The Dog Ear: Try rereading the classics
Last Friday, it was announced that "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald will be the 2012-2013 UConn Reads book selection. Coincidentally, I happened to reread this novel over the summer, with my first read occurring in high school, a few years prior. The majority of UConn students probably haven't touched "The Great Gatsby" since high school as well. However, when I reread this book, I realized that rereading the classic novels high school English teachers require you to read is extremely beneficial. With that being said, I recommend putting your original skepticism aside and giving the novel another chance.
When you read a book in high school, part of you almost always dislikes the book, simply because you are required to read it. It's only natural to feel a little resentment when someone is making you do something you don't really want to do. When teachers assign sections of the novel for homework, two different problems occur, depending on your teacher or your reading speed.
If the teacher requires you to read too few pages a night, the book becomes tedious. Yes, you could read ahead but then you risk spoiling the plot for the entire class during discussions. Drawing out the book so it takes weeks or possibly months to complete makes students believe that reading is boring. If the particular book is disliked by the student, the agony is prolonged. After enduring this wearisome reading experience, the student is less apt to want to read for fun. In an age where technology is overpowering, reading in schools needs to be as positive an experience as possible.
Maybe your teacher was the other extreme and created a completely overwhelming reading experience. Too many pages were assigned each night and with other classes and extracurricular activities, it became impossible to keep up. This resulted in either skipping sections of the book or not reading the book at all, using SparkNotes instead. SparkNotes is useful, I'll admit that. But there is nothing like reading the actual text of the book. SparkNotes tells you the general outline of the novel but it cannot recreate the writing style of the author. The care the author gave in writing the novel is lost, and the author's work will have been in vain if everyone starts to take shortcuts.
This is why I believe it is worth the time to reread the novels originally read in high school. No one is imposing a time constraint or restrictions on when you need to finish the novel. If it takes you three days or three months to read the book, it is completely up to you. What matters is what you get out of the book. A lot of growing up has occurred between high school and now. This maturity also transmits itself to the understanding of the novels written decades ago. Maybe you never fully understood what literary devices such as metaphors or symbolism were in high school, therefore missing why certain authors' writing styles are so great and/or key elements of the plot. Greater understanding can lead to greater enjoyment.
There is no time like the present to give these novels another read. They were required reading for a reason and now that a literary classic is also being encouraged by your university for you to read, I think all of that should give you a big hint. These books are worth it. While classics aren't always the most exciting novels to read, the fact that they have remained prominent in academia in a rapidly changing world is exciting to me. It shows that there are things in this world that remain constant and can be shared with future generations. While an iPod or cell phone model can go out of style, a classic work of literature never will.
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