I definitely consider myself a bookworm. Since I was young I have been dreaming about my future house and about turning one of its rooms into a library. And if I don’t have a spare room I’ll have to turn my bedroom into a library with a bed in one corner. Just imagine the scenario. I don’t think you would ever see me outside again. No, I would spend every single minute reading while sipping on a cup of vanilla tea or a hot cocoa. With reading I often stick to the same genre of books – I have to admit that I’m a sucker for romantic novels although I also like reading thrillers, historical fiction or non-fiction as well as books about philosophy. This summer however I decided to venture out and dive into another category of books, one that I had left unexplored since leaving High School: classical literature.
Like I said I read quite a lot of classics at school (partly because I wanted to and partly because I had to) and I actually fell in love with quite a few, especially with the classic of classics, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I even picked this novel for my coursework but more about that later. After leaving school I took a break from classical literature – having to read and analyse 8 different novels (one of them containing 800 pages, cheers for that!) in a short period of time might have contributed to that decision. Until recently I stuck to modern novels but this summer I decided to widen my book knowledge and set myself the challenge of reading at least 3 classics.
I still had ‘To the Lighthouse’ and ‘Sense&Sensibility’ sitting in my drawer, only waiting to be picked up and read. So I started with these two and after finishing them I picked up ‘Emma’ at bookshop in Notting Hill which I’m still currently reading. Reading these books has turned out to be very rewarding and I’m very happy to have set myself this challenge. And I’m going to explain why. First of all reading classics means diving into an ‘old new world’. Reading always opens the door to a whole new world and allows you to dive straight into it but when reading classics the experience is even more intense. You get to know a world that would be hidden from you otherwise and you learn how our ancestors used to live. Reading classics can be seen as a journey into the past, the past of humanity, and exploring it is incredibly interesting. History suddenly becomes vivant and all the facts you learned in history lessons suddenly start to make sense and are filled with life. You aren’t just reading about history, you are practically living it through a character. And especially characters such as Elizabeth and Elinor make this journey interesting, as critics of society.
Reading classics doesn’t only give you the chance to explore the history of humanity, it also gives you the opportunity to explore the history of our language and I can assure you that will pick up some great – and sometimes odd – expressions on the way. But honestly, I sometimes wish that people still spoke like that. Well maybe not like Shakespeare though, that would complicate things for sure. Or would thou prefer that? Reading classics is also a great way to learn about your background, where your morals and values come from and how they have changed overtime. In a way, books are the reflection of society and authors often criticise and suggest improvements. Often they ridicule traditions and point out very well where the strength and weaknesses of society lie. Reading classical literature also contains the opportunity of self-reflection and the opportunity to reflect upon our current society. When I chose to write an essay about Pride&Prejudice I analysed the role of women in early 19th century Britain and if the characters in the book applied to these stereotypes. If you have read Pride&Prejudice you know as well as me that Elizabeth doesn’t represent these stereotypes at all and that she can be seen as a heroine of this era. Looking at society nowadays it becomes clear that a lot has changed for the better in terms of feminism but that we still have a long way to go. So in a way, classical literature also provides us with a perspective and makes us appreciate the improvements and often see history and society nowadays in a better light. And of course it teaches us what still has to be done.
Speaking of – many people also consider ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ classical literature and although I am not sure where the line is drawn this book is an excellent example of how we can learn from reading classics. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ points out the flaws of society very well and although racism has become a less obvious issue it is still a problem nowadays and just like Atticus does, we have to fight against it. So that’s my last point – classical literature also urges us to fight for a better world, just like the heroes and heroines do in the novels. It teaches us that there is always room for improvement and that we can make the world a better place by ‘fighting’ for equality and peace. There weren’t many women like Elizabeth back then, but now there certainly are. We just have to keep standing up for our rights and question the norms and values of the society we are living in. And why not do that by reading classics? I have definitely fallen in love with reading classical literature and can’t see myself taking another break from it any time soon.
Do you enjoy reading classical literature? Which classic is your favourite? x