(Photo courtesy of K.L. Kranes)


Opinion: Why we should read classical literature

A few perspectives on why we should read classical literature and a some personal thoughts.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/dongniaxiao5898/" target="_self">Dongnia Xiao</a>

Dongnia Xiao

February 20, 2019

The term “classical” is used for the literature of any language in a period notable for the excellent quality of its writers’ works. It is also a term used to note that something is pure, genuine and worth remembering. While other literary efforts come and go, some literature, because of its high quality, gets preserved over time.

In the fall of 2016, my parents agreed to send me to a specialized academy in China for one year that focuses on reading, studying, and memorizing classical literature from all around the world, such as the Analects of Confucius, Sanskrit poetry, and European and American writers like Shakespeare, Spenser, Byron, Dickinson, and Frost. We also read nonfiction excerpts of significant writings by Churchill, Albert Schweitzer, and Martin Luther King, among others.

After settling in and beginning to make new friends, I delved into the works of great thinkers and writers. The literature we read during this year has influenced me a lot. For example, “Of Study” by Francis Bacon, has changed the way I think about studying. Bacon’s observation that “studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability” made me think of studying in a new way, not as a burden or obligation, but as an activity that is meant to give joy and enhance our thinking, speaking, and writing abilities and add charm to our personality.

Most of the teachers at this school had graduated from top colleges and had great backgrounds. Many used to be professors but chose to teach at a school that focused on classical literature instead. I think it is because they knew how important classic literature is in our daily lives that they made this life choice.

Classic literature is important because it opens up a perspective to different worlds and historical perspectives. Readers understand places like America or Russia better when they have read its literature. Books like “Gone With the Wind,” “Of Mice and Men,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” “War and Peace,” etc., weave a tale of history and friendship into the bleak times they depict. I also gain more knowledge when I read classical literature because many stories are based on history. Studying history suddenly becomes exciting when I look at the past through the vibrant characters in these stories.

To be honest, I prefer historical fiction the best because seeing all the characters battle against terrible circumstances is very motivating. Knowing that there are people in worse situations helps me be more positive in my everyday life. These novels have great passages that have inspired me. For example, “The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience,” and “Tomorrow is another day,” have helped me overcome many difficulties in my life.

Reading classic novels has also improved my overall vocabulary and writing skills because writers from an older time period have unique styles of writing. I especially enjoy Shakespeare’s plays like “Hamlet” and “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.” Shakespeare even created a few of the words used in everyday language. These great pieces of work taught me old English and grammar.

Reading classic literature teaches us life lessons through human history. These books are like a mirror through which we can see the lives of others. We can make ourselves better by comparing their good deeds and their bad points. Books like “Oliver Twist,” “Moby Dick,” “1984,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Animal Farm,” etc., give us the opportunity to learn a lot from the characters animating these novels. We can essentially shape our personality and inner self through classic literature.

Scholar-athlete Cody Going: off to Division 1

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Cody Going has been in Mission Viejo high school’s football program, a team ranked number four in California by MaxPreps, for five long years. From his time in eighth grade to now he’s been able to see the athletes at Mission Viejo High grow from teammates to a...