My introduction to the classics was completely voluntary. I was homeschooled, and my mother decided not to require a literature course from me at all to graduate high school. (To be fair, the course teaching me how to balance a checkbook was probably far more useful, and a skill I am very grateful for now.)
There were a few reasons to her decision about literature. First, I read a lot on my own. I read encyclopedias for fun, even, and it was clear even at a young age that my critical thinking skills were not lacking. Until puberty hit, at least. Second, there was a lot going on in my home life as a child, much of it not good (though not horrendously bad, compared to many other people). We learned the important things, and sometimes there wasn’t time or energy left for anything else. Third, I don’t think my mother had a good introduction or experience with literature during her own school days – either grade school, or college – and she probably was at a loss of how to teach it to me or my siblings. I know one of her most memorable moments was in one of her literature classes in college, when she had to read The Two Towers. But she hadn’t read The Fellowship of the Ring, and so I’m sure you can imagine that was more than a little… confusing.
I read a few classics in my school days (The Scarlet Letter, and several of Jane Austen’s works, for the most part) but didn’t start branching out into the ones that had always caught my eye (the ones I sometimes set back because I didn’t know if my mom would let me read them because she might think they were too scary) until I was in college.
My ‘rave’ for today is one of those.
A Classic I Love
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley is, essentially, the mother of modern speculative fiction (horror/sci-fi/fantasy can all fall under that umbrella). Frankenstein can almost fall under all three of those genres.
For those of you (hopefully few) who are not familiar with the original novel, Frankenstein is the story of Victor Frankenstein, a man (not even a doctor, just a science student) who deigns to create life from death.
The story came about as a challenge – Shelley, and a few other writers, were away on a retreat (probably not unlike the retreats we Ferrets try to take on occasion) and ended up being trapped indoors for several days because of rain. Byron (yes, that Byron) challenged them all to write ghost stories.
Shelley was the only one to complete the challenge, and thus was born Frankenstein.
The book is a fascinating commentary on human nature. Frankenstein becomes enamored with the power that science offers, and oversteps the natural order and boundaries of said science. He plays God, and then decides he doesn’t want to deal with the responsibility – or the consequences – of his decisions.
His creation, though, is lost and alone and left to fend for himself. Every person that is perceived as kind and good still shuns him, though in such a way that it is easy for us to sympathize with them. All Frankenstein’s creation wants is companionship, but it’s not a simple solution.
It was interesting to re-read this, as well, because writing styles have become so different now. The action for this story doesn’t even really start until halfway through (long after Frankenstein has created his creature), and one has to wonder if Shelley’s classic would have even seen a publisher if she’d had to navigate today’s industry. Probably not.
Also, re-reading this made me see a lot of similarities between this book and Fullmetal Alchemist. Yeah…
A Classic I Want to Read
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
So who remembers the PBS show Wishbone?
I know I’m not the only 90s kid who was introduced to many a classic lit book through Wishbone. But for some reason, A Tale of Two Cities stuck with me. It’s basically heart-wrenching unrequited love set during the French Revolution.
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
If that’s not heart-wrenching, I don’t know what is. (Please don’t test me on that.)
I avoided reading it for many years because I wasn’t sure I could handle the emotional turmoil (since Wishbone essentially spoils the endings), but with some of the stuff I’ve written now (erm, Catalyst specifically comes to mind), I think I should give it a go. Since I apparently live for emotional turmoil in my writing now.