Works That Shaped My Vision of Life

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What is the meaning of life? Like a shadow, this question follows us through our lives, even if we never turn around to see it. Life is defined to be the existence of an individual human being or animal. But life is so much more than mere existence. The true meaning of life is what we choose to give it. It’s easy to forget what an amazing gift life really is. One thing for certain in life is that it has both its ups and downs. Everybody needs a break from reality. This is where literature came to play a big part in the way in which I grew as a person. It gives you a chance to relax and reflect while supplying you with the opportunity to get completely lost in pure enjoyment and pleasure. Every piece of literature from poems, to books, to movies, gives you an opportunity to learn new things and explore new ideas. The books ‘The Freedom Writers Diary’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, along with the movies ‘Divergent’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’ did just that. Each allowed me for one brief moment to experience the wonders of existence, of consciousness.

During Year 11, my sister’s English class was assigned a novel to read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Hearing her and others discuss it, I was intrigued and decided to read it myself. It was the first novel that made me lose track of time. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ portrays courage as a willingness to remain kind and merciful throughout the discrimination, violence and prejudice: “They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks, I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience”. It broadened my perception of what being a decent and virtuous human being entails. I found ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ to be a lesson of compassion and understanding which both reinforced and encouraged me to stay true my own beliefs. Also having decided that I wanted to become a teacher, Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ exemplified the rectitude, dedication and determination that every teacher should strive for.

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Each of us has the opportunity to both influence and make a difference in the lives of those we encounter. It’s inevitable that we will all face our share of adversity throughout our lives, although it is the way in which we react to these situations that makes a significant difference. For teacher Erin Gruwell in the novel ‘The Freedom Writers Diary’ written by Erin Gruwell, this adversity includes standing in front of a group of teenagers. Although the students couldn’t be more against the teachings of Mrs. Gruwell, she persists despite her unpreparedness for the nature of her classroom and the backlash she receives from the children who are incapable of learning. She saw education as a means to a better future and endured. To better relate to the students, she then assigned material that they could relate to, to inspire them to take an interest in their education. The students then saw the effort, passion and care she had for improving not only their knowledge but their wellbeing and realized she was creating more opportunities for their future and expanding their open-mindedness. They then began to respect and admire her. The novel ‘The Freedom Writers Diary’ inspired me to always draw on my own originality and passion to create a positive experience for the people around me, just as teacher Erin Gruwell did for the students in her class. Also having decided that I wanted to become a teacher, in ‘The Freedom Writers Diary’, Erin Gruwell’s behaviors and attitudes towards adversity exemplified the characteristics that every teacher should strive for.

The third piece of art that impacted the way in which I see life was the movie ‘Divergent’ directed by Neil Burger. A scene in the movie shows the community at the annual Choosing Ceremony. The Choosing Ceremony is a day in which those who are sixteen years of age choose one of five factions (separate communities) to join in which they will then live in for the rest of their lives. When it comes to Tris’s deciding moment, she chooses to follow her heart and join Dauntless despite knowing her parents will be disappointed as they are in a different faction. There will be many situations in life in which you will have to make the choice between following your heart or disappointing others. In each of these situations, as Tris did, you should always follow your heart: “There are so many ways to be brave in this world... Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater”. Situations that have presented themselves that involve the controversy between following my heart and facing shame due to the disappointing of others have made me come to some of the most challenging conclusions but it is always better to trust your instincts and do what is best for you. In the end, no matter how disappointed other are due to the outcome of the situation, those who truly love you will always forgive you. If they cannot support you when following your heart, they weren’t worth sacrificing your dreams for anyway.

In our economy today, money and materialistic objects have become the epitome of what defines a person’s happiness. What people fail to realize is that buying items and objects doesn’t improve self-esteem or self-worth, they in fact have no positive impact on a person’s wellbeing. The truth is it isn’t the materialistic things that make us happy. They can easily be disposed of and forgotten about without any significant loss. On the contrary it’s the friends in which we choose to spend our time with, those we would be lost without that truly make us happy. ‘The Great Gatsby’ directed by Baz Luhrmann was a perfect example of this. Gatsby is known for being quite a popular man, though it seems. He is always surrounded, particularly at his parties with an immense amount of people obsessing over his fortune, although he is oblivious to this. When it comes to Gatsby’s funeral although, none of his party attendees show up the only person present is Nick, Gatsby’s friend. Nick then expresses his surprise at the lack of people at the funeral due to the number of individuals that portrayed themselves as caring for Gatsby: “At first I was surprised and confused; then, as he lay in his house and didn’t move or breathe or speak, hour upon hour, it grew upon me that I was responsible, because no one else was interested”. Showing that money does not buy happiness as friends cannot be bought. There is also a scene in the movie in which Gatsby attempts to impress Daisy with his over-the-top lavish parties and expensive and impressive home although he ultimately fails as Daisy comes to find out he makes his fortune in an illegal manner. Gatsby had required every material possession he desired, from a mansion to clothes although his fortune inevitably did not fulfil his dream. Even with everything he could possibly long for he was never able to find the happiness he was searching for as Daisy remained beyond his reach. Overall, ‘The Great Gatsby’ captures a fundamental sense of disillusion that so many people experience. Money cannot buy happiness, happiness is real friends who care.

The books ‘The Freedom Writers Diary’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, along with the movies ‘Divergent’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’ gave me an opportunity to learn new things and explore new ideas including what it entails to be a decent human being, to bring positive experiences to those around me, to follow my heart, and that money is materialistic. An overall theme from all life lessons that were learnt from the literature pieces is to always be improving yourself whether it be appreciating those around you to improving your own characteristics and the books stated helped me do just that.

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Works That Shaped My Vision of Life. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Works That Shaped My Vision of Life.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
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