The materials of literature and the arts of past and present time contain grandiose “collection” of the facts and views on the people and their psychology. They can influence person’s attitudes towards different social groups, understanding of social roles, and formation of ethical and aesthetic ideals. In particular, the popular characters of literature and the arts become the models and even stereotypes of perception and comprehension of other people. Moreover, these materials can appear as a valuable object in studying the phenomena of social perception. Therefore, writers, literary critics, art historians, psychologists, and sociologists conduct researches of content of artworks. Notable place among them belongs to the essays of Sherman Alexie Superman and Me and John Updike Moving Along. Both authors describe certain works not only in terms of their content but also in terms of semantic filling and relation to them. Accordingly, the aim of this paper is the analysis and comparison of the essays through the prism of the major idea. It is the statement that works of literature and art not only have a profound meaning but also have an impact on the individual and humanity, and the development of perception of the world.
Firstly, in order to explore the ways in which the authors reveal this issue it is necessary to give a short description of each essay. In Sherman Alexie’s Superman and Me the writer focuses on his personal experience of learning about the world with the help of the books and pictures. In this case he leads the transformation of his consciousness and perception. At the beginning of life he contemplates the world through the images. The author cites the example of a comic book about Superman looking at which he “learned to read”. He studied the image of the hero, the color of his costume, his actions and emotions, and using this guessed what was written under the picture. It is obvious that the writer’s idea is to show that each person can understand the meaning of the work and the fact that the author wanted to convey. Art has a certain content that can be transmitted by means of visual perception regardless on the age of the viewer.
Another example provided by the author is studying of his “father’s books before [he] could read”. He did not understand the words but he realized “the purpose of a paragraph”. Its aim was to unite the words into the frameworks to give them a common semantic meaning. According to this the writer comprehend that the individual is a paragraph in the family, and the family accordingly is a paragraph in the city and so on. It is clear that the writer’s idea is to demonstrate that the visual perception of a work forms the thoughts, opinions and attitudes towards the environment.
At the end of the essay it is noted that reading books became the next step of the influence of literature on the writer. He read them all the time and in different places with one purpose “to save [his] life”. The author believes so because he was Indian child and “expected to be stupid”. The books in their turn helped him to understand the world and become educated. It is noticeable that the writer’s idea is to prove to the others that by reading people develop and someone can become a person wants to be.
Another essay is Moving Along by John Updike. The writer analyzes the paintings of two artists. The first of them depicts two lovers “riding by moonlight”. The second one represents the riders moving through the forest. On the one hand, Updike describes in detail the pictures focusing on the color palette as well as the images of heroes. He uses many poetic epithets, such as “mauve-grey hills”, “soft night”, “scarlet pasterns”, and others. On another hand, he reflects on the meaning of the images, individual symbol, and location of the heroes. For instance, he observes that “[i]n both representations the movement is from right to left” like the mother holds her child to her left arm near the heart. At the end of the essay the author compares “these dreamlike tapestries” with the dreams of an ordinary person in that one is frequently travelling.
Considering the above the writer tries to convey how beautiful and full the arts can be. Works carry a semantic load that not only reveals the story. Each element and the color of the picture are not taken casually. All of them individually and the overall picture transmit a special feeling and cause a certain emotion.
The analysis of the essays demonstrates that there are a lot of similarities and differences between them. Identical for the authors is the main theme of the discussion because they both examine the impact of literature and art. Alexie studies influence of the books and Updike examines the pictures. The common goal is to prove that it has an effect on the human nervous system and its life as a whole. Alexie shows that reading made him smart and he became a writer despite the fact that he was going to be a pediatrician. Updike demonstrates how the arts can evoke different emotions.
Both writers use directly arts as the object of study. They primarily learn the visual perception of the works. Even though Alexie uses books he notices that a child who cannot read can perceive only the picture and the image of the letters on the paper. But both authors emphasize that the picture can replace a thousand words as reveals the human imagination.
The writers have a similar technique of presentation since they serves their personal opinion about the value of the works. They use the own judgments and describe the experiences they directly faced. Alexie tells about his childhood using the pronoun “I”.
Moreover, they come to the general conclusion that the works have a great influence on a person’s life and a worldview. Alexie mentions that the books can save the lives because they open up a person’s outlook. Updike drew attention to the fact that the paintings convey not only the experience of past generations but also give rise to a lot of words and feelings.
At the same time, the essays have many differences. First, if Alexie takes into consideration the literature Updike discloses visual arts. Although books and paintings belong to the art world, a person develops them differently, they have a different flow and essence, and, thus, a different effects. Therefore, there is a matter what kind of the object a person perceives.
Secondly, they describe evidences in different ways. Alexie uses the simple and clear words as if writing a diary of his life. He makes common inferences understandable for everyone, though, his essay is intended for people of all ages. He adds the amazing but easy comparisons as “I can see my changed family as an essay of seven paragraphs”. Thereby, the writer’s technique is convenient and the text is easy readable.
In contrast, Updike uses complex words and sentences with various epithets, metaphors, similes and allegories. For example, “we arrive feeling greatly aged by the engine’s innumerable explosive heartbeats. Consequently, the author’s technique is not an easy and occasionally it is hard to perceive the text.
Thirdly, Alexie describes a personal experience and on own example shows that literature really affects a person’s life. He tells the story of his family and his childhood that allows the reader to trust his essay. It helps to feel the words of the writer. Furthermore, his example indeed shows that art and literature have a positive impact on people. This essay provides a good causal connection between why it is necessary to read the book, and the result of this occupation. Updike in his turn only conveys a sense of the pictures allowing the reader to think about their impact on him or people in general. He reveals the beauty of art, its significance, but not a specific influence.
Fourth, Alexie shows the practical side of the impact of literature. So, he writes as he viewed the pictures and books and on this basis his imagination and understanding of the world were formed. Then he began to read them that led to that he has become a developed and educated person. On the contrary, Updike covers only the theoretical aspect of the problem without providing specific examples from life.
Based on the analysis of these essays it may be concluded that Superman and Me by Sherman Alexie is more persuasive than Moving Along by John Updike. The reason is that the first writer used more convincing evidence on the issue of the influence of literature and the arts on the human than the second. Moreover, Alexie backed up it with examples from own experience that allows to trust him. His idea that it is necessary to read a lot of books for developing seems to be clear, simple and faithful. Updike’s essay looks more colorful and eloquent than the work of the first author but his minds are not fully underpinning the main statement - the impact of literature and the arts.