The total number of words within a sentence in classic books is almost double the quantity in modern literature. For decades, English classes have read classic novels such as A Tale of Two Cities. The term classic novel refers to a timeless, essential piece of literature that impacts readers around the world. Since these books had (and still have) an immense effect on readers, Classics remain relevant to this day. Before determining whether to entirely abolish classic books from the school curriculum, American high schools should seriously consider their benefits, in particular a drastic increase in reading ability, the potential for a deeper than skin-deep understanding of humanity, and gaining knowledge in fields such as history.
Keeping classic literature in the school curriculum allows for students to strengthen their neurological pathways, leading to an improvement in the individuals’ reading ability as well as their reading comprehension skills. According to the article Classic works of literature still have a place in today’s classrooms, students develop crucial skills by reading classic literature. “Studying classic literature from the Western canon (Shakespeare, Dickens, Orwell and so on) affords students of English the opportunity to understand, analyze and evaluate language quite different from their own.
Structures, trends in punctuation and in the way we speak have evolved through the ages and being aware of these developments really helps us to understand better, language in its current context.” By forcing children to read complicated, dense texts, we challenge their thinking and we boost and support their self-confidence. As a result, they will feel more competent about their skills in their own language. Since the way we speak differs so much from how people used to communicate, by reading the classic texts we are able to experience different, unfamiliar writing styles. When reading these texts, our own mind has to work harder in order to comprehend them.
By challenging our minds, we allow them to grow. Thus, when turning back to a text written in modern language, it is, in contrast, much easier to understand and read. In the article 8 Books That Will Enrich Your Vocabulary And Train Your Thinking Mind, the author states that “One of the best ways to learn new vocabulary and to improve your grammar is to read books which push the boundaries of your language skills. By embracing new words and language styles, you not only improve your own linguistic competence, but you also train your mind to handle it. The books on this list will challenge you to keep reading, teach you new words and sentence structures, and with the quality of their writing, force you to push yourself to a new level of language competence.”
That is to say that reading books that are a challenge (such as lengthly, “classic” books) will take you one step nearer to expertise in a language. Despite all types of modern entertainment, classic books will never fail to exercise and train your brain in order to perform better in situations where language is importance. While classic novels have the ability to improve students reading ability and comprehension, they also have the potential to provide a profound meaning for students to explore, as I will argue in the following. Unlike in the majority of modern texts, when exposed to classic literature students often note a powerful, deeper meaning behind the text, and not only surface level ideology.
In A Tale Of two cities by Charles Dickens, Dickens explores and submerges the reader in a multitude of ideas, many of which have a deep meaning. For example, “The wine was red wine, and had stained the ground of the narrow street in the suburb of Saint Antoine, in Paris, where it was spilled. It had stained many hands, too, and many faces, and many naked feet, and many wooden shoes. The hands of the man who sawed the wood, left red marks on the billets; and the forehead of the woman who nursed her baby, was stained with the stain of the old rag she wound about her head again.
Those who had been greedy with the staves of the cask, had acquired a tigerish smear about the mouth; and one tall joker so besmirched, his head more out of a long squalid bag of a night-cap than in it, scrawled upon a wall with his finger dipped in muddy wine-lees—blood.” (Dickens, 18) It is obvious that a large casket of wine had been dropped on the street, but at the same time a larger claim about the structure of society in France has been made in passing. The peasant class was very oppressed in France during this time. They were exhausted and fed up with the treatment they received by the nobility.
They hungered for a change in their lives and yearned for justice and freedom. As soon as the “blood” colored wine is spilled onto the street, everyone scrambles as fast as they can in order to taste a drop. This suggests that peasants were very desperate and needed some kind of satisfaction in their lives. The wine that had been spilled in the book is a metaphor for the blood spilled in the revolution. As soon as one person tasted a drop of the nectar, other people wanted a taste. This indicated that it was not enough to only seek retaliation for one person’s actions, instead, they would also have to attack their loved ones.
After this event, the word blood came up many times. For example, the guillotines that were being used by revolutionaries to carry out their executions had a thick coat of blood covering it. Also, I noticed that the DeFarges run their own wine shop. In the story, the DeFarges (especially Madame) were described as barbarous and they were seeking vengeance for actions of anyone who was a noble or an aristocrat. The Defarges led a multitude of violent revolutionary activities, but they were also connected with the distribution of wine. This ties back to wine being a symbol for blood since they themselves were bloodthirsty and savage.
In an article from the Guardian, “We read Dickens not just because he was a man of his own times, but because he was a man for our times as well. We read Dickens because his perception and investigation of the human psyche is deep, precise, and illuminating, and because he tells us things about ourselves by portraying personality traits and habits that might seem all too familiar. His messages about poverty and charity have travelled through decades, and we can learn from the experiences of his characters almost as easily as we can learn from our own experiences.”
The way that authors such as Dickens incorporate messages into the text never goes out of style. Charles Dickens allows us to realize that we, ourselves, are not very different from the characters, thus allowing for us to form a strong bond with them. Readers may feel a certain way when a character acts out of line. Old writing teaches us about deeper messages in the text while we subtly compare ourselves to the characters. Beyond creating opportunities for an analysis of the deeper meaning of the text, classic literature also creates opportunities to learn about historical events from a different perspective.
Classic, quintessential literature also has the ability to, educate the reader about historical events from a different perspective. In the book A Tale of Of Two Cities, the majority of actions and events occur during the French revolution. The author informs us about the tyranny of the French aristocracy, where the lower classes were marginalized with higher taxes and unfair laws and deprived of their rights. By showing the violent, brutal, chaotic aspects of the war instead of the honest, fair aspects, Dickens paints a pessimistic picture. Moreover, Dickens suggests that whoever holds power over the majority (whether it be the rich or the poor people), will impact the rest of society by turning it into tyranny.
“Before that unjust Tribunal, there was little or no order of procedure, ensuring to any accused person any reasonable hearing. There could have been no such Revolution, if all laws, forms, and ceremonies, had not first been so monstrously abused, that the suicidal vengeance of the Revolution was to scatter them all to the winds.” During the revolution laws and such were not enforced by the government. People took advantage of this chaotic mess of a government and this is why the revolution started anyways. No one that was ordered to court, had a fair trial. People accused innocent people of crimes because they simply didn’t like the other person. As a result, many innocents were sentenced to death and were usually beheaded by guillotine.
In A Tale of Two Cities, “Expressive signs of what made them poor, were not wanting; the tax for the state, the tax for the church, the tax for the lord, tax local and tax general, were to be paid here and to be paid there, according to solemn inscription in the little village, until the wonder was, that there was any village left unswallowed.” In other words, here Dickens emphasizes the indications of poverty that were everywhere in the country. Citizens who were the poorest of the poor had the highest tax rates. They were overly taxed, by the church, and by the nobility. People were also ordered to pay to two two tax funds – the local tax collector as well as the general tax collector. It was amazing that there was any life left at all. Dickens criticizes this system where aristocrats and nobles are saved, despite the facts that they could very well pay more.
Dickens is actually upset with the circumstances in France and not just the village that this passage was playing in. ‘Monseigneur’, Darnay’s uncle, symbolizes the aristocracy in France in the 18th century. This could explain why Monseigneur is depicted throughout the text as a cruel caricature of a person, what he represents are the attitudes, beliefs, and actions of upper-class French society. Nowadays, we see an example similar to this when Mitt Romney was criticized to a great extent by CNN news for the low rate of tax that he paid to the government.
Mitt Romney, in this case, would represent nobles and aristocrats during the French Revolution while CNN news would represent Charles Dickens. According to the article “Romney paid 14% effective tax rate in 2011” by Jeanne Sahadi for CNN money, “The reason Romney’s rate is so low – despite having one of the highest incomes in the country – is because his income was derived almost entirely from capital gains and dividends from his extensive portfolio of investments. And that form of investment income is typically taxed at just 15%, well below the 35% top tax rate for high earners.”
Dickens and many more authors made a great point about educating students and giving them a fresh new perspective on the way life was in former times. In essence, students should be required to read the Classics, it gives them a different view of literature, and opens windows of possibility for students. Classics allow for students to have a stronger mind, sense of history and a stronger analytical mind. In conclusion, books that are considered classics are timeless and encompass a diverse range of topics. These are books that are exemplary and noteworthy, therefore they will always remain in style and relevant.