Literary Versus Non-Literary Texts





Literary Versus Non-Literary Texts


Literature is defined as the art of written works. It is not bound to the sources, which are published. However, there are circumstances that render unpublished sources exempt. Literature is categorized as either prose or poetry (Patterson & Andrew 5). In most cases, the art literature is identified as the literary merit or the literary fiction. The use of metaphors, symbolic language, metaphors, irony amongst other literary styles is evident in literature. These styles make these works differ from the medical journal of the course text books used in class. The fiction novel by Matheson entitled I am Legend is usually depicted to be a non-literary work. On the other hand, the novel by Heinlein entitled Stranger in a Strange Land is acceptable as a literary work. The main question here is how one differentiates the two. In other words, why is one classified as a literary work while the other classified as non-literary. I am Legend qualifies to be a literary text in the same way as Stranger in a StrangeLand is.


If one were taking a course where he/she was required to read a journal and then read a poem, then they would easily identify which of the two was a literary work. However, if the same person/student were to be given two short stories or novels and asked to identify which of the two was a literary work, then the activity would be a challenge. This is because their differences may not be as different as they are mostly perceived.

One identified difference between the literary and the non-literary texts is that the literary works are meant for higher learning, which may include high school and university level learning (Patterson & Andrew 25). On the other hand, non-literary works are just written for entertainment purposes. As clear as this difference is, it is also disputable. In this case, I am Legend can serve as a novel to be read for entertainment and a novel to be analyzed in a university class. Both books are fictional thus creating room for imagination. Matheson talks about a man who is immune to a strange disease, which has turned humanity into vampires. The story in the novel was developed as a movie severally. This was for entertainment purposes. Heinlein’s book is about human’s expedition to Mars. These stories can be read by anybody as a source of entertainment.

A literary work’s objective is to educate the audience/reader a life lesson through the growth and development of the main character. This should take place as the story progresses. This is where the story uses metaphors and symbols in order to bring out the protagonist’s journey (Patterson & Andrew 33). In other words, the story ranges from being easy to being complex. In Matheson’s novel, this characteristic is present. As the story begins, the reader is able to identify with the protagonist of the novel by the name Robert Neville (Matheson Chp. 1). As the story progresses, the introduction of new characters makes the story more complex. For example, a reader can ask some questions. What is the significance of Ruth’s character in the story? Do the two share anything in common? Why was Neville the only surviving human?

Matheson’s novel is a metaphor in itself. The strange disease may be the current AIDS epidemic. Since there are people who are said to be immune to the disease, Neville could be a representative of those people. From a different dimension, the strange disease could be the evil in the world while Neville could represent those who still believe in fairness and justice. Ruth could present the hypocrites; those who pretend to be good while they have evil intentions in their hearts. Currently, the world has witnessed a lot of injustice. For example, there has been terrorism, oppression of the poor and the marginalized groups, just to mention but a few. Despite this, there are those who still believe in the right virtues thus try to finish this evil. This book is a representation of the same.

Heilein’s story has the same progression. The story revolves around Valentine Michael Smith, an orphan raised in Mars, but who then comes back to planet earth for a mission (Heinrein Chp. 1). As the story progresses, new characters are introduced to the story. The protagonist proceeds from being a strange man in a hospital, to a prisoner, to being a celebrity, to being a leader of a cult and then he finally dies. As the protagonist proceeds, he introduces new themes in the novel.

Another difference is that non-literary works have messages that seem to make the original point more complex than it is. On the other hand, non-literary texts are simple and easy to follow. The story is not difficult to follow (Patterson & Andrew 40). This difference is evident in these two novels. In Heinlein’s novel, the protagonist’s role cannot be easily defined. Although he had come to warn the humans that the planet would be destroyed by the Martians as they had destroyed planet V, he later involved in other activities that are not clear whether they benefit or destroy the humans. This makes the reader concentrate more as the story becomes complex.

In Matheson’s novel, the story has its share of complexity but one can easily follow the story. The characters just develop the plot, but they do not make it too complex to follow. One can be able to follow Neville through out the story. The frequent flashbacks enable the reader to understand his background and his current position.

Non-literary works can be read by the everyday reader. As earlier identified, they are written for entertaining the readers. Literary works are not just read for entertainment. One needs to analyze them in order to understand their deeper meanings (Patterson & Andrew 46). In this case, both books can be analyzed. For example, why did Matheson decide to use the fictional state of a man who was the only one left without being infected by the vampire disease? Why were the vampires taking over the earth? When Neville said that he was a legend before he was executed, did this mean just that or was there a deeper meaning?

Heinrein’s book also raises similar questions. One needs a deeper analysis in order to understand the story’s objective or objectives. Why does Heinrein use a different planet and especially mars? Which themes are seen when the Fosterite church allows the acts of sexuality, alcoholism and gambling to be practiced in church? Does Smith’s death signify anything? These questions allow the reader to be more careful and concentrate more when reading this novel.

Literary works comprise of both fictional and non-fictional works. The content of the work can determine the category of the work. The main objective of a literary work is to communicate a deeper meaning than it can be seen by just reading it. In most cases, the authors combine both the literary and the nonliterary techniques in order to attract both the worlds of the literary and the non-literary readers.

A deeper analysis should be done between both works in order to identify whether the Matheson’s novel is a literary or a non-literary work. This is because the techniques of both types of works have been used in order to develop the plot of the story. One reading at home for the sake of entertainment can pick up the novel and read it. Similarly, a lecturer teaching literature to students in their first or second year at the university can also pick up the book and use it.


Deeper analysis need to be done in order to establish whether Matheson’s novel should be categorized as a literary or a non-literary work. At its current state, the novel can serve as a literary or a non-literary work. There is a thin line between literary and non-literary works. Further differences should be researched on in order to create a more definite boundary between the two works. Although most literary works are complex, there are those that are simple to follow yet they follow deeper meanings in them.

Matheson’s book is not different from Heinrein’s book, and neither is it as complex as Heinrein’s book is. Yet, it brings forth both the educative and the entertaining aspect of it. In fact, it has been developed into becoming approximately three times since it was written. More texts should be incorporated in the syllabus in order to identify more differences that may be able to give a defined boundary between the literary and the non-literary works.

Works Cited

Inge, M T. Literature. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008. Print.

Matheson, Richard. I Am Legend. New York: ORB, 1995. Print.

Patterson, William H, and Andrew Thornton. The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. Sacramento, Calif: Nitrosyncretic Press, 2001. Print.

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