Outside of students in English Literature classes, does anyone still read the classics? Starting somewhere around three years ago, I made it a personal goal to read at least one classic per year and, so far, I’ve been able to follow that rule pretty easily.
One of my favorite teachers was my English teacher from grades 7 through 9 – yes, I had the same one. Small school. She first encouraged me to read Little Women and then Jane Eyre. I don’t remember much about Jane Eyre – and I won’t tell you how many years ago that was – but I read Little Women at least four times. I believe reading those books at such an early age gave me a love of period stories and even today I enjoy some historical fiction. Of course, the writing is a different style and structure and it’s as if I have to shift gears in my mind before reading classics.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve read Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and am currently reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I take my time reading these books and may stretch it out over a few months, but I’m also usually reading a couple of other books, working on writing my own, and editing my critique partner’s book. Someone told me they were surprised I read Pride and Prejudice because I don’t read “chick lit” or romance novels – and it’s true, I don’t, but despite what others may think, I don’t consider Pride and Prejudice a romance, although by most standards, maybe it is. To me, it’s a story with a strong female protagonist who isn’t afraid to say what she thinks, even to someone considered aristocracy, and doesn’t conform to society’s expectations of women during that time. And then she gets the guy in the end.
One of my oldest son’s friends, a senior in high school, recently told me he had to read Pride and Prejudice for English class. Putting it in the same class as Gone With the Wind, the “girl book” he’d read for class the year before, he wasn’t looking forward to reading it. He also had no problem admitting that by the second chapter, he’d actually liked it. I’m hoping maybe he’ll try reading some more classics on his own.
I guess after I finish The Picture of Dorian Gray, I’ll start on some more Jane Austen. One of my sons gave me a collection of her complete works for Christmas – after telling him that was what I wanted, of course. Who knows what he would have gotten for me otherwise.