In every great work of literature there are characters. Not just people, but characters with real vices and virtues. That is what makes these works great, they reflect on the human race as something we can relate to. We as humans sin and do good things. Literature is a great way to explore consequence and reward and to learn about our mistakes. When you read a story where a character gives into a vice that you also struggle with, you remember the trouble that followed. Often, it helps you to fight that vice. When a character that you love does something honorable, you remember it and try also to do good. The following selected books show us the consequences and rewards of vices and virtues such as sloth, wrath, gluttony, envy, patience, diligence, and liberality.
An example of this can be found in Rip Van Winkle. Rip is a good-souled man who is very patient. He does not get angry at his wife when she yells, he simply shrugs, shakes his had, and casts up his eyes. Yet, though he is patient, Rip is very slothful. He rarely cares for his children, tends to his farm, or pursues any profitable labor. He is constantly idle, putting off work and relaxing with his dog Wolf. His wife, Dame Van Winkle, is not quite as laid back. She is extremely diligent in her housework but cannot resist lashing out at Rip when he acts idly. Yes, wrath surges strong through her veins very often. This can be a very hard vice to contain, because in the moment of anger you lose your senses and hurt the people you love.
Similar traits can also be found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, but in very different shoes. When it comes to getting what he wants, Smaug is very diligent in making sure it happens. He will work very hard, like when he wanted the dwarves’ gold. But alas, our favorite dragon deals with deadly wrath, not unlike the Dame. His anger was expressed through a fatal blaze on Lake-Town when Bilbo Baggins stole his golden cup. And speaking of Bilbo, on his journey to the Mountain the Company stayed at the little home of Beorn. Beorn demonstrates great liberality towards the Company many times throughout the book. He opens his home to them, feeds them, and equips them for Mirkwood’s gloom. Beorn also seems to have a gluttony problem, though. He had plenty of food for all who stayed with him, and it was not a small number!
Something else that is not a small number? Robin Hood’s faithful Merry Men. One very trustworthy Little John was an honorable man. His master, the one and only Robin, often acted entitled. John was very patient the years he served him and always stood by his side. He put up with Robin faithfully for decades. But every now and then, he envied his master. Once, he even challenged him to a contest! Envy is something Little John struggled with, but did a great job in keeping it contained. Another extremely faithful servant of Robin Hood, Will Scarlett, was very diligent. Once he began serving Robin, he never stopped. Scarlett worked arguably harder than any other Merry Man until his dying breath. But sometimes, his diligence morphed into wrath. Will was so focused on his goal that he sometimes grew very angry at obstacles. Yes, The Adventures of Robin Hood is a very raw, relatable book.
So why do we even read these tales? They are only fiction, right? Why do we bother with things that aren’t real? Literature teaches us lessons. Lessons of consequences and rewards which may seem extreme, but there is truth beneath every conflict. These adventures teach us to dull our vices and let our virtues shine, fiction or not. One small act of kindness can make a sad man smile, but an act of wrath sinks deep. Your tongue is your greatest tool and your sharpest weapon. Will you use it to make someone smile? Or will you keep hurting them until the scar is deep? But no matter how far gone you are, through God’s virtues you can always come back. These stories teach us this and engrave it in our hearts. That is why we read them. u