Thursday, January 26, 2012

What It's Like to Read a Classic

How large is your vocabulary?  Do you find that the more you read, the larger it grows?

Do you remember reading a Classic for the first time and having to trudge your way through the vocabulary and sentence structure?

Like most people, I read some classics in high school.  Like most people, I didn't enjoy them as much as I could have.  But then time passes, and wonder of wonders: I somehow got used to reading the more complex language that is often found in those older books.  The first time I read Pride and Prejudice it took some work.  Then I watched the film, and amazingly, the language began to make sense.  So much has to do with your familiarity, doesn't it?  If you know the story, the language is easier to absorb; if you know the language, the story is easier to absorb.

Here's an entertaining example:

It really isn't that the classics are always so much more difficult, it's that they are often unfamiliar territory.  (True, they do stir up the grey matter a bit more, but that's a good thing isn't it?  Move those brains!)  This is why, if you are just getting started with the Classics, it can be immensely beneficial to pick something with more accessible writing (Gone With the Wind, The Good Earth, To Kill a Mockingbird) or with a story you are familiar with (A Christmas Carol, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan).  This is also why I have no problem watching an adaptation first--get familiar with the story line, and then jump in and enjoy the story-telling.

Once you get past that first hurdle, you may be surprised to find that reading the classics is more a matter of taste than difficulty.


  1. I'm always so reluctant to read a book when I've seen the movie first. But, maybe in the case of classic literature I should make an exception. I'd like to read a Dickens to celebrate his 200th birthday, but I automatically excluded the ones I've seen as movies. I'll rethink that!

  2. I'm not much of a movie person.:D But I'm sure watching an adaptation and then reading it makes understanding a classic much much easier!

    And I loved watching the video. Simply hilarious!...thanks for sharing. :D

  3. Great point AND I laughed my butt off at the pigs and quickly posted to Facebook!

  4. Heidi, I tend towards the opposite...I guess I figure that the book will inevitably be better. With classics, the story is usually so sweeping--we read them so much faster than they originally were read--that I just get more enjoyment out of the storytelling if I'm not going in blind. I should try that with Dickens! (duh!) The only one I've ever finished is The Christmas Carol. :(

    Risa, it's kind of like a short cut--instead of re-reading I just watch an adaptation. :D I'm glad you enjoyed the video, it had me laughing. :)

    Andi, how fun to find literary humor, right? Does it get any better than that?

    BookQuoter, I almost didn't post it but thought it was too fun not to share. :)

  5. Enjoyed this post!

    Sometimes it helps me to listen to the Audible version of a classic novel on my Kindle while I follow along in a paperback copy. I just finished reading Moby-Dick this way and it was really enjoyable!


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