Why I read classics

Woman readingThe appeal of reading classics, to me at least, is to learn new phrases and words I rarely encounter in modern literature or even in blogs. That they are inside the pages of these books that are fairly moderate to difficult to read, waiting for my discovery, is part of the magic one feels when in the company of great authors long dead.

In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, I learn that a protector or savior can be called cherished preserverOne is said to be thrown into ecstasy when caught in the middle of the preparations for a party. To be dissatisfied with tranquility is to be in silent revolt. And my favorite, to be aware of unexpected feelings for someone is to feel them arrive green and strong.

I don’t know if all bookworms are also lexophiles or lovers of words like I obviously am. It’s possible that I’m just like any reader who cringe over cliches and trite expressions that I use often enough when too lazy to think. So finding phrases like my veins glow is an improvement over I feel alive when I see him.

Whether I use these words and phrases in everyday communication remains to be seen. For now, I just like knowing them, that they exist, floating in my consciousness, ready to be summoned at the right moment. For what purpose? To amuse or to entertain you dear reader or just to make myself interesting without risking pretentiousness.

But truly, what could be better than to read classics in order to gain a few more words, a few more phrases? If it could lead to better expression, to a forceful writing, what could be better than to read classics?

In George Orwell’s brilliant novel, 1984, he imagined a then future world where the members of The Party (let’s call them the middle class and the one percenters) are only allowed to use newspeak, which is the equivalent of text or SMS language, only more sinister, more chilling in its intention.

To wit, the word  excellent in newspeak is replaced with plusgood  A person who no longer exists is described as an unperson. Displaying individualism means having ownlife. By combining prefixes or suffixes with words or by joining two words that each has the simplest or most basic meaning, newspeak, in Orwell’s definition, serves to narrow the range of thoughts.

Meaning: it’s every lexophile’s worst nightmare.

Granted that Orwell’s 1984 is a work of fiction and not a prediction about the future, it makes one appreciate the freedom of expression one holds. In imagining a world without the words we enjoy today (oldspeak), words are made more precious—we remember them in all their beauty and function.

So allow me dear reader to use in this blog the obsolete, archaic, beautiful words and phrases I come across in classic novels, for the simple joy of using them in modern context and if only to replace expressions that have exhausted their meaning.

In parting, let me quote Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis:

We do not write in order to be understood, we write in order to understand.

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