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The Pressure of Reading Classics

Updated on August 15, 2015
Karishma Tolani profile image

Freelance Writer, Translator, Transcriptionist and Editor. Basketball Lover. Avid Reader. Passionate about sports. Recently turned nomad!

Roughly, classic novels can be defined as work that is of impeccable quality with an unmatched level of intellectuality. Some examples of classics are the works of Rabindranath Tagore, William Shakespeare, and George Bernard Shaw and so on. However, it is hard to define a classic in exact words. The definition of the term ‘classic’ cannot remain constant.

For instance, Shakespeare wasn’t classic during the Elizabethan era but today, he is the bard. Thus, it is very hard to define a classic because to define is to limit and you can’t really do that to literary works or art. While it is true that classics change as time passes by, the reverence around them doesn’t die. The world always holds a very high opinion on classics.

Some are in awe of the work because of what the work is worth while some others are in awe of it because everyone else is in awe of it. This definitely creates a lot of hype around the work.

This also means that a lot of people read it and hence, the knowledge of its background, story and base soon becomes general. Thus, a new reader has perceptions about the story or novel or whatever that he or she is going to read owing to whatever he has heard about it. Thus, the person doesn’t read the story with a neutral mind but carries all the presumptions with him or her while reading the book.

As it may be known to any regular reader, it is hard to read a book with presumptions in the head because you are then constantly judging what you read. Even if one does try to read the novel with a neutral mind, there is indeed going to be a role of those presumptions that lie stifled at the back of the head.

Now, all of this together makes it hard to concentrate on the core subject matter of the literary work. Moreover, if one comes across a difficult word or a winding sentence while reading, it becomes harder to come to terms with the fact that you aren’t aware of what it means. For, you are consciously or sub-consciously in the process of judging the work and if you yourself don’t know the meanings of the words or have a hard time coping up with the language, the result is that you also start to hold the work in high regard. This does raise a difficult to answer question – is it necessary to use jargons and figures of speech in order to produce a classic? Can’t simple language do the trick?

On a concluding note...

The awe and the pressure of reading a classic are not just related to books. For all we know, theatre and cinema goers undergo the same pressure as well. Also not to forget that there is an equivalent pressure of reading a classic even if there are no prejudices. Why? Merely because everyone around you has read it!


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    • Karishma Tolani profile image

      Karishma 2 years ago from Mumbai

      Charit01962, it is rare to find the likes of you and am glad y'all exist. Yes, they are valuable but I was only highlighting the pressure that the background knowledge and the chit-chat about the classic creates, not really general pressure. :) Also, I love all 4 of the authors that you have mentioned. I also like Salman Rushdie and Leo Tolstoy in addition to those.

    • Charito1962 profile image

      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 2 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Hello, Karishma. Honestly, I still like reading the classics. My favorite authors are Charles Dickens, O. Henry, and Ernest Hemingway. And yes, I also like Tagore.

      I draw valuable lessons from the works of these writers. (I don't absorb much from today's bestsellers.)

      Thus, I don't think there's really pressure in reading the classics.

    • Karishma Tolani profile image

      Karishma 2 years ago from Mumbai

      Thanks for reading the article and the comments as well Kevin. Maybe, you guys are right. You obviously know better because you are in the system and I as an outsider who hasn't even understood the system properly wouldn't really know. All I meant to say was all children can't be doing the same thing because each child is different. But after your comment Kevin, I realise that sentence wasn't really related to what Lions44 is talking about. Studying the US education system is definitely one of the things on my list right now. :)

    • profile image

      Kevin Goodwin 2 years ago

      I have to say that lions44 got it right. What happened to leave no child behind?

    • Karishma Tolani profile image

      Karishma 2 years ago from Mumbai

      Haha a lot of it went over my head Lions44. Maybe, I should do my own research on what the American education system is like. Though, I don't agree that all students ought to do a particular course. It really depends. Will do my best to keep it up. :)

      Thank you Emge. I re-read too. Though, I understand it differently from the first read. Do you experience the same?

    • emge profile image

      Madan 2 years ago from Abu Dhabi

      Great post. I love classics and some I re read and read again. Voted up

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 2 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Karishma, standards vary across the states and some states even have different standards for different districts. That's starting to change. And of course, funding plays a big role. If you are an inner city kid in the Bronx, you won't get the same level of education that the kid in the suburbs is getting. Also, for many years students were picking their own curriculum, etc. I wish every high school student could be offered the same classes that I was able to take, regardless of whether they go academic or vocational. I need to stop venting...:). Keep up the good work.

    • Karishma Tolani profile image

      Karishma 2 years ago from Mumbai

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my article Lions44. I agree that well educated and well read are two different terms. Yes, there are indeed references to classics in politics and economics both and frankly, I hate it when such thing happens at first because even if you know the classic, you have to think a little to be able to connect it to the ongoing political event. About the wider audience getting it, the best example would be 10 things I hate about you. Not everyone understands that it is an adaptation of Taming the Shrew. I am absolutely clueless about the education system in US though. Enlighten me, maybe? Thanks again for reading it and for the compliment. :)

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 2 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Although I hated it at the time, I'm very glad my parents made me take AP English my senior year. It has really enhanced my daily reading of current events. Why? Because there are always references to great works especially Joyce, Shakespeare and Twain in so many political journals and other sites. So you don't have to be well educated to be well read.

      But you are right in terms of the pressure to learn about these works and preconceived notions. I often wonder when I'm watching a movie that references a great work whether the wider audience gets it. Maybe that is a testament to an educational system here in the U.S. that is lacking. Good article.


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