’s no better occasion to ponder on such torch bearers in the dark alleys of life. Warm compliments to Omar Salim, for your timely write-up!
    CL Jacob, Dept of English, KMM College

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