Why Literature is so Personal?

Yesterday I heard a few complaints, about a student who does not respond in Online Classes. He simply ignores all modes of addressing by the teachers, never speaks out at all.

However, during my sessions, strangely, he is the one who constantly talks! I had no idea the child is so reticent otherwise. It was unbelievable.

What then, makes him speak in one class and hold back in the other.

Interest in the subject?

Maybe, but I know he is not literature-wise; I conduct their Language and Literature Classes. What is it then?

The point is, Literature is more personal. The poet or the writer is someone who you relate with. The most honest writings with far reaching effects are ones that are lucid and/ or autobiographical. The other day we talked about “Losses”. We were reading “The Ball Poem”. I had prepared a list of questions before even starting the session. Sort of a pre reading task. It preps you for what is coming ahead. And it mostly works.

These were my questions:

1. When was the first time you cried over the loss of something precious?

2. Were you offered any consolation? Did that help?

3. Now if you see a kid in trouble, crying over the loss of some important possession, do you reach out and console?

4. How does the experience of losing anything change a person?

And here is the poem that was to be studied…

The Ball Poem


What is the boy now, who has lost his ball.
What, what is he to do? I saw it go
Merrily bouncing, down the street, and then
Merrily over—there it is in the water!
No use to say ‘O there are other balls’:
An ultimate shaking grief fixes the boy
As he stands rigid, trembling, staring down
All his young days into the harbour where
His ball went. I would not intrude on him,
A dime, another ball, is worthless. Now
He senses first responsibility
In a world of possessions. People will take balls,
Balls will be lost always, little boy,
And no one buys a ball back. Money is external.
He is learning, well behind his desperate eyes,
The epistemology of loss, how to stand up
Knowing what every man must one day know
And most know many days, how to stand up
And gradually light returns to the street,
A whistle blows, the ball is out of sight.
Soon part of me will explore the deep and dark
Floor of the harbour . . I am everywhere,
I suffer and move, my mind and my heart move
With all that move me, under the water
Or whistling, I am not a little boy.

A simple yet profound insight on how coping with losses is necessary. Students talked about their experiences…like losing an ipad! A teddy bear! A bicycle!… These might seem superficial, but they meant the world at some stage.

I’m glad I don’t teach Science or Geography!!😃

Well, the questions above are for all of us to ponder.

How do losses change us?

Magnanimously…I would say.

P.S. – What answers would you give to these questions??

11 thoughts on “Why Literature is so Personal?

Add yours

  1. Very well penned, Shalini.

    — I uhh cried when I was 13(2013). I lost my precious ball pen which can write in more than 5 colors.

    –The consolation? My friends said that your parents will beat you. And damn I was afraid…😄.

    –Of course, I’ll tell that kid to keep calm & lookout again. If I’m able then I’ll buy him a 2nd one.

    –It depends on what you’ve lost…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is a cliché, but it is also true that once you lose something, you start to appreciate it more. And I think it is a very good thing to happen, at least at times! If you can get back something after losing it, what was lost and found would be valued greatly!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True, it sounds clichè till it actually happens…as it does with almost all we read in books.
      Losing is a way of life, makes one appreciative of what is still there.
      Thanks for responding 🙂👍


  3. Reading this I feel like I understand why the kid was so proactive in your classes.
    Its not about the subject. Its about the way the subject is taught. I believe you taught him the emotion behind what could have been meaningless syllabus and he couldn’t help but open up to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Really nice post – I wonder as well whether literature is so personal because when you read, it is as if you are opening up your own self in response to a writer you as opened themself up to you (a dialogue of honesty, as clichéd and cringe-worthy as that sounds) – thanks for the brilliant post, though!

    Liked by 2 people

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