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13 Things Your Teacher Never Told You About the Classics

Updated on October 22, 2017

Classics have a bad reputation. Too often people cringe when they hear that word - “classics”. They think about going to have their fingernails pulled instead of reading them or even hearing about them. But there is so much that the teachers were not honest with you about.

When it comes to books, people often cringe when they hear the word “classic.” Many would rather have their fingernails pulled than hear about or read them. However, there is much more to classics than teachers let on.

#1 They Can Be Boring

Classical literature can be very boring. I’ve read many in my younger years and wanted to claw my eyes out. Let me stress that it mostly occurred when I was much younger. The language was too foreign to me. We do not speak so formally or lengthy as most of the classics do. Our books are full of action. Older ones... not so much as the style of writing was much different.

The problem is that we are trying to read them with a modern mindset. Reading them in context with the period they were meant for gives us the opportunity to understand them better.

#2 They Changed the World

Believe it or not, the classics have helped to change the world. They aren’t just stuffy words on a page to bore people. They were books that rocked societies.

To Kill a Mockingbird tackled the weighty problem of racism. It was a subject that was acknowledged but never personalized. The book brought the subject home and forced readers to contemplate the right and wrong of many aspects of it.

Jungle was written to expose the horrid working conditions within meat factories. It is because of that book’s awareness that OSHA was created.

Many classics turned the world upside down and changed it dramatically.

#3 Life Lessons Can Be Found in Them

There are a lot of lessons you can learn from a classical piece of literature. You can find timeless ones. It is amazing how we can connect to these stories today.

From Lord of the Flies, you learn that evil exists within all and trust is easily destroyed. We see this every day in our lives in all ages.

From A Tale of Two Cities, you learn that one’s past is never far away, and love can demand all you have. It also shows family love, loyalty, and the evil that a mob can leave behind.

#4 Contemporary Books Are Modeled After Them

Believe it or not, your contemporary books use many classics as models. The Harry Potter stories are unique, but they pulled a lot for previous classics that inspired scenes and characters. The classics create the foundation of most themes you find in contemporary books.

#5 Movies Should Be Watched First

I am a firm believer that when it comes to classics that you need to watch the movies before you read the books. Over the years, I’ve found they help me with many of them because some can be dry and boring to some people.

Why should they be watched first? Through watching the movies, you get to see how actors interpret the stories. You can visualize the actions and see the scenes come alive. If the story is boring as you read, you struggle with understanding it and even finishing it. When you see it acted out, especially for the visual learners, you get an idea of the story which helps you in understanding the sometimes very verbose narrative.

#6 There Are Stories Behind Some of Them

There is usually a story behind the story. When you read a biography on a great author, you might find why they wrote that one particular book. It could have been a childhood experience or something else. You really never know.

Read the biographies of some of these great authors. Get to know them and you’ll get to know their work better.

#7 Great Resource to Expaned Your Vocabulary

Have you thought of the classics as a way to learn new words? They are. Think about when most classics were written. Yes, there are a few from ten or twenty years ago, but most were written in previous centuries when different words were more common. It was almost a different language from our own. Today, we tend to be very casual in our speech and in our writing. The words used a hundred years ago are not as common today.

Because we are too caught up in everyday language, we tend to miss out on some very rich vocabularywords. These words can sound more poetic and can hold deeper meanings in terms of description. have a poetic sound to them and can be deeper in their descriptions. The words can be give more precise meaning to a scene in a story.

Read a classic and note words that you are unfamiliar with or don’t use often. Look them up and see how you can apply them to your own writing.

#8 Another Way to Study History

History can be learned through the classics. While they are fiction, they are set in periods that can give you insight into those specific erasperiods. Think of The Tale of Two Cities. It is set during the French Revolution. While the story is not really about that event, the event directs the story. You can read the story and get a feel for the time period. After you read the story, read about the event behind it. You’ll be surprised how well the book gives you a view into the history of the period.

#9 Stories to Ccnnect With

When you read some classics, you might find something in them that you can connect with. These stories containare about many themes we are familiar with in our lives. A dark love triangle? Wuthering Heights has that for you. PTSD? Check out The Tale of Two Cities and The Sun Also Rises. We cannot connect to the classics as long as we remember they were written in different time periods but on subjects that cross the ages.

#10 They Are Challenging

Yes, the classics are not all easy to read or easy to understand. Will they be for you? It depends on your age, your vocabulary, and your ability to read the classical styles. I know many I read in school were hard for me to understand, much less enjoy until I was in my thirties and forties. It was then I could appreciate the works and accept their deep challenges.

#11 Improves Social Skills

Believe it or not, the classics can help improve your social skills. Okay, maybe not The Lord of the Flies, but many of the others can remind us of what it used to be when manners were expected in social interactions. I know that as I read many of the classics that I feel a strong urge to be more formal and wish that our society was a little more proper. Granted, that fades as I get back into my life, but a little of what I read always stays with me.

#12 Understand the Writers of Today

If you want to understand the many successful writers of today, then you need to read the classics. So many of them were inspired by these books that have called to readers for generations. I cannot count how many times I have read a contemporary book and see the connection to a classical piece of writing. Many writers will attest to the influence the classics had on them.

#13 They Are Better Reads as Adults

This might cause a war with some people, but I honestly think that most classics are better read as adults. I read many of them as a student in grade school, high school, and the years in college when I was still a teen. I am reading them again as an adult with a few decades under my belt and am experiencing a deeper read with them. Maybe it is because I am more experienced in life, which gives me more to connect with. Talking with other readers, the majority express the same sentiment.

The literary classics are wonders that have been underestimated and over-feared. They need to be reevaluated in your life. A second, or even a third look is deserved. You might find that the classics aren’t are scary or boring as you had imagined.

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    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 months ago from Chicago Area

      So, so true! Some of them are so damn boring, or irrelevant. Though some would disagree, I do like the idea of watching the movie first. I think this is especially helpful for today's younger generations who are more visually oriented.

      Great perspective! Sharing.