Representation is one reason why literature is transformative. By explicitly and implicitly referencing issues like slavery, racism, and corruption in their works, writers raise awareness. After awareness, the questioning starts, and actions follow.
In Lang Lit, we tackled George Orwell's 1984 and William Shakespeare's Othello. The former is about a dystopian world free of opposition and wealthy of contradictions. People are brainwashed through propaganda, the truth is distorted, and history is rewritten. English is broken down into bits and pieces to prohibit independent thought.
George Orwell's novel accurately predicted today's government actions in different countries. North Korea is one prime example of a totalitarian government, and China is blooming to a country surveilling its citizens individually. In the Philippines, the press is being patronized for speaking up against the administration. In the USA, government departments are doing the opposite of their responsibilities. For example, the Department of Housing is displacing US constituents.
On the other hand, Othello is about a noble black man who went paranoid after being subjected to doubts and jealousy. He was more than often referred to "Moor" rather than his real name, "Othello." However, whether the play was racist by nature or not is still questionable. Still, it doesn't change the fact it had strong racial overtones, coming from an Asian-centric view. What was common in both literary works was the manipulation of language as a means to an end.
Overall, the act of representation can either be problematic or beneficial, depends on the reader's interpretation of the text. Either way, it brings change to the table and can tip off the world's ideological balance. It can spark revolutions and revelations for better or for worse. The morality of whatever change was brought is subjective.
When we had our character analysis for Othello, my group got 'honest' Iago as our case study. The man had petty reasons to justify his actions that derailed Othello's life. He didn't get a promotion and had communication issues with his wife, Emilia. (He assumed she cheated on him.)
Shakespearean characters had their fair share of imperfections. Desdemona was the ideal housewife, and Othello was naive. Iago is your usual schemer, while Cassio is the guy oblivious to his surroundings, living in his own world. Their traits can also be seen in your classmate, your best friend, your enemy, and even your sibling.
When authors write, they base their work on what's happening around them. The people, the social climate, power dynamics, and even the place itself can influence their writing. Another befitting example of representation in literature is Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not).
His 1887 novel spoke about corruption in the Church, colonial mentality, social climbing, the rich-poor gap, and the abuse of Filipinos at the hands of the Spaniards. In short, he summed up the nation's social cancers that were too painful for Filipinos to address. In return, his novel was an indirect factor of the Philippine Revolution of Independence from their Spanish colonizers, ending three centuries of their rule.
Literature brings out the ugly and beautiful in society. By exposing social ills, it can evoke feelings of pride, anger, shame, or disgust at the social system.