Too smart to be chick lit but too watered down to be literature, Jodi Piccoult’s novels are some of the most widely read page-turners in the country. However, while no one compares her to Faulkner, she often treats very serious and controversial subjects in her work — a hallmark of canonical literature. Piccoult’s novel Mercy treats the subject of euthanasia, which was originally used to kill animals (humanely) in case of violence, shortage of resources, or painful terminal illness.
And she’s not the only one — a quick search of ‘euthanasia’ Amazon.com reveals 127 fictional titles, with well over half written since 2008.
Each generation has its own ethical dilemmas to confront, and this will likely be one of ours. As we know, literature is often an arena in which such controversial subjects are hashed out. Be on the lookout for future Oscar-nominated films (perhaps featuring a sickly Keira Knightley or a stoic but resigned Meryl Streep?) and Nobel-prize winning authors on this subject — and be prepared, future lit scholars of America, to write pages upon pages about them.
Until then, keep in mind this question: we kill people when they become violent and we allow them to die when there is a shortage of resources (I.e. the homeless). So why are we so uncomfortable with the third category? We happily murder to punish, we blithely ignore the death polls from poverty and lack of health insurance, but we get squeamish about the so-called ‘mercy killings’.
Think on it. Read. Write.
It’s what we do. And it’s why literature matters.
For more posts on novels from CLUJ editors, click here.