8 Lessons I learned from reading classics

Woman readingAfter reading eight classics in less than a year, a reflection is in order.

I feel that I must take a pause and ponder on the meaning of what seemed a reading-writing project at the start, but is now turning into a serious course on self-development and Understanding The World 101.

I expected this, but I little thought it would happen so soon, that it would creep unannounced into my consciousness, burning and begging to be released as if like steam. The fever must break.

So here are the things I wish to share with you, dear reader. They may be different from what you’ve learned. But like badges of honor, I wear them together with the scars of my daily life.

  1. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte):  Here, I learned that independence in a woman is important. If she has to leave the man she loves, risk going to a new place without connections, starve for a few days, be humbled by the assistance of strangers, and teach to earn her keep, then she must do it. For self-respect. For confidence. For honor.
  2. Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert): A woman who has limited opportunities in occupying herself and who has few chances in life to contribute to the development of society and her family, has no hope of becoming the person she wants to be—-educated, valued, and loved.
  3. Mansfield Park (Jane Austen): Having principles and their application is more important than impressing people with your wit. A woman who is firm in her beliefs and is not easily persuaded to do what she doesn’t want to do is rewarded with high regard and opinion. She is someone to be loved.
  4. Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen): There’s danger in thinking ill of someone whose thoughts and deeds you think you know. To entertain such thoughts and make a sport of it, or in other words, negatively overthinking, is not virtuous. We must know the boundary between imagination and reality or risk humiliation from the very person who thought you were awesome in the first place.
  5. Persuasion (Jane Austen):  This book reminds me that a woman’s maturity and confidence and not her youthful display of enthusiasm are more attractive and deserving of a man’s love and loyalty.
  6. Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy): As a woman, I’m my own advocate, but I’ve never truly realized the importance of women until I’ve read Thomas Hardy’s critical novel. Here, he makes it plain that we can’t put the fate of women in the hands of men and supernatural forces. We have to give them the education and opportunities that they deserve or lose THEM who have so much to give this world.
  7. The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka): This novella is perhaps  the most difficult classic that I’ve read this year so I’ll just comment on the thing that I understand the most: in letting go of things that burden us and destroy our sense of self, we become more human, though at great cost in the hands of a cruel society.
  8. 1984 (George Orwell):  Here, I’ve lived in the political party-dominated Oceania as though I’m Winston Smith’s neighbor and I’ve felt what it’s like to lose the daily freedoms that at present I enjoy. It’s painful to lose the freedom of expression, which is as precious as the words that you read here.
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