I must be growing weak. Two memes in one week.
What is the best classic you were “forced” to read in school and why? I can barely remember what books I read in high school. I enjoyed Bean Trees, though, in my 10th-grade Analysis of Literature class. Can’t say if it’s generally counted as a “classic” since it was written within the last century.
I couldn’t articulate it then, but thinking on it now I believe my growing writers’ mind was fed by the multiple points of view and complex characters. At least, I think they were complex. I was 16, so if I re-read it I might be embarrassed now by how much it impressed me then.
What was the worst classic you were forced to endure and why? Julius Caesar (sorry, Blue). Another assignment from my Analysis of Lit class. This was the honor student’s rite-of-passage: Analysis with Ms. Stitham.
She made us keep a log-book (anybody else know what that is?) which we all abhorred, and as an experiment she offered my class a complete waiving of the JC-unit logs if we were willing (before we took it) to accept our grade on the JC test as our unit grade.
Otherwise we would be graded on the thoroughness of our log entries as usual. I *hated* writing. I would have taken the out in a heartbeat if there weren’t all the dire warnings about how *nobody* got higher than a C on the Julius Caesar test.
I hedged my bets. Then got a B+ on the test.
Mad enough to spit nails, I informed my informants that actually *reading* the text was a wonderful first-step toward doing well. I think I scraped a C+ out of my logs, and hated every minute of them. Definitely a negitive association there.
Have to comment on this, Blue (your “worst classic”):
Silas Marner. It was boring. Was there an actual plot? It’s on my shelf of books to re-read. I guess that means I’ll get to it in 5 years. LOL!
I never read this one, but, like most of my classics, I listened to my library’s Recorded Books version. I was *fascinated.* Yes, it moved slowly ( I was quilting as I listened, so my life was moving even slower at the time), but I found the commentary on fatherhood intriguing. I’ve come across much discussion and commentary about motherhood, but less-to-none on fathers, so maybe this struck me by its contrast.
I also hated Frankenstein. Only got through that one thanks to my library and Recorded Books, Inc. Spent the second half of that book trying to decide if the ceramic kitten I was painting looked better as a calico or a Siamese. Then changing it back again.
My parents wouldn’t let me have a real kitten.
In case anybody cares, I did really well on all my literature tests that weren’t essay-based (my only D was the essay test on Romeo and Juliet in 9th grade). Apparently my brain absorbs the same amount from the page as from my ear.
Sometimes I think my ears get more, because the rhythm of the line adds sticking power.
I feel a high measure of satisfaction (we Christians aren’t allowed to say pride) to note I got a 98% on my Senior English essay. So I have the delight of knowing my mind matured during my time in high school. Sometimes I wondered.
We had the *insanely* floppy option among the essay questions of tying together all of the previous semester’s survey of American literature, from the pilgrims on. I had the flash (because I’d talked with a classmate mere days before) of using “attitudes toward nature,” and my teacher loved it.
Which classic should every student be required to read and why? I can’t say I think any classic beyond the Bible should be read by *everyone*. There is so much variance in personal failings and needs that no other book is going to speak to everyone.
Which classic should be put to rest immediately and why? I have several candidates, but the one I’ve read the most of is Whuthering Heights. Felt the same about this as Bluestocking did about Silas Marner, and it was creepy/weird enough I didn’t even finish the recorded book.
Bonus: Why do you think certain books become classics?
Classics are well-written books that expose a part of humanity that has (usually) not been addressed before (e.g., Adultery, in The Scarlet Letter). They should make people think, see reality with new eyes, and (often) new sympathy.
Literature frequently allows us to see into the minds and motivations of others; to understand them more than we sometimes understand the people we live with every day. And as we observe these others with a wise guide (the author) we imagine we have gained a deeper insight into the real people that surround us.
It is some species of arrogance to assume that imaginary characters could have any reflection in real life, but the piercing accuracy of the author’s depiction of those like us, the reader, cause us to trust their analysis of others.
I was 18, that “classic” age of revelation, when I “read” (listened to) both White Fang and Jane Eyre in immediate succession.
I was struck uncomfortably by the mishmash I was of those two title characters; how accurately the authors showed parts of me I preferred to ignore.
It was convicting and revealing. I got more out of those two “classics” in two weeks than from all I had read in high school (or even later, in college). Re-read them more, too.
A classic fits a person when it explains a reaction or a missing motivation that (re)connects us with ourselves or the world around us.
We humans were designed for relationship. Ultimately with God, but not-unimportantly with each other as well. Literature (or Story of any type) can be a substitute for that, but it can also be a help and a guide.
For me, those books that have spoken to my “gaps,” or affirmed those things most important to me, articulating them better than I’ve yet seen, those count as my classics, and are among the first books I’ll encourage my friends and (someday) my children to read.