Why Do We Re-read Classic Literature in High School?

Culture

In the world of a reader, there's plenty. However, a bunch of literature has stood the test of times and many of us find ourselves constantly flipping pages of the classics which remain immortal.

If Shakespeare was alive today, he’d be writing about the floods of Venice rather than the Merchants, Jane Austen would’ve been forced to find a new activity other than walking in solitude to contemplate the relationship of her characters. Fitzgerald would’ve traded flappers for it- girls and none of the classics which we read today as an example of great literature would exist because all these writers would be contemplating the unpredictability of this great year-2020.

It’s been four hundred something years since Shakespeare died and the world can’t get enough of his words. The same is the case for Hemingway, Dickens, Plath, and many more authors who have made an impact on the world of literature with their words. These works are passed down from generations in form of classics. Litterateurs scrutinize these plays and stories, High school students crib about it, and the rest of the world remains in touch with them in the form of various adaptations of plays, movies, and even music videos.

In a world, where the number of books that are released in a week is more than the number of days in a week and every other person has an Instagram handle for poetry, it’s almost surprising that some authors and their work have withstood the test of the times. Come to think of it, Shakespeare never made it to the New York Times’ best-seller list. While great literature does not cease to exist, it has and probably will continue to receive a lot of mixed reviews. A work that was the talk of the town, when first released might hold little value in the world that we live in today. Some might find these classics boring, some overrated and some might love it but all of them are reading it and there’s more than one reason as to why this happens.

1. Escape from thy world.

As I finished my 10th grade and bid adieu to Shakespeare’s streets of Venice in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, I was transported to Bernard Shaw’s cockney London in CANDIDA for 11th grade. It is a known fact that the classics were written in a world which is significantly dissimilar to the world that we live in today and that is merely why you should get your hands on one of these books as they will provide a much-needed escape from the confusing world that we live in today and please, let that imagination run wild. These books can transport you to Tolstoy’s Russia or Fitzgerald’s over the top parties while you are in your pajamas. Dealing with regular life can get tough when there's so much going around and one can only hope to get away from the chaos of reality with the literature of yesterday.

2. Inheriting the legacy

The classics are the part of literature which have been passed down as inheritance from one generation to the other. Many of us grew up reading THE JUNGLE BOOK. The words are written in many books such as BLACK BEAUTY, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, GULLIVER’S TRAVELS often mark the start of learning and reading, they are usually a part of school curriculums and if you look hard enough, you are bound to find a copy in your households or the nearest book store might come in handy. So, the Bronte sisters might not have made it to the bestsellers list, but they have been successful in creating a legacy for themselves which has been larger than their entire duration of life. PR and marketing people, I hope you are taking notes.

3. They are literally all around us.

Not so discreetly hidden in the speeches of your teachers and quoted by that pretentious person you know, the words written in the classic literature are all around you and if you are not lucky enough to be in their companies, fear not all ye faithful, you are definitely going to recognize the classics in that bookstore you love, they have a separate section. You are definitely going to watch the adaptations of these books like you might or might not have watched Little Woman because of the Oscar buzz and then you are going to be compelled to read the book because Greta Gerwig might have done justice to the characters but Louisa May Alcott bought them to life. Ultimately you read up the book and most definitely you will pass it forward or mostly you will re-read it because, let's face it, they are pretty good.

4. The intentions of being well- read.

It is a fact universally acknowledged that if you read the classic literature, you might not understand it at the first read but you are bound to be well-read. J.D Salinger might not be everybody’s cup of tea but even if you know that one person who’s reading THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, you are bound to think that he might be a bit smart. I remember seeing a guy at the airport reading Hemingway and being vaguely impressed so it might be common. The fact that the books which survived a least of 100 years might be worth a read and if you are smart enough you might gain some worldly knowledge. Or not.

5. history et relevancy.

While the literature might belong to the regency era, if we read and re-read closely, it could still be relevant in the world we live in today. In an article written by Rachel Cohen for The New Yorker, she describes her dealings with life while she continues to read Jane Austen and not so strangely, she can relate her life experiences to the one’s Austen had experienced some 200 years ago. Literature however old it may involve history, history of the times which might not hold any relevancy for us but a mere acknowledgment that history will always be created. Maybe that’s why the classics hold importance as they deal with the stories of humans rather than that of a trend which might go out of style and that is why we draw life lessons from these stories which seem to be immortal. Many times, we seem to overlook the words of modernism that were written years ago. Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson are a few writers who represented feminism in a world when feminism wasn't even a word. There are other writers who targeted the social norms prevalent in their times and challenged them.

6. The plot

The first time I read a Classic was in the sixth grade when I had to read THE MERCHANT OF VENICE as a part of my curriculum, the plot had left me surprised and excited which led me to read MACBETH and ROMEO AND JULIET, while I might not like or relate to all these plays, their basic plots led me towards a different kind of menace which reciprocated in a different outlook. I remember gasping, out loud, after reading Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, and I was very excited to know if Elizabeth had ended up with Mr. Darcy or not. The plots of these plays might be a little dated, but they remain the best there is and still manage to arouse the interest of the readers which confirms that the plots or merely the basic idea behind these works are genuinely good.

7. Quote it out and be pretentious.

If you are an avid reader, rather, an avid reader of great literature, you are bound to know all the good words and know all the great quotes. But beware, you are going to be pretentious and You might know that cliff-hanger was a term discovered by Charles Dickens and you know the basic difference between plays, short stories, and novels. So, just be pretentious and annoy people, you’ve read great books which, truth be told, are quite difficult to read, so impart that knowledge. You are going to be great at giving speeches and raising toasts and I think that’s all the validation we need.

8. lastly, you might give birth to some great ideas.

Shakespeare took his inspirations from the novels he read, Bernard Shaw wrote the same stories as his colleagues with a spin of his own and Sylvia Plath mentioned in great detail about the impact different writers had on her and someday you might write about these writers. Stephen King was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and one of my recent favorites- THE SILENT PATIENT revolved around the play ALCESTIS; a classic Greek tragedy written by Euripides. Writers always read. These stories can give you some inspiration for your recent work, which might be overrated. If you think hard enough, they can give birth to an idea, different in its entirety. Overall, you might just benefit from reading and re-reading your shelf favorites classics.

While literature still exists in most parts of our lives, it isn’t the cup of tea for everyone and anyone. To some, it might be overrated and cringe-worthy. Some might love it and some might be ignorant of these great works but it’s the reading that counts. It isn’t important if you read a classic work or a book released last week. It’s the most definite possibility that the books we are reading today might be the classics of tomorrow. So, keep on reading!


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