"What?", you say...Oh, let me start from the beginning...
In February my dear husband and I were visiting the wonderful city of Austin. Well since there is nothing to do in Austin (sarcasm sign firmly held in left hand), we decided to go see a movie. We went to see The King's Speech (by the way it was fabulous, but I digress). While we were sitting there waiting for the movie to start we were lucky enough to see all of the previews for upcoming attractions. I always like to see if any of the new movies that strike my fancy were books prior to being made into a movie. This was the case when I saw the preview about a young girl who flees a beautiful home where she has worked as a governess prior to being an orphan. It went on to say something like this, "She must now act decisively to secure her own future and come to terms with the past that haunts her, and the terrible secret that Mr. Rochester is hiding and that she has uncovered." I didn't catch the name Rochester, if they even said it, so like always since the movie looked like one I would like to see, I waited to see if it was a book.
Well duh!!!! It has been a book for a VERY long time...like 164 years!!!
by Charlotte Bronte
I know you are probably saying, you should have read that in high school. Well, I didn't. In fact, I didn't read anything in high I was supposed to have read. I didn't want someone telling me what I NEEDED to read. I wanted to read what I WANTED to read!!! I also HATE the idea of tearing apart a wonderful book. I don't want to hear what other people think Bronte felt and intended when she wrote about Jane and her life. I want to simply absorb the words and emotions written so long ago. I don't care that the red room is a symbol of anger, fear, and anxiety. I don't like wonderful literature to be torn apart so we can analyze the allegory, imagery and symbolism. I want to read so I can enjoy the story. And that is exactly what I did. I read Jane Eyre because I wanted to read it. I didn't have to write a paper, or explain the main themes of the book.
I firmly believe we take the joy out of reading because we try to pick the author's words apart. What did he mean when he wrote this passage? Why was this particular location selected for the setting? How does the time period change your reaction to the story? Huh?!? Seriously? Who reads like that? And if you do, why?
Okay, maybe I am being a bit judgmental. I guess to each his own, but don't force it down my throat (well I'm not in high school anymore, thank goodness). Not everything that was ever written had symbolism or a hidden message. Maybe the author just wanted to share a good story.
I know as an adult I understood Jane Eyre a great deal more than I would have as a teen. I'm not sure why the require high school students to read the book. At that young age students don't have the background knowledge to fully grasp the emotions, setting, or characters in the book. Not to mention when it is a required reading students are not taking the time to read the story and enjoy the flow of the words on the page. They are merely reading to get the information required of them in order to write the essay or pass the 50 question test asking questions like, What religious movement is Mr. Brocklehurst a part of? (Evangelicalism) or What happens to Jane at the end of the story? (she marries Rochester) or maybe even Who are Jane's two friends at Lowood? (Helen Burns & Miss Temple).
I am so very glad I am now able to choose to read the classics, or not! I see a number of lists of books you MUST read before you die. Who says I HAVE to read them? Yes, I guess in order to be a well rounded person I SHOULD read at least some of these classics, but I want it to be MY choice, not someone else's. Here is the Reader's Bill of Rights. I will hold to these rights firm and true for myself and everyone else.
- The right to not read.
- The right to skip pages.
- The right to not finish.
- The right to reread.
- The right to read anything.
- The right to escapism.
- The right to read anywhere.
- The right to browse.
- The right to read out loud.
- The right not to defend your tastes.
—Pennac, Daniel, Better Than Life, Coach House Press, 1996.