What Diseases Symbolize in Literature: Analyzing Chapter 24 of Thomas C Foster's 'How to Read Literature like a Professor'

1879 Words Jan 9th, 2018 8 Pages
Is it just a physical ailment or abnormality? Well, in real life it may, but the presence of disease in literature seems to symbolize a lot more than what meets the eye. This is what Thomas C. Foster brings up in Chapter 24 of his work How to Read Literature like a Professor. Essentially, the chapter examines the importance of disease in literature from a symbolic standpoint. First, Foster explores the general concept of illness in literature in general. He discusses the presence of illness, not as it is in real life, but the more symbolic presence it has within literature. Illness has come to represent a physical embodiment of internal disease. It has come to represent a way for readers to connect physical symptoms and abnormalities to the inner working and characteristics of the characters within whatever novel presents the disease in the first place. Authors from many different literary genres tend to use strategies which have characters of novels and other works afflicted with various types of diseases in order to symbolize some internal flaw or degradation of character. Throughout the chapter, Foster describes the literary strategy using a "compelling metaphor [which] can induce an author to bring another wise objectionable illness into a work" (Foster 219). This illness works as a strategy to expose a character's internal flaws and ills in a way that is not overtly announced by the narrator. It is a covert way to cue in the reader…
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