Inwhat is art?
Inordinary circumstances, art refers to application or expression ofhuman imagination and creative skills. It is mainly expressed assculpture or painting, which is intended to appeal and communicate tohumans visually. However, in the essay “In what is Art?”, LeoTolstoy contends that the best art, as well as literature, shouldaccomplish a social objective. On the other hand, Vladimir Nabokovargues that both art and literature have no practical purpose. Heasserts that the art should just be appreciated as art and nothingmore. However, the beauty of art and by extension literature is itscapability to pass morality virtues (Jahn 1).
LeoTolstoy’s perception is sustainable because since every piece ofart and literature contains some form of moral teaching. This impliesthat the complete art should contain abundant educative concepts.Unlike the traditional perspective that suitable art is the one thatexpresses both beauty and form, Tolstoy defines the beauty of art asits efficacy in communication of moral ideas. Since the beauty is anabstract, it does not qualify in determining what art is because it(art) serves as a medium for expression and communication of variousexperiences, or other features of human features (Jahn 1).
VladimirNabokov’s assertion that art should be appreciated as just ‘plainart’ that its objective is providing entertainment, pleasure, andfun is not sustainable. The main objective of art is communicatingand expressing given characteristics of human aspects. Each artdesigner ensures to share certain experience or feeling with theaudience, thus it is not intended for a given class of persons in thecommunity (Jahn 1).
Tolstoyalso argues that valuable literature shares its experience ofemotions with the audience. In addition, it should not be associatedwith a given class of people. Besides, it should be easy tocomprehend. The drawback of accustoming art to a given society isthat it will be irrelevant to individuals outside the targetaudience. It should also be designed in a simple way that many peoplecan understand its meaning (Jahn 1).
Awork of art can only qualify to be good, if only, majority of theaudience approves its worth. Tolstoy also asserts that valuable artshould be in harmony with the feelings and ideologies it representsor evokes. On the contrary, “bad art” is unnatural, shallow,banal, melodramatic, pretentious, clumsy, and repetitive. Moreover,the work should portray high originality in both feelings andthoughts (Jahn 1).
TheTragedy of Hamlet- William Shakespeare
TheTragedy of Hamlet is one of the most popular Shakespeare’s artisticliteratures. In fact, the play is one the most frequently playedworldwide because it is relevant to a wide audience. In addition toentertaining the audience, the author managed to weave a complexinteraction of characters depicting the forces of evil against thegood. It emerges that King Claudius killed King Hamlet, so that hecould take over his position. As Hamlet was reprimanding her motherfor agreeing to marry Claudius, he describes him: “Amurderer and a villain / A slave that is not twentieth part thetithe/ Of your precedent lord a vice of kings / A cutpurse of theempire and the rule, / That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,/And put it in his pocket(IV.iii.85)!” On the other hand, Prince Hamlet has scanty hintsthat his father was poisoned. For example, the ghost of his fatherwas clear evidence that he did not die normally. “Murdermost foul, as in the best it is / But this most foul, strange andunnatural(V.i.29).” The author intends to capitalize on the educativequality of controlling emotions and taking revenge (Gorman andWilliam 18). Both readers and audience to the play benefits with morethan entertainment since it educates target evidence on the effect ofwickedness, as well as the ethical procedures that persons seekingjustice can follow to ensure justice is achieved (Gorman and William36).
TheCask of Amontillado- Edgar Allan Poe
Themain theme in this short story concerns secret killing. On thesurface, readers or audience of the play can be entertained by theturn of events in the entire play. However, the author also intendedto create a picture of the anarchy world to the readers. Montresorensures to kill Fortunato secretly because he is afraid, that in casehe is discovered, the law would punish him (Poe 22). Similarly,readers can gain the social value of refraining from trusting theircolleagues too much, or even developing deep-rooted desires towardshobbies since people can use their interests to bait them. Montresorbaited Fortuno using wine, which was his best interest. “Hehad a weak point — this Fortunato — although in other regards hewas a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on hisconnoisseurship in wine(Poe 23).” Montresor baited Fortunato into the caves where hekilled him through promising to offer him wine. He knew Fortunato hada great passion for wine. On the same note, the story teaches theaudience about the risk of giving too much trust to people one doesnot know well. Fortunato trusted Montresor too much. “Itwas about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of thecarnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me withexcessive warmth, for he had been drinking much(Poe 23).” Fortunato kept exploring further into the vault that wasfull of dead bodies, in the company of a stranger while believingthat their mission was just searching for wine. However, Montresorturns out to be a killer. He buries him alive and escapes justicebecause nobody discovered what happened (Poe 24).
WeWear the Mask by Paul Lawrence Dunbar
Thepoem was written by one of the enslaved African Americans working inthe plantations. He claims that the African Americans weresubmissive, and often appeared joyful, but they were extremelysuffering. In line two, the author asserts, “Withtorn and bleeding hearts we smile, /  Andmouth with myriad subtleties (Dunbar4-5).” They only pretended that they were happy so that they couldmaintain good relationships with their masters who kept them in anunfriendly atmosphere. The poem touches on sensitive social issuesthat many people, especially married couples, often face in lovelife. The revelation of hypocrisy, and suffering, the authorexperienced at the plantation can help readers to address hypocrisyand undesirable social issues such as depression, drug abuse,prostitution, and corruption that are crippling the modern society“Wesmile, but, O great Christ, our cries/ To thee from tortured soulsarise(Dunbar 10-11).”
Insummary, the beauty of art and by extension literature is itscapability to pass morality virtues. In the three pieces ofliterature discussed the authors aimed at addressing a given socialissue, which has been a menace in the society for a long time. As aresult, authors designing art, as well as literature work shouldaddress common social issues in the society because art is a mirrorof society.
Gorman,Tom, and William Shakespeare. Hamlet.Irvine, CA: Saddleback Pub, 2011. Print.
Poe,Edgar A., and Gary Kelley. Thecask of Amontillado.Mankato, Minn: Creative Education, 2008. Print.
Dunbar,Paul Laurence. TheCollected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar.Joanne M. Braxton, ed. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia,1993.
Jahn,Gary. R. “Aesthetic Theory of “What is Art?”TheJournalofAesthetics and Art Criticism, 36(1),1975. Print.