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How Literature May Help Solve Many Cultural Issues

Updated on November 23, 2011

Multicultural Issues

More than a dozen people lived in the small apartment next door. Although the apartment was clean, the children looked well fed, and everyone seemed happy, the manager simply assumed that, because the family members had immigrated into the country, they were poor or just could not find adequate shelter for all of them. Therefore, without knowing anything or doing any research about their cultural background, the manager took it upon himself to find other accommodations for some of them. However, upon returning a few weeks later, he found the apartment just as crowded as before. When asked about this, the matriarch explained that it was customary in their country for several generations of the same family to live together, so they simply had gone back to their native country, collected more family members, and returned. Perplexed, the manager shook his head and walked away. There will always be those who do not understand a culture other than their own. However, literature can be the tool used to increase cultural awareness by accurately portraying the history, customs, values, gender, and language of the culture.

Cultural awareness

According to Quappe and Cantatore (2007), cultural awareness is the "foundation of communication" and involves taking a good look at ourselves, our values, our beliefs, and our perceptions. However, more importantly it is how we perceive others. How are we alike? How are we different? Where is our common ground? In literature, by understanding the culture's background, the reader will gain a better comprehension of the who, what, when, why, and how of the story. Here, the reader will also gain an incite into the author's character and motivation.

Why cultural attributes are important

According to Madden (2007, pp. 3-11), "most literature does not intend to convey a moral or lesson. At its best, it reveals life. But like life, literature evokes our emotion and judgment." Therefore, many factors such as character, gender, personality, geography, and circumstances influence the way we think about literature. These attributes also help us identify or make comparisons to our own lives or circumstances. For example, readers may respond either positively or negatively to a certain character or author because his or her personality or culture is different or similar to those they do not like or understand. Therefore, these readers may agree or disagree with what the author says, they may ask why the author responded the way he or she did, or they may ask themselves if they would have acted the same way under the same circumstances. By presenting a different view than our own literature influences the way we believe and behave. Thus we can "view ourselves in relation to the world around us, and perhaps be better able to think critically about our responses to various kinds of literature."


Quappe, S. & Cantatore, G. (2007). What is cultural awareness? Retrieved from

Madden, F. (2007). Exploring literature: Writing and arguing about fiction, poetry, drama, and the essay (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.


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    • Deerwhisperer profile image

      Brenda Krupnow 5 years ago from Bradenton, Florida

      Thank you. In my class at UOP there are some who believe you have to go to a particular country to learn about its culture. This may have been true before the advent of the Internet and is still true in many ways. However, I am satisfied in knowing that I can sit here in front of my computer (particularly while reading other hubs, LOL) and learn just about all I need about any specific culture I choose, which gives me a leg up if I ever decide to visit. Thank you for your comment.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      We can certainly learn a lot about cultures when we read to expand our perspectives. Keep reading - a good message!

    • Deerwhisperer profile image

      Brenda Krupnow 6 years ago from Bradenton, Florida

      That's a shame too, because I'm wondering what will happen should the internet shut down.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 6 years ago from Southern Nevada

      From what I've heard about many magazine and news papers also publishers have gone out of business because of the internet.

      I understand smaller towns might not be so aware but surely cities are fully aware.

    • Deerwhisperer profile image

      Brenda Krupnow 6 years ago from Bradenton, Florida

      So true. But in this day and age, especially with the internet so readily available, I doubt that there are many who are not at least somewhat aware of the different cultures.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Reading literature and popular books and magazines would probably help raise cultural awareness. I do wonder if the kind of person who is totally unaware of cultural difference is likely to read about it.