By SHIVANK AGRAWAL
“Friends, JP’Stevenians, young adults, lend me your ears. I come not to bury the classics but to praise them.” When it comes to the classics, most students are ready to tune out at simply a mention of their titles. Tasks such as memorizing Brutus’ or Antony’s speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar are inescapable in every high schooler’s life, and most admit that it was an excruciating experience they barely survived. As a student body, our disinterest in the classics demonstrates our lack of appreciation for the beautiful literature written centuries ago. Our respect for the classics must be revived, because without them, our generation risks sinking into the abyss of ignorance. Our apathy towards the classics cannot continue if we want to become the mature adults the world needs us to be.
Picking up a classic requires much more concentration and effort than reading the newest dystopian novel, but the payoffs are tremendous. Woven into these dusty, old novels are morals, lessons, and guidelines that the wise authors of the past chose to convey to readers. Analyzing famous works from the past is a stepping stone to maturation in the high school years. Whether we are conscious of it or not, our belief system is the constant shaping and working of evolving social norms. Grounded in the tenets of thinkers in history, these classic novels are a mirror reflection of ourselves and our society, with ideas that dominate us unknowingly. Notable examples of such lessons can be found in the play Julius Caesar, by Shakespeare. During the climax of the play, when Caesar is killed and conflicting eulogies are given in a plaza, Mark Antony delivers a notable and powerful speech that sways the Roman subjects’ perception of Caesar. Through the exceptional usage of irony, ethos, pathos, and logos, every individual in the plaza is moved. His speech emphasizes the importance of public speaking skills, an attribute that all of us must utilize throughout high school and beyond. By studying Mark Antony’s speech, we learn how words can alter one’s stance. This notion expands our definition of power from the earlier common belief that power is in those who deserve it to the factual reality that power is in those have the greatest influence. When we read about themes such as power tested in real life scenarios, we can then truly understand how to implicate them in our lives.
Reading classical novels is also a great supplement to learning history. We are often taught in history class that the ultimate goal is to understand the perspectives of older generations. Yet, when reading through textbooks, it is hard to grasp what the popular culture and mindset might have been. This is where the classics come in. When you step into the shoes of the characters and even the shoes of the author, you start to understand the background of that author and how it influenced his/her quill.We study history for exams, but more importantly, for the ability to prevent mistakes that have occurred in the past. Academically, the classics can add valuable insight and perspective to historical conflicts. Together, history and classics combined can paint a vivid image of the past. Learning from history is indispensable for success because it allows us to utilize the knowledge we gain to our advantage; the insights offered by the study of classics fuels the engine of social innovation.
Whether you are reading The Catcher in the Rye or Julius Caesar, there is always something new to learn and enjoy from classical literature. The possibilities of genres are endless. There are mysteries, tragedies, comedies, and romances, but what differentiates the classics is their impact on our emotions. The feeling of enlightenment and satisfaction motivates us to read these books. Romeo was foolish for sacrificing his life for an unattainable relationship, but what makes him important to this day is that, without him, many more young lovers might meet the same tragic fate. Ms. Hedges, an English teacher at JP, once told her students, “The classics expose us to the complicated issues and dilemmas of the real world, and because of that the classics really strengthen our ability to question and contemplate ideas in the competitive culture of today.” Why miss such a golden learning opportunity?
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