Literature is useful and beneficial to man in a number of ways:
For Storage and Spread of Information: Like any other printed matter, literature stores and spreads information. It embodies fictive creations of various kinds and attempts to communicate emotions and value judgements.
For Entertainment or Recreation and Pleasure: As a form of entertainment, literature keeps millions of people out of mischief and makes them spend their hours in largely harmless pleasure-giving reading of the printed word. Some people may enjoy reading literature without regarding it as one of the great arts. For such people, literature soothes and thrills, and such works as thrillers, detective stories, westerns, romantic novels, newspapers and magazines without serious literary merit can serve their purpose. Literature can entertain us through its presentation of sequences of events with suspense and surprises, through our emotional detachment or identification with the characters in it, through its portrayal of bits of vicarious living and gratifying fantasy, and through its embodiment of some sentimental expressions or encouraging and comforting thoughts about life. Hence, literature offers us excitement, emotions, amusement, and consolation which satisfy our universal psychological needs. Literature is, therefore, one of the best pastimes to man.
For Education and Instruction: Besides giving entertainment and pleasure, literature educates and instructs us. As part of the complex educational process, literature enables us to develop the powers of understanding, imagination, and reflection. Because writers of literatures are less tied to facts than the historian or the scientist, they are free to manipulate facts, comment on the facts, or arrange the facts in an unusual way, to speculate or project events, to instruct or educate the reader, or to make philosophical and prophetic/visionary statements. In fact, literature broadens and deepens our knowledge of human affairs and helps us to understand not only the views and feelings of other people but also the possibilities of human life in other places and times. When we read literature, we share the passions, pleasures, vexations and problems of the fictive characters. We reject their crimes and punishments. But we open our arms for the rewards of their good deeds. We loathe their bitter experiences, we become wiser and ready to make right rather than wrong choices. Thus, through the reading of literature, we acquire fundamental skills and capacities for discrimination, judgement, and decision.
For Recognition: Our enjoyment of literature stems from our ability to recognise artistic truth. As we read literature and perceive its faithful presentation/description of minute details and realistic portrayal of incidents and characters, we recognise that literature conveys the truth of little details, the truth in particulars, the truth in nature, trivial or tremendous, in an aesthetically pleasing style.
For Revelation: Part of the moral justification for the reading of literature is what Marjorie Boulton (1980: 10-12) calls revelation, the capacity of literature to extend our experience. It reveals to us other people’s experiences that are far removed from our own experience of life. In this way, literature broadens our sympathies and widens our tolerance.
For Redemption: As we read literature and perceive the experiences of others, we catch glimpses of our undeveloped, better selves. Then, we strive to make amends and gradually, we are redeemed or rescued from our evil ways.
For Vocational Training: The aspiring serious writer reads literature to acquire the skills of good writing.
For Linguistic Training: Since literature is language in action, it is believed that through reading good literature in English , we can acquire a mastery of the use of English words, idioms, sentence structures, and various patterns of paragraph (thought) development in the language.
For Intellectual and Professional Exercise: Literature provides material for literary appreciation and criticism. ? And literary appreciation/criticism offers a good opportunity for intellectual training and exercise among students of literature, literary critics, and teachers of literature.
For Socio-Cultural Development: Literature is an instrument of cultural development in society. It embodies a people’s world-view. It documents, preserves, and forms a basis for the development of the people’s songs, plays, modes of linguistic expression, arts, values, and visions. And through it, other people’s cultural outlook and values are imported, disseminated and domesticated. As we import (buy) other people’s literatures and export (sell) ours to them, we make way for global cultural integration and growth.
For Monetary and Material Rewards: Writers, critics, actors and directors make huge financial gains from the sales and exhibition of their literary works. Besides, they get materials, honours and fame through their works as exemplified by Soyinka’s acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature.