Why is classic literature still relevant today?


photo via Campbell County Public Library

We’ve all been there, trudging through a novel, knee-deep in vocabulary that died before your grandfather was born, translating sentence by sentence even though they were supposedly written in English. The Classics. The Grapes of Wrath, The Scarlet Letter or Pride and Predjudice are a few examples of the torture you might be familiar with.


I am one of the few who enjoys these books, and I actually like reading them in class. Perhaps, with some Persuasion, you could gain a greater appreciation of these classics as well. 


Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and Harper Lee authored some of my most cherished books. Classics transport readers to another dimension, depositing them in the nineteenth century with a single sentence, building a personal time machine to vicariously experience other lands and times.


Protagonists found between the pages of these literary works, penned in days gone by, set admirable examples for people today. The characters are so skillfully crafted and breathed to life that we experience emotions with them. We cringe at Gilbert Blyte’s first proposal, cry along with Scout over Boo Radley’s kindness and radiate happiness when Darcy finally realizes his love for Elizabeth.


Transported back in time, readers run across the green hills of Avonlea with Anne, feel the sweltering heat of the south in the summer when Scout plays outside and walk three miles to Netherfield to fend for our beloved Jane.


Classic literature has the potential to award great benefits to those willing to read it, such as increased vocabulary, refined social skills and a new appreciation for literary references.


Reading novels, which requires deep thought and introspection, is also an excellent way to improve attention span. Humanity has access to a world of technology in our pockets, and media has greatly decreased our collective ability to focus. Maintaining the peace and quiet necessary to read intently requires great discipline, but such discipline is trained through the study of challenging novels. 


Now, the next time your English teacher assigns a book like Catcher in the Rye (and this is inevitable), try to slow down and appreciate the nuances of the plot and story. Read it as though your grandparent is telling you a story from their past. Try to appreciate what you might never learn through personal experience. That way, the process will become much more manageable and, hopefully, you will soon discover a newfound appreciation for books written years, decades or centuries ago that can be applicable to your life now.