4 Critical Life Lessons From 4 Works of Literature

Life is a chaotic carousel constantly spinning and it's our job to learn how to grab ahold of the moving poles because the carousel never stops. Years are spent grieving, years are spent falling in love, years are spent working and chasing dreams, and some years are spent in such pain, you have practically fallen off the carousel. Below are four characters in literature who provide critical life lessons which are accompanied with facts, so every person can learn how to stay securely seated on the carousel.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'

'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.

'I don't care where--' said Alice.

'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.

'--so long as I get somewhere,' Alice added as an explanation.

'Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk long enough.'

(Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland With artwork by Yayoi Kusama, page 86)

The conversation between Alice and the Cat metaphorically questions the decisions one must make in life. Factor in doubt, but also factor in trust. We notice Alice asks the Cat, who was smiling unlike everyone else in Wonderland.

A study released in 2015 in The Journal of Neuroscience showed participants playing a trust game chose to confide more often with a friend, rather than a computer despite the fact reinforcement was equal. The study showed people gained a social value reward signal depending on the intimacy of the relationship.

House of Flowers, by Truman Capote

Speaking through the gods, the Houngan gave her this message: You must catch a wild bee, he said, and hold it in your closed hand... if the bee does not sting, then you will know you have found love.

(Breakfast at Tiffany's 50th Anniversary Edition: House of Flowers, page 94)

The Houngan first presents the notion Ottilie must risk grabbing any bee and accept she may get stung. Then, the Houngan also tells Ottilie she must find a wild creature that is free to act on its own accord. Knowing these facts, Ottilie races to a honeysuckle and sticks in her hand in and grabs a bee.

According to the article, What falling in love does to your heart and brain in Science Daily, the body releases large amounts of dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine which makes those in love feel euphoric as well as experience physical side affects such as the heart pitter-pattering.

On the flip side of falling in love is the ending of the relationship. According to an article in ScienceDaily, the brain responds to the ending of relationship similarly to the way it responds to breaking a drug habit.

But Ottilie knows none of this having never been in love and eagerly takes ahold of another bee after the first sting.

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

"To say 'I love you' one must know first how to say the 'I.'

(The Fountainhead, page 376)

Howard Roark, the architect who is the definition of strength, tells this to Dominique Francon who is willing to give herself to him in any way. While Howard and Dominique wish only to be with one another, Howard refuses until Dominique can be whole on her own.

In an essay from the University of Illinois entitled A Brief Overview of Adult Attachment Theory and Research, it explains research on adult attachment. The psychoanalyst John Bowlby theorized the theory of attachment, only between infants and their parents, trying to understand why infants cried and clung to their parents to prevent separation from occurring. Bowlby's colleague Mary Ainsworth coined three terms based on children-parent relationships: secure, anxious-resistant, and avoidant.

Researchers Hazen and Shaver examine Bowlby's studies in, Love and Work An Attachment-Theoretical Perspective, and explain the attachment theory can be applied to both love and work, and there is a connection between the two. And so, they conducted a study in Colorado's Denver Post.

In the survey, they asked subjects to choose one of the three, "(a) "I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, love partners want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being" (the avoidant type). (b) "I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn't really love me or won't want to stay with me. I want to get very close to my partner, and this sometimes scares people away" (the anxious/ambivalent type). (c) "I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them. I don't often worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me" (the secure type)."

The results? "Half (50%) of the subjects classified themselves as secure, 19% as anxious/ambivalent, and 30% as avoidant."

Howard and Dominique both go on living their own lives, years passing, neither of them forgetting, but both waiting until Dominique can say, 'I.'

Go Set A Watchman, by Harper Lee

Atticus had treated him like his own son, had given him the love that would have been Jem's -- she was suddenly aware that they were standing on the spot where Jem died. Atticus saw her shudder.

"It's still with you, isn't it?" he said.


"Isn't it about time you got over that? Bury your dead, Jean Louise."

(Go Set A Watchman, page 237)

The grieving process is not something that should be rushed and the person grieving should never be pushed; they should be allow to grieve at their own pace, according to WebMD.com; however, Atticus, who loves Jean Louise, is merely stating though Jem died, she must keep living.

However, sometimes a loss will trigger symptoms to extend beyond the "normal" grieving process. Complicated grief is when the symptoms of grief do not fade over time, and in reverse, sometimes the symptoms become worse, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Whatever emotion Jean Louise feels, Atticus never discourages these emotions, but only encourages her to live.

The carousel of life will keep on spinning, but take note: none of these four fictional characters ever gave up, even if it was on their own fictional carousel.


Fareri, Dominic S., Chang, Luke J., & Delgado, Mauricio R. (May 27, 2015). Computational Substrates of Social Value in Interpersonal Collaboration.The Journal of Neuroscience. Retrieved December 5th, 2015 from: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/35/21/8170.full

Carroll, Lewis. Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland With artowkr by Yayoi Kusama. Penguin Books. 2012. Page 86.

Citation: Loyola University Health System. (2014, February 6). What falling in love does to your heart and brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140206155244.htm

Saint Louis University Medical Center. (2015, March 25). Just slip out the back, Jack: Are humans hardwired to break-up and move on?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150325151729.htm

Capote, Truman. House of Flowers. Breakfast at Tiffany's: 50th Anniversary Edition. Random House. 1986. Page 94.

Fraley, Chris. A Brief Overview of Adult Attachment Theory and Research. Link: https://internal.psychology.illinois.edu/~rcfraley/attachment.htm Retrieved: December 5th, 2015.

Hazan, Cindy; Shaver, Phillip R. Source: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology August 1990 Vol. 59, No. 2, 270-280 ISSN: 0022-3514 Number: psp592270 Copyright: For personal use only-not for distribution.

Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead: With An Introduction By The Author. New York, New York. Penguin Group. 1971. Page 376

Mayo Clinic Staff (Sept 13, 2014). Complicated grief. Retrieved: December 5th, 2015 from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/complicated-grief/basics/definition/con-20032765.

Lee, Harper. Go Set A Watchman. HarperCollins. 2015. Page 237