Returning to the Classics

Returning to the Classics

Classic novelsby Erin Weist

I subscribe to several newsletters in various forms of social media that cover the topics of popular and newly-published books around the world. I love good literature. It can be ennobling and uplifting and encouraging in its scope to improve oneself and thereby improve the world. For several years I have felt discouraged that the books racing to the top of bestseller charts are disappointing and poorly written at best and morally degrading at worst. Literature is part of what defines a culture, wherever it is in the world, and popular culture has become degrading and ignoble. Young adult literature can be a great option for youth to get a taste of the power of the written word, but it is also becoming the only thing adults in many circles read as well. And unfortunately it is not as inspiring as classic literature can be, either in theme or in language.

Consider the classic English novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, which tells of a girl who is raised in difficult circumstances and yet is determined to keep her virtue and her faith in God as paramount to everything else in her life. Or Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, in part a sobering reminder of the devastation that follows adultery. Even The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy is an adventure that simultaneously entertains with a protagonist whose choices are based on moral principle and also educates the reader about tensions between Britain & France during the French Revolution.

Many popular books I see coming through my newsfeed are similarly character-based but, rather than instill virtue, are designed to push boundaries, alienate morals, defy social construct of family & gender and paint them in a sympathetic light, as if their dangerous choices will bring personal fulfillment and peace. It is a lie.

Classic literature is classic for a reason. These books were based off the prototypical story-driven ideals that bad guys lose (or destroy their own and others’ happiness) and good guys win (or find lasting contentment and peace). These are true, time-tested principles. But literature of any day can also create its own morals to decide what will bring happiness. Can we decipher the truth from the lies? Can our children? Art has great power to mold a society. Most of it today is in visual and graphic form. It is also based on selfish personal constructs rather than true, historically-proven principles. Please encourage good literature in the youth within your circle of influence!

I will end with my example of the heroine Jane Eyre. She is raised in a socially protected circle, meaning she has no knowledge of the world or people beyond her own horizon, and is simultaneously denied any love or kindness. Yet as she grows and encounters goodness in the world she chooses to embrace the light it brings and forgive any past wrongs. She triumphs as a pillar of strength and fortitude, of trust in God and a desire to follow Him, regardless of personal temptations. This is the heroine that should be touted and praised in our bestseller lists over those who submit to degradations and false social constructs designed to enslave. Good literature is a teacher. Let us seek after “things [that] are honest…just…pure…lovely…of good report” (Philip 4:8) and bring the classics back in the light where they belong.

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