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Happiness Found In Literature Essay, Research Paper


We all have goals in our lives, things we strive for and desire to achieve. But why do we set these goals? The reason we set goals for ourselves and the reason we are constantly trying to make life better is simply to achieve happiness. Happiness is something we all want in our lives and it is something all people need. At times happiness is not such an easy thing to obtain, we find ourselves depressed and unhappy with life. What is it that will bring us out of the “dumps” and back in the swing of things? There is not one true answer to these questions in fact there is probably more than one answer. Whatever the answer may or may not be it is only found within ourselves. Throughout literature many writers have tried to define what happiness is in stories and poems. Through the experiences the authors talk about in their writings, we gain a sense of how happiness may be achieved.

Success is one goal all people strive for to make them happy. Along with success come wealth, power and maybe even fame. But does money and power truly make a person happy? In the poem “Richard Corey” the author Edwin Arlington Robinson writes how money and wealth does not bring true happiness The poem describes how admired and impressive Richard Corey was to the people. Everyone stared at him when he came to town wishing they could be in his place. But Robinson goes on to show that money alone can not bring happiness. “And Richard Corey, one calm summer night, / Went home and put a bullet through his head (lines 15-16). Richard Corey’s suicide is a significant lesson to tell us that money can not fill the void of loneliness in life.

Emily Dickinson compares happiness to the life of a little stone in her poem “How Happy Is The Little Stone”

How happy is the little stone

That rambles in the road alone,

And doesn’t care about careers,

And exigencies never fears; (lines 1-4)

. It appears that Dickinson is conveying the message that happiness is not reachable, unless you can live the life of a stone. Life is full of worries and fears that we encounter everyday, but happiness is still obtainable. Dickinson is also saying that happiness is found in simplicity and if we can achieve simplicity in life, along will come happiness.

Voltaire’s Candide a black comedy written sometime around 1759 is a prime example of a writer’s opinion on happiness. Candide is actually another word for optimism, which describes the character perfectly. Candide believes in a universal order he was taught by his mentor Pangloss who said ” that things cannot be otherwise than they are, for since everything is made to serve and end, everything necessarily serves the best end (Voltaire 522).” Voltaire attacks this optimistic theory throughout the novel. For example throughout the novel Candide encounters insufferable human pain like death, war, and the loss of all the people he loves. In short nothing goes right for Candide and by the end of the novel he begins to lose faith in his beliefs. Voltaire shows us through Candide that simply letting things happen can not make the world a perfect place nor will it bring us complete happiness. At the end of the novel Candide encounters a Turkish farmer who cultivates land with his family in order to keep them from getting bored and falling into other traps, traps that Candide has found himself in. Candide likes the Turk’s way of life and changes his theory that all is for the best. He know believes that he must cultivate a garden to achieve happiness in life( Voltaire 584) Voltaire conveys to us that in order to find

happiness in life we must do something. Happiness will not just come upon us, we need to search for it and find what will make us happy. We must find our own garden to cultivate.

The answers of happiness can not be taught to us by anyone for everyone has their own answer. Carl Sandburg wrote a poem entitled “Happiness” where he asks professors to tell him what happiness is, where the answers are. He also asks great successful executives this question as well ( Sanburg 34). The people he asks who one would presumably think should have the answer simply laugh it off as if it were a joke. Here Sandburg is pointing out that men that may appear happy actually may not know what it is or where it is in their lives. In the last few lines of the poem Sanburg finds his answer:

And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along

the Desplaines river

And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with

their women and children and a keg of beer and an

accordion (lines 7-11)

Sandburg is not saying that happiness is found solely in women and beer. What he is implying is that happiness is in the moment. Happiness is in our hearts but needs uncovering. It is all around us, in our families, in music and in all parts of our lives.

Throughout literature writers have defined happiness as well as give us answers as to where we may or may not find it. All definitions and answers given to us by writers have one thing in common and that is the differences they share. Each writer and each work convey a different message about happiness. This proves the point that happiness is only and always found within us. We can not take someone else’s theory of happiness, it can not be taught to us, it isn’t a

simple thing and it can not be bought. Only through our goals and what we desire in life can we learn what it is that will make us happy.

Dickinson, Emily. “How Happy Is The Little Stone.”

In Poems That Lift The Soul. Ed. Jack M. Lyon. Salt Lake City: Desert Book Company, 1998. 132

Robinson, Edwin Arlington. “Richard Corey.”1919. 7 Sept. 1999

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