What is the duty of the writer? Or, a better question, does the writer have a duty at all?
Danticat writes: “Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously… Somewhere, if not now, then maybe years in the future, a future that we may have yet to dream of, someone may risk his or her life to read us” (10). It is absolutely true that we will never know how someone else uses our work in the future, so even something that was created with no agenda in mind may hold a sliver of human truth that could be used in the future. Kushner, similarly, writes, “If art… has any political impact, and I believe it does, it seems to me that it’s most likely to have it by being effective as art- in other words, that political agendas can’t successfully be imposed on the act of making art, of creation, for all those agendas will invariable surface from within once the art is made” (44). Art is an effective medium for political statements; however, its political message is not dependent on its being released into the mainstream world. The writer chooses to be political simply by starting the sentence. This is because every piece of writing can be used in a political manner.
Does a man, walking down the street, who encounters a woman crying on the side of the road, have a duty to see if he can make the situation better? The man doesn’t have an obligation to do this, unless he is somehow connected. This, all in all, is a question of morality. At that moment, it is his choice to either act, or not. He will either change the world or, in non-action, he will let it remain as it was. The writer is the man or woman who stoops to hand the woman a handkerchief. He or she has chosen action. It is not a responsibility. It is a choice. So is it with the writer. Once the writer has lifted pen to paper, he or she has changed the world in some way, no matter what he or she writes. We are all endowed with certain gifts, which, when we use them, have the potential to change the world. It is up to each one of us to decide if we will take on the responsibility of being a writer.
William Faulkner, in his Nobel Prize in Literature speech, says, “It is [the writer’s] privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice, which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.” The choice to make change in the world is carried through with every writer—it is man’s method of enduring. A writer creates voices for those who have none, choosing the responsibility to be the voice of man at that specific time, and possibly times to come. Through that medium, a writer creates courage to get through the danger. He or she creates the pillars that hold mankind up, that challenge all aspects of life.
Faulkner, William. Acceptance Speech: Nobel Prize in Literature. zzahier. youtube.com. 2008. Accessed January 29, 2012.
Kushner, Tony. “Some Questions About Tolerance.” Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1995. 41-46. Print.