Analysis of Kenneth Burke's "Literature as Equipment for Living"

Topics: Literature, Proverb, Art Pages: 2 (511 words) Published: December 1, 2011
Analysis of Kenneth Burke’s “Literature as Equipment for Living” In the article, “Literature as Equipment for Living”, author Kenneth Burke proposes that pieces of literature can help guide readers through situations they encounter in everyday life. Burke suggests that literature can provide readers with strategies for dealing with real life situations. To help explain this opinion to the reader, Burke begins his article with an analysis of proverbs. He then explains his method of classifying literary works into categories for sociological applications. In the same way that some people use the Bible or other sacred religious work, Burke asks the reader to decide is other forms of literature and art help the reader deal with the circumstances of life. Burke writes, “Could the most complex and sophisticated works of art legitimately be considered somewhat as ‘proverbs writ large”. Burke explains that works of art can provide us with examples of success and failure when dealing with conditions of life. His proposal that “literature is equipment for living” assumes that the ‘medicine’ obtained from the work of art will cure the reader. He writes, “Proverbs are designed for “consolation or vengeance, for admonition or exhortation, for foretelling.” His analysis of proverbs is that the nature of their form and message places them naturally into a category, such as consolation or instruction. He goes on further to explain that proverbs in a specific category can effect on conditions in society. Burke asks the reader to consider the possibility that this method of analyzing proverbs be extended to “the whole field of literature.” Burke’s article discusses proverbs at length. The Oxford American College Dictionary defines the word proverb as “a short pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice.” This modern definition is a partial fit with Burke’s view of a proverb. Burke takes the definition a step further and proposes that proverbs can...
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