Literature is said to be the mirror of the society. This has been seen in every part of the world.
In the earlier stages, literature was basically in the form of poetry and thereafter in the later stages, prose came into the picture. Prose came later as it usually develops with age.
Poetry and Society:
While prose comes from the intellect of a person, poetry is the product of one’s imagination. The earliest form of poetry was epic. In German, Greek, Italian, Indian or English epic, one can understand the ancient social histories of these countries. The contents of Illiad, Odyssey, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Beowulf can give us a picture of the life and society during those times. One can also find similar depictions or inferences on the societal life in the much later epics in Germany, England and India. Since poetry has more relevance to one’s imagination rather than something real, its depiction of the society cannot be held to be absolutely correct.
Drama and Society:
Another mirror of the society is drama. Drama is a mixture of the figment of imagination of man and also fragments of real life. The earlier dramas gave a more correct depiction of the society than the later ones because the writers of drama in the earlier ages were more imaginative than their contemporary peers. Drama was a very common sighting in the earlier centuries.
They were enacted on the streets or in theatres. They give us an account of how the society was then and how were it ways. Essays are also considered to be a mirror of the society but least faithful amongst all. The best depictions of society can be found in histories and biographies.
A few examples of plays which have reflected upon the people and the societies of their times are by Shakespeare, Kalidas, Goethe, Ben Johnson, Marlowe, Plautus etc. A drama is an action tale depicted on stage which contains certain elements from real life. There are contemporary dramas which throw light on the economic, social, and political scenario of the society. The play of Shakuntala of our country or the plays of Shaw are to a great extent a mirror o the society of the ancient and modern times of India and England.
Novels and Stories:
Novels and stories are considered to be the most realistic forms of literature. Those novels and stories which address the problems of economic, social and political scenario of a country, reflect the contemporary history, while the ones which deal with the psychological problems are more imaginative in nature.
The most correct pictures of the society can be found in the novels and stories with a historical theme. Examples of such works are the novels of Sarat Chandra, Chekov, Prem Chand, Scott, Bankim Chandra etc. Many of the modern day novels and stories of India and Russia are realistic and give a correct depiction of the society of those times in these countries.
Thus, literature and society are intricately linked to each other. Literature depicts the society of that time. However, the more imaginative works provide food for the recreation of the readers. Thus, these works of literature act as a mirror of the society in different periods of time.