With technology often replacing direct human interaction, personal connections are either not as present as in the past or lost completely. In this climate, people can feel alone, without even realizing their isolation and disconnection. It’s easy to lose perspective about what it’s like to be human and the challenges that confront human life, regardless of time and place.
Classic literature is a place where people can go to understand the human relationships that are often missing from their own lives. During times of trial, people have often referred back to classic literature for strength, knowledge and insight. The classics are books that are influential; well-written, often in a complex prose; and that have a cultural importance, with a deep analysis of the characters depicted.
Examples of these include “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens and “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. There are hundreds more.
Through their stories, the authors provide a window into the human spirit and teach their readers that the complexities of human nature are timeless. The classics, through their colorful stories, beautifully illustrate universal, complex human attributes such as greed, jealousy, competition, fear and love. These stories allow people to feel less alone when managing difficult emotions and obstacles confronted in their everyday lives. They offer readers wisdom, solace and entertainment.
Getting lost in a great novel can be a much-needed respite from the pettiness and frivolity of daily modern life, creating a sense of balance and equilibrium. The current tech-driven generation is lacking exposure to the classics and therefore may be less inclined to use the jewels found within them as a resource and a guide for managing life’s uncertainties.
I’ve decided to make it a priority to read and listen to a classic novel with my teenage children on a regular basis in order to ensure that they have the experience and benefit of them.
Here are five reasons why I think this is an important exercise:
1. In a fast-paced, technologically driven world, people often don’t have the need or the desire to think deeply. Instead, much information is delivered in sound bites and on a superficial level. I do believe that reading the classics will force people to slow down and to think in a deeper way than what they’re used to. Understanding and absorbing classic literature forces people to concentrate and stay focused while reading or listening to the information in order to fully grasp the richness of the messages delivered.
2. The character analysis delivered in the classics is sophisticated and informative. The classics provide reassurance to the reader that human nature and human needs do not change with the changing times. Whether the book was written in the 1800s or in the 1900s or after, the characters within them struggle with the same conflicts that are familiar to people today.
3. Classic literature provides an entertaining escape into the lives of rich and relatable characters and provides a dramatic contrast to the superficial personalities that monopolize today’s youth-obsessed, media-driven pop culture.
4. People who are well-read tend to become better writers, and the art of writing will not be easily replaced by technology.
5. A shared book among family members serves as a springboard for meaningful discussions about the stories, the characters, the culture of a tale’s time and how they all relate to life today.
My sons have chosen “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky as our first read. Happy reading!
Dr. Kate Roberts is a licensed child and school psychologist and family therapist on the North Shore. Ask a question or make a comment at email@example.com.