Sunday, December 9, 2012

Does the Length Really Matter?

I have heard of people who don't want to read the classic because "they are too long." I don't think this is a good excuse at all as these same people are reading Twilight and Harry Potter. If you have ever seen a copy of Twilight(can anyone avoid see this? it is at my library all the time!) those are not short books! Also the same with Harry Potter. Those are some really huge books! 
image via google images

Now having read several Harry Potter books(and enjoyed them) and having read Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, and many others. I think I can say that length is definitely not the problem. 

If length is not the problem then what is? Having read Harry Potter and heard notorious things about Twilight from book lovers, I would have to say it is a combination of things. It would be difficult to point to any one thing. 

The first I would have to say it probably a mental association with school. They probably think of them as the books that teachers assign then for school, and some school books are not pleasant. They think that they are all not for fun, they are work. It would be wrong to say that this is entirely untrue because in some cases it is true. Some books really are like that. However it would be "cutting on your nose to spite your face" to assume that all classics are difficult, hard, and not enjoyable. 

The Second would probably be reading level. Read any of Charles Dickens novels and the read Harry Potter. There is a lot of difference. Not to say that the difference reflects quality. Charles Dickens had a vocabulary, and a grammar that is complicated and takes more thought that J. K. Rowling. They both tell wonderful stories though with equally interesting and valuable themes to the reader. 

There also is perception that something from the past is much harder to relate to with modern readers. This can be partially true in some cases, where the book is dealing with a particular social or political problem of the day. However, this is not true for all books. Jane Eyre deals with equality of men and women(other things too). This is something relevant even for today. Some messages in books transcend time. Making them relevant to everyone everywhere. 

Here are some quotes from other bloggers on this subject.

"No, I do not think that it's the length of the book at all.  I think it's the level and style of the writing.  I have never read Harry Potter, and never mean to, but I've come across excerpts and I've seen the writing level.  It's not that hard......Classics, on the other hand, often have advanced vocabularies, as well as unfamiliar colloquialisms and antiquated styles.  They're usually not action-oriented, and sometimes they have a sleep-inducing amount of description.  (Yes, Dickens, I am looking at you.)" (Raindrops and Moonlight)

"It seems like some people of the present day are under the impression that older novels are boring and less captivating than more "up to date" novels." (The Alpine Path)

"This frustrates and disturbs me greatly, because for one thing, how can we move forward with literature unless we learn to appreciate the classics? We should learn from the experts, not be ignorant of them......We should read as many classic novels as possible!"  (The Alpine Path)

What are your thoughts on this? I would love to hear your opinion on this! 


  1. A lot of good points you made! I think it depends on the classic. Books like Moby-Dick, though my personal favorite, really can be boring - it's probably the worst "required reading" I know of. On the other hand, most people who read the Sherlock Holmes series enjoy it. What would be ideal is if schools allowed kids to choose their own classics to read; also, grown-ups should stop emphasizing reading level.

  2. I agreed with everything you pointed out in this post! If only more people would read classics, and not remain ignorant of them.

  3. @Marian: I have been looking the copy of Moby-Dick that is on our shelf for years debating weather or not to read it. :) It would be great if schools would let the kids choose what ones interested them.

    @Banrion: Thanks! :)