What is our Literature Telling Us About Life?

| October 2, 2017

Recently a student began discussing the idea with me that abortion is not healthcare, even though it is unfortunately considered so in society.

But instead of letting this statement hang in the air, he elaborated the specific qualities and reasons why abortion was not healthcare. And out of the few reasons he stated— such as the procedure being extremely invasive to the point that it takes from a woman and leaves her with a physical and mental emptiness—the one that most stuck out to me was that true healthcare, and true medicine, is supposed to make a person’s situation better. And abortion cannot live up to this promise.

How can I make this statement that abortion doesn’t satisfy the promise of a better life? There are many ways, but one of the most compelling, in my opinion, is to look at the literature of our time and what it is telling us—whether it realizes it or not.

In Matthew Klam’s short story collection, Sam the Cat, he has a story entitled “There Should be a Name for It” that directly relates to this question of whether abortion is healthcare. In the story, a man tells us about cooking dinner with his girlfriend; they are preparing a chicken. From the start of the story, we can tell this relationship is strained and tense, and that both parties are constantly on the brink of snapping at one another. But in the midst of telling us this, the man also goes back in time and tells us about his girlfriend becoming pregnant and ultimately having an abortion. The story climaxes in his own foolish downplaying of the abortion and his girlfriend becoming upset and throwing the whole chicken in the pan out the window onto the lawn.

When discussing this story among colleagues and friends, many felt that the liability for this strained relationship rested on the man, because of his insensitivity and unending disappointing actions. But the idea I felt was overlooked was the role of the abortion itself in the theme of disappointment.

The abortion promised an easier life, the prolonging of readiness, and the time to grow and mature as a couple together. But the story indicates that none of these promises were accomplished from this “healthcare.” Instead, we see a woman struggling to talk about her experience and avoiding a conversation about it with her significant other.  We see the roots of a poorly formed relationship encouraged and prolonged by this abortion, instead of the healing and happiness that was promised.

Instead of solely focusing on society and social issues as they play out on the news, it’s fruitful to consider what our art offers when it reflects our world back to us, especially literature. Through taking a break from reality and reading, we can learn better how to ascertain the relationships and societal issues so as to refocus our culture on life and the means of gaining happiness.