Teaching Soft Skills Through Literature: a Soft Skills Perspective

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Table of Contents

  • Compromise
  • Determination
  • Adjustment
  • Adoption
  • Decision- Making

Alienation is the human condition in the contemporary world. Literature is the instrument through which the predicament of alienation has been presented by creative writers. The present research paper studies the select novels and locate the skills which have therapeutic value to overcome or ease a sense of alienation.

To attain success in life and career, soft skills along with hard skills are the needs of modern day. Soft skills is an umbrella term for skills, under three key functional elements: people skills, social skills and personal career attributes.

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As the famous British writer C.S. Lewis quotes “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides: and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become”. Hence, we can say, literature generates knowledge of human experience and critical thinking serves the best tool to gain access of varied human experience. By applying such method, one can detect that how the authors have employed certain skills as a part of human experience among their protagonists in order to overcome their life issues. In higher education, the study of such literature will definitely benefit the students.

As considering skills one of the major ingredients of human experience, the present research emphasizes upon the use of literature to locate skills in the classroom contexts. These skills have universal appeal and can easily motivate a learner to apply them in real life situation. In the realm of literature, these skills are also labelled as survival or ordeal management skills, facilitating the therapeutic value. With the support of this view, the researcher aims at using a few novels of Indian English and Indian origin writers to introduce skills among students. Thus, the paper throws light on the wider use of skills in literary texts.

Following are a few soft skills:

  1. Positive thinking
  2. Stress management
  3. Time management
  4. Decision making
  5. Self confidence
  6. Goal setting
  7. Leadership master
  8. Change management
  9. Positive living
  10. Public speaking
  11. Emotional management
  12. Good writing skills
  13. Interpersonal skills
  14. Conflict Management skills
  15. Critical Thinking


Compromise offers a middle course for balancing feeling and desire. Good compromise helps to foster confidence, security and reliability for healthy ties. So, one should compromise with life situation for own growth and development of personality. It is through compromise one can settle any familial or social argument. However, every person is not able to make compromise. This is the major cause for breakdown of human relations in modern life. It takes a good sense and courage to opt for this skill. Anita Desai suggests that one has to make compromise to live in this world. Sita in Where Shall We Go This Summer? is a married and disturbed middle aged heroine who realizes that “life must be continued, and all its business” (138).Without compromise and adjustment, it is impossible to survive. Sita’s compromise with life and situation is based upon reason. N.R.Gopal remarks about her compromise that it provides her a new vision to live life and to accept reality. Compromise brings maturity within her to resolve the marital conflict, breaks the illusion, and accepts the family and social responsibility gracefully. Bidulata Chowdhary comments: “Sita is the only heroine of Mrs. Desai to understand and succumb to the word ‘only connect’, the only compromising link between the prose and passion of her life” (Chowdhary, 1995:77). The novel is an author’s effort to disseminate the positive message of the skill- compromise which serves as a building bond for disintegrating relations in the modern world.

Managing of anger, annoyance, stress and other feelings is very essential for any person. Therefore, the learners are supposed to be trained how to handle their emotions. Thomas Hardy’s novel The Mayer of Casterbridge is a literary work that helps us learn how powerful feelings like annoyance, distrust, etc., will destroy the life of a human being.


Determination is an assertion that takes you to fulfil what you want. It is a positive emotion keeps you to move forward to attain your goal. The learner will understand the use of inner potential to achieve the goal.“I can think of hundreds of things to do instead. I won’t marry… I won’t. I shall never leave Baba and Raja and Mira-masi… I shall work– I shall do things… I shall earn my own living – and look after Mira- masi and Baba and – and be independent. There’ll be so many things to do – when we are grown up – when all this is over” (221). The motivating lines, asserting individuality, are put by Bimla in Desai’s novel Clear Light of the Day (1980). Bimla is an aging unmarried woman who exercises a strong-will and a spirit of heroism to maintain her individuality in the face of life crisis. After the death of her parents’ and the betrayal of siblings, she does not lose strength. Influenced by Joan of Arc and Florence Nightingale, She decides to confront life with all its up and down. She tackles the family business, takes care of retarded brother and becomes a history teacher. The novel serves as a motivation that how one’s determination emerges as a saviour and prevents annihilation of personality.


In today’s globalized world, many people migrate to new places with hope of better life or better career opportunity. Controlling emotion, memory and nostalgia are the primary challenges which are usually encountered by them. But one can be tolerant, open-minded and self confident about own methods, while allowing one to adjust with the new surroundings. The condition enables one to become conscious of distinctiveness and cope with the present reality. When we adjust, we start perceiving the positive side of situation which helps us to settle down for the long run. Throughout the novel, Ashima struggles through ordeals of identity crisis and alienation. Her living in the multicultural set up in America demands adjustment for smooth survival. “I didn’t know a thing back then”(Lahiri,285) points out how far Ashima in The Namesake has made adjustment and learned new things in new place. In the beginning she doubts her survival in America, but gradually she uses her resources of homeland culture. Whereas her children Gogol and Sonia Americanized themselves, her husband Ashoke assimilates himself; she struggles to adjust herself between two cultures and she evolves by realizing that she is a part of two cultures. The first generation’s story was about adaptation and learning acculturation and also discovering new things about themselves (Batra 50). The positive side of such attitude paves the way to gain friendship from her children and experience transformation that later make her independent after her husband’s death. “True to the meaning of her name, she will be without borders, without a home of her own, a resident everywhere and nowhere” (276).


Adopting someone or something is the two way process- give and take. If we take, we should be ready to give. It’s not always about people but sometimes culture even demands giving and taking. Cultural dilemma occurs when we are confronted to choose which culture is superior? Lahiri responds in The Namesake (2003). She dismisses the idea of claiming the superiority of one culture over the other. Adopting more than one culture is always beneficial as it makes us aware about diversity. It alerts us towards the complexity which they carry in order to negotiate them for own favour. Turning the page of the book gifted by his father: “As the hours of the evening pass he will grow distracted, anxious to return to his room, to be alone to read the book he had once forsaken, has abandoned until now. Until moments ago it was destined to disappear from his life altogether, but he has salvaged it by chance, as his father was pulled from a crushed train forty years ago. (290) Realization dawn upon Gogol at the age of 32, making him pride with the truth that he is enriched by abundance of living between two diverse cultures- Indian and American. Abandoning either culture is not a solution to the issues such as identity, culture or name. Towards the end of the novel Gogol experiences spiritual crisis and evolves as Kaur states “… his desire to settle a home, have a family and a son and rise professionally in other country hint at his request for the new ‘route’ which will dawn on him after his reflections in the company of the stories by his namesake, Nikholai Gogol- gifted to him by his father.” (Kaur 41-42)

Decision- Making

The Lowland (2013) by Jhumpa Lahiri helps in teaching the learners the importance of making meaningful decision. Subhash is caught between making choices either to stay home in India or leave for America. Calcutta is growing violent due to the Naxalite uprising, its affecting lives of innumerable youth. To get rid of the violence of the city, uncertainty over job and better life he applies for Ph.D. program in the United States. He is aware that he has to decide only one path. At last, he chooses to leave for America, away from home grown violence and chaos, with a vision of asserting his individuality and experiencing a better life. The decision marks a significant change in his life. “He was proud to have come alone to America. To learn it as he once must have learned to stay and walk and speak. He’d wanted so much to leave Calcutta not only for the sake of his education but also he could admit this to himself now to take a step Udayan never would” (40)

Tolerance is a deal which one can make finding the differences in beliefs or opinions of others. Subhash in The Lowland (2013) used tolerance to live peacefully with others. “Subhash was the only foreigner. No student from other parts of Asia was there. It was nothing like the demonstrations that erupted now in Calcutta. Disorganized mobs representing rival communist parties, running helter-skelter though the streets. Chanting, unrelenting. They were demonstrations that almost always turned violent.” (36) He shows open-mindedness to accept beliefs and views of his friends like Richard whom he adores for his political aspiration but avoids arguments over it. “He knew that the door could close just as arbitrarily as it had opened. He knew that he could be sent back to where he’d come from, and that there would be plenty to take his place” (44). Professor Narsimha and Holly are others whom he accepts despite of his ethnic and cultural prejudices. Sometimes he imagined what it would be like to lead a similar life with Holly. To live the rest of his life in America, to disregard his parents, to make a family with her. At the same time he knew it was impossible. That she was an American was the least of it. Her situation, her child, her age, the fact that she was technically another man’s wife, all of it would be unthinkable to his parents, unacceptable. They would judge her for those things. (77) The learner can learn how to cope with feelings of differences and maintain harmony in the multicultural set up.

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