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Are Classics Really Worth the Read?

Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, George Orwell, and Lewis Carrol! Any of these names ring a bell? Of course they do! Maybe you had to read their words in high school under the watchful eye of a passionate English teacher. Or maybe you’re a literature enthusiast naturally and you’ve consumed the classics on your own agenda. Perhaps you’ve never read them?

Whatever your experience, it’s worth asking the question: are they even worth the read at all? For sure, there are a lot of pretentious connotations when it comes to the classics with many holding the popular opinion that you’re ignorant if you haven’t read them, and you’re pretentious if you have. It’s a real Catch-22 (Joseph Heller, anyone?).

Given that you probably have some Great Expectations when it comes to the classics, let’s get into it!

History and the Importance of Preserving stories

Classic novels have stood the test of time, and are still being taught in schools for very good reason. Even though they are fiction, they tell important stories of what life was like in different periods that we don’t have the chance to experience. They’re thought-provoking because they speak in the voice of people who lived completely different lives to us, but at the same time, they’re able to show us that we’re really not that different – we can relate to the same thoughts and feelings.

These classics are revolutionary, and often involve stories of overcoming injustices, giving us the opportunity to better understand them and a different side of history that may not be told in formal history books. At the end of the day, the classics are about different human experiences and these classics allow us to connect with each other beyond the boundaries of our own realities.

The Foundations of Contemporary Works

Once you’ve read the classics, you’ll come to understand that there are references to them almost everywhere. In new movies, new novels, and even every day conversation. Ever heard someone say “he vanished into thin air” or ladies sighing wistfully, hoping to one day find their “Mr Darcy”? Not only are references to the classics still popular today, their form has also contributed to building the foundation on which the books coming out today are based on; as well as the “norm” from which they can differ to great, and important, effect.

The Verdict

Let’s be real – a number of classics can be difficult to read, particularly in their use of old English, unfamiliar phrases, and unnecessarily descriptive scenes (to be fair, they just wanted to make a living and they were sometimes paid by the word!).

But are they worth the read? We think so! They give you a window into history, and humanity. They allow you to understand references, and the foundations, of literature today. They offer different perspectives, and rich insight that may not be part of the formal history books!

However, it’s important not to read them because you feel like you have to, or because you feel under pressure to do so. Read them because you want to.

And if it’s not something you enjoy? Skip it. Life really is too short to waste time reading things that don’t keep you coming back for more.

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