The times have really changed fast that even the literary landscape of today is way too different from the classics of the yesteryears. If you are going to ask kids about Jane Austen, Nathaniel Hawthorne or Shakespeare, the most common response you would get are blank stares. Saddening as it sounds, but our modern youth today are getting less and less connected to the classic literary works. Does this mean that the classics are slowly fading from the modern readers’ bucket lists? Maybe so; sometimes all they need is a reawakening of their interest in classic literature.
To be able to understand our modern bestsellers and good reads, we have to do a little revisiting of our literary history to understand how our contemporary literature came to be. The most common formula for literary pieces, especially novels, is the representation of human nature. We can trace back to our classic novels the infancy of this formula. Back then, the descriptions were not overflowing with adjectives, but stuck with the direct description of the surroundings, the characters and the story. Yet, despite the simplicity of the structure and composition of classic literature, their stories effectively evoke our genuine emotions: surprise, joy, sadness and anger instead of only “like” and “dislike”. Classical literature not only is appealing and challenging to our minds, it also provokes our emotions as well.
The classic writings pay more attention to impulses and development of the feelings the characters – something rarely seen from our contemporary literature. Instead, in contemporary novels, characters are left with a happy ending after struggling through the most basic distress, which is not a seemingly convincing representation of real life. This is not an absolute statement. There are, of course, exceptions to such observations. There are several contemporary authors, such as Isabel Allende, Toni Morrison and Paulo Coelho, who have gained recognition in the academic world for their exceptional writing.
Times have indeed changed, even in the world of literature. Our modern and fast-paced lifestyles have somewhat influenced our preference for reading materials. Most of today’s young generations prefer modern literature such as the Divergent Trilogy, The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Grey. These quick reads find their readership in teens, and young adults, but their necessity does not extend beyond that. True, they can appeal to the feelings and emotions of our modern youth, but they lack depth of emotional invocation and can’t seem to challenge the readers on an intellectual or even emotional level.
It is perfectly understandable that we as humans differ emotionally. It wouldn’t be too much to ask our modern readers and the society at large to read classic literature for the intellectual challenge, if not the emotional intelligence. We just need to take a break and slow down every now and then. Reading the classics won’t take much of our time. Although reading classic literature may take longer time than reading our modern novels and pocket books, the benefits can be great. Not only do we reconnect our literary roots, we are also stimulating our critical thinking and cognitive abilities by challenging our minds through reading classical literature.
“Literature is one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity” – P.T. Barnum