Violence in Literature

From the stories we’ve read so far, it appears that violence has made a name for itself in literature.  It becomes an important aspect of literature in that it keeps the attention of the reader bated.  Witnessing another human (especially a beautiful, young girl) being cut up into pieces in an unholy way hooks our attention on a vulgar level.  It invokes a sense of dread to see what happens next and before we actually come to the said chopping of pieces, we sense it is coming.  So, not only does this dread increase the weight of the story, it motivates us to read farther. 

Without some act of violence (or threaten of imposing violence), there is no motive for rescue.  For example, in the Robber’s Bridegroom we know already that there is some dark fate in store for the girl when her fiancé tells her his house is “in the dark forest” and he’ll mark the way with ashes.  The sense that some grisly end awaits her at the house in the dark forest, heightens our curiosity and deepens our concern/interest in what will happen to the girl.  (In this case, however, she confronts him and rescues herself.)

In Robinson Crusoe, the act of cannibalism (or his fear of it) adds a new element to the story.  Cannibalism is what appears to be Robinson’s greatest fear on the island:  for him, living in isolation for 24 years doesn’t seem to compare to the thought of being eaten alive and is what keeps him from venturing out to the main land.  In this story, violence becomes the “added boost” to take the story to another level and provide the character (Robinson) a situation of even deeper danger.  This makes the story to (some of) us  more interesting and more worth reading. 

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Violence in Literature

  1. looloo14

    While the stories that we have read in class include violence that lends the victim to be rescued, I think there are also examples of rescues that stem for non-violent acts. To me, violence occurs when a human is harmed by another human. For instance, when rescues occur because of an act of nature, I don’t consider violence to be the culprit. Perhaps instead, the cruelty of nature is. Just an example I can think of is the movie Cast Away. Tom Hank’s character requires a rescue while there was no human interaction while he was on the island. However, I do agree with you that without a known act of violence, there is no motive for rescue. Motive, to me, is the key word. There was no motive for the character in Cast Away to get rescued because no one knew he was there; his rescue was accidental.

  2. I completely agree with what you have said about violence in literature! I think that violence in literature, especially violence to the gruesome degree in which we have seen it in the books/stories we have read so far, is a device that authors use to keep the reader alert. Whenever the “chopping of someone to pieces” is mentioned, it brings a sense of dread to the reader, for such a thing is terrible and almost unimaginable! This keeps the reader listening, usually we do not want anything as terrible as this to happen to a character in the story we are reading, especially one who appears to be perfectly innocent!
    Like you mentioned in the Robber’s Bridegroom, the author was clearly foreshadowing of what bad things were to happen in the story. I think that when violence, especially to this degree is involved in a story, it makes [usually] her rescue even more necessary! Usually violence in stories causes the characters involved to become stronger and more independent; it does in fact make the story more interesting and a lot more fun to read!

  3. I believe that not only does violence add an element of plot to the the story as you mentioned but the presence of violence many times brings to the forefront the true characteristics of the main characters. Is the main character a cunning one who will manage to outwit his captor? Or will the character succumb to his/her demise? Many times the way that the character acts in the face of danger- wether he acts nobly or not for example- tells us much that otherwise may not have been revealed. Also, violence in this stories is used as a source of punishment for the main characters who do not listen to advice. Little Red is eaten because she did not listen to her mother or strayed the path while the wife in Bluebeard is killed because of her curiosity. In this case, violence is used to teach a lesson.

  4. autumncassidy

    I thoroughly enjoyed your take on the violence in literature as one that is necessary in order to maintain the attention of the audience. When first reading your post, I couldn’t help but be reminded of “rubbernecking” and how observers, particularly drivers, will go out of their way to gawk at a particularly violent car accident or any other sort of carnage. Like this instance, the incorporation of violence into works of fiction is particularly necessary. I believe that it is even more imperative when approaching the subject of fairy tales, as many of the tales, particularly those adapted by the Grimm brothers, incorporated morals which were often implemented as teaching tools for children. Without violence, it is difficult to stress the consequence of not adhering to a particular moral which is why I believe that violence was so stressed in many of the tales that we’ve encountered in class.

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