Essay on Literary Works and the History They Tell

Essay on Literary Works and the History They Tell

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Conventionally when one thinks of history they think of the facts that are written in textbooks and learned in history class. People recall specific dates, who was involved, why it happened, and exactly what the events were. Usually the only questions that are thought of are the five journalistic questions. People often forget that that same history in textbooks was recorded by one person and may not tell everything that happened in that event. For a person really become knowledgeable on a particular event in history they should explore all possible avenues recorded history about that event. For example, a lot can be learned for the art, especially literature, that came about as a result of or describing particular events in history. Some examples of literary works could include poems, novels, memoirs, and philosophical writings. Many times people are under the notion that because these works may not be entirely true or because they only describe one person’s life they cannot be history. This is false. Literary works, no matter fiction or non-fiction, that discuss events of the past and contain elements of truth about those events can contribute to history and be known as historical testimonies.
Erich Remarque, a German novelist, was a member of the German army. He was drafted into the army during World War I. He encountered first hand the gruesome days in the trenches and living under the constant fear of death by guns, gas or famine. Though he did not die in the war he did endure much injury. Remarque used a novel as his medium to contribute to history the tale of a soldiers struggle, but unlike most novels, especially by German’s, Remarque denied the glory in being a German soldier. All Quiet on the Western Front tells of the ...

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... and experiences. While they only provide one point of view, they are intimate and often filled with emotions. The authors allow for an emotional bond to be formed between themselves and their reader. These authors expose their readers to the most personal details of their life. Not all memoirs have historical value, but ones like Gerda Weissman Klein’s All but My Life do. Because Klein took the time to share her experience during the Holocaust, generations to come will know the struggle that she and the individuals she included in her memoir face and those people she included will have a name, making them more human. Death tolls and dates are common historical fact provided to people, but because of literary works such as memoirs generations to come with have a few names and an unforgettable memory of the horrors that those individuals faced prior to their deaths.

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