Literature and Culture

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Literature: A Window into Culture

Literature is notably the written text that contains artistic value including drama and fiction as well as the traditional literary genres such as poems, which portray a culture. Markedly, authors have used literary work in the exploration of various cultures over the years that include the authors of The Arabian Nights as well as those of The god of Small Things as will be portrayed in this paper. Therefore, the article will point out the possibility of learning and understanding a culture through its literature as well as highlighting the various cautious steps that should be adhered to as one uses the documentation to follow a particular culture (Almeida, 2002). Literature can be considered as a communicative as well as a social system that can portray a culture to an individual from another culture. Notably, the literature of culture enables the reader to not only to learn about the social aspect of the culture but also the historical, the linguistic as well as the other implementations of the culture in question.

The Arabian Nights: Portraying Islamic Culture

In The Arabian Nights, there is a collection of stories that revolve around the Scheherazade, the wife to sultan Shahrayar. Through this literature of short stories compiled from various authors over the years, the culture of Islam during the Golden Age is precisely portrayed (Clarke, 2007). The sultan in question finds out that his first wife has been unfaithful and committed an act of felony with a kitchen boy. This realization compels the sultan to kill both the wife, Scheherazade as well as the kitchen boy with whom his first wife had laid (Gindro, 2003). The sultan then decides to marry different wives ion a nightly basis and then to kill them in the following morning in a bid to prevent betrayal. However, this trend is brought to an end by his vizier's daughter who marries the sultan and starts telling him stories that are left each night halfway and completed the following night before another is started and left halfway (Dwivedi, 2010). This trend of storytelling proceeds to 1001 nights when the Sultan changes his mind on the pattern he had begun of marrying and then killing the women in the following morning in a bid to avoid being betrayed (Damrosch 2009).

The god of Small Things: A Glimpse into Indian Culture

The god of Small Things presents the events of the family of Ayemenem that was of Syrian Christian in the town of Kerala in India and were land-owning, as well as wealthy. The latter literary work presents the culture of the town on Kerala in India through the family of Syrian Christian Ipe (Downey, 2010). The second literary work also points out the storyline of the manner in which two twins who are fraternal reunite when they are young adults after the separation that was brought about by the existence of family tensions.

In both of the aforementioned literary works, there is an explicit portrayal of the kind of culture in which the characters live (Clarke, 2007). For instance, it is arguable that the culture of Islam during those Golden Ages in which the sultan acted as the leader and governor of the other dictated that the sultan was above the law. This argument is portrayed in the action of the sultan's marriage and the killing trend that is not challenged by any of the subjects but is only outdone by the trick of storytelling (Dwivedi, 2010). In case the culture in the question presented the channel for making the sultan accountable for the deeds towards the subjects, the author could have used a character in portraying the same. Contrarily, in this case, the author uses a trick and not a cultural challenge towards the sultan’s deeds. Further, it is also portrayed that the culture in question had no room for the felony acts as those found are both put to death regardless of their position in the society.

The Ayemenem culture in India is also portrayed in the literary work The god of Small Things. The work represents the significance of the family in the culture in question as it majors on the reunion of the previously separated twins as well as the struggle for survival of the twin's mother who is married to an abusive drunkard husband (Gindro, 2003). Besides, the work also addresses the cultural classes as well as the societal statuses that are in the culture in question through the presenting the characters to be limited with various things that may be deemed non-acceptable regarding their culture (Clarke, 2007). For instance, the cultural rules offer dictations on the occupations that multiple individuals may adopt, the marriage rules as well as those considered to be better than the others. Another cultural lesson learned from the literary work by Roy is the value of identity to the culture. The character finds the question of identity to be of vital essence (Dwivedi, 2010). Markedly, Rahel and Estha are used by the author to show this essence of identity. The two start by feeling they are just extensions of each other, but this stops as they are separated, and they learn more about the surrounding world. They at some point identify themselves as Ambassador Stick Insect, Ambassador E. Pelvis, as well as The Airport Fairy before their later reunion.

Therefore, regarding the literature as mentioned above, as well as the examples and demonstration provided regarding the two literary works, it is affirmable that a reader or learner may gain access to culture through its literature and the events exhibited in the literature as well as the characters and their behaviors (Gindro, 2003). The authors use the characters in enabling the reader to experience through imagination and visioning the cultural practices in the lives of the characters through their acts as well as the challenges they face in their lives in the works of literature. Through writing the religious aspects, the various love stories and the manner in which they ended or were handled, and the other topics related to culture, the authors of these literary works unveil the traditions as well as beliefs in the explored culture, which equip the reader with the necessary knowledge on the particular culture the individual examines (Clarke, 2007). However, some cautions have to be taken during the process of learning culture through its literature which includes the confirmation of the author's qualifications to avoid being misled as well as being informed about a particular culture. The other considerable cautions include the ethical consideration as well as awareness during the process of exploring the culture, the various cultural obligations that the author must have adhered to in the text, as well as the manner in which the text’s author acquired his knowledge on the culture that is written about in his literary work (Dwivedi, 2010).

In conclusion, literature is considered an excellent channel through which an individual may learn culture because it expresses beliefs as well as values and shows the manner in which individuals live alone or as a group. Besides, literature is the ideal tool to be employed in accessing culture and give the great opportunity to the explorer of the literature to learn and increase their knowledge of a particular culture. Additionally, documentation is of significant assistance in the acquisition of the understanding and the manner in which to interact with the people from the culture explored through the literary works. However, there are also cautious steps that should be put into consideration during this process of investigating the literary works to ensure the avoidance of misinformation as well as for misjudgment or interpretation of the author's works.

Works Cited

Almeida, S. (2002). Untouchable Bodies: Arundhati Roy’s Corporeal Transgressions, Ilha do Desterro, 42 (2002) 257-274.

Clarke, A. (2007). Language, Hybridity & Dialogism in The God of Small Things. In A. Tickell, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. Oxford: Routledge pp.132-141.

Damrosch, David. (2009). How to Read World Literature. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Downey, V. S. (2010). Orientalism. In B. Warf (Ed.), Encyclopedia of geography. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Retrieved from on 19 Sept 2017.

Dwivedi, O. P. (2010) The Subaltern and the text. Reading Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. Journal of Asia Pacific Studies 1(2), 387-386.

Gindro, S. (2003). Exoticism. In G. Bolaffi, R. Bracalenti, P. Braham, & et al., Dictionary of race, ethnicity & culture. London: Sage. Retrieved from on 19 Sept 2017.

November 24, 2023



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