How do I read and actually understand classics

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ilovepuppiez
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#1
Report Thread starter 11 months ago
#1
GUYS HELP. I’m reading pride and prejudice and literally have to go onto sparknotes every chapter tö actually understand what happened. Does anyone know how to read classic books and actually understand them?? I get so confused.

When I read modern books, I read them speedily because I have no problem understanding them. The same, however, can not be said for when I’m reading classic literature.
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liv99liv99
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#2
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#2
I think you should try just reading it and enjoying it and try not to analyse it too much.

Afterwards, you can always look at it on Sparksnotes to understand it better.

But don’t worry if you don’t understand absolutely every word, just allow yourself to enjoy the story
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Satori Tendō
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#3
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#3
Pride and Prejudice????? Personally, If you push aside all of my the trash and sh-t, being good at literature is the only positive thing I can say about myself.
It's most definitely the result of gradually increasing and reading way beyond my age since childhood. It only resulted in teasing and "nerd" comments so I'm not sure If I would do that again lol

Practice is always good, keep reading more and more like a mad person.
If you need Sparksnotes or someone to break it down for you, take in the technique and reasoning behind it and you'll improve.

For me, what clicked is a microscope analogy (It could be nonsense to you guys). Each sentence is packed with information and literary devices, you need to run a mental magnifying glass across each word to get the bigger picture.

But again, nothing is wrong with relying on support whilst trying to improve!
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ilovepuppiez
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#4
Report Thread starter 11 months ago
#4
(Original post by Satori Tendō)
Pride and Prejudice????? Personally, If you push aside all of my the trash and sh-t, being good at literature is the only positive thing I can say about myself.
It's most definitely the result of gradually increasing and reading way beyond my age since childhood. It only resulted in teasing and "nerd" comments so I'm not sure If I would do that again lol

Practice is always good, keep reading more and more like a mad person.
If you need Sparksnotes or someone to break it down for you, take in the technique and reasoning behind it and you'll improve.

For me, what clicked is a microscope analogy (It could be nonsense to you guys). Each sentence is packed with information and literary devices, you need to run a mental magnifying glass across each word to get the bigger picture.

But again, nothing is wrong with relying on support whilst trying to improve!
Haha thank you so much! I do find use in sparknotes and litcharts.

I’m just getting back into reading again, it’s become a good hobby over the summer
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Obadiah Thomas
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#5
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I always try to read the classics as carefully as possible and note in the book the moments that I liked or which are worth reflecting on. After reading the book, I definitely read critical literature about it.
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Napp
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#6
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#6
Mmm thats the p[roblem with some of these 'classics' the plot combined with the writing style can make them utterly impenetrable to the average reader, which is a shame. Some of Tolstoys work is really a case in point for that lol.
Aside from reading slowly and going over it a couple of times theres not much that can be done, although reading summaries of chapters like youre doing can help
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gjd800
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#7
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#7
The best editions will have large, detailed, substantive introductions which tell you the stuff you need to know
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michaelhw
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#8
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#8
When i studied literature many years ago I was never able to enjoy or appreciate the story, everything had to be dissected. I felt like some kind of macabre emotional pathologist.

Only years later am I able to recognize the humor in the text, to allow myself emotional attachments to the characters. Austen is very light-hearted, so is Shaw and many others. Poe and R.L Stevenson are entertaining as hell. Dickens and Dumas were wrote serials. That says something about their view of themselves. Many writers have been neglected because of academic snobbery.

Some texts by H.P. Lovecraft are at the level of Kafka, "The Tomb" for instance. The stylistic prose of Robert E. Howard and his huge influence on later genres, cannot be denied. Even Stephen King now calls Howard's text "Pigeons from Hell" an American classic. Ambrose Bierce (his style is utterly unique) and Jack London wrote many shorter texts that technically are at the level of any Nobel prize winner. "Moon-face" by London is a first person narrative precursor to L'Etranger by Camus, for instance. Some of the pulp writers were so skilled and eloquent that it remains a complete mystery why they have not been canonized. Margie Harris, the female hard-boiled gangster pulp writer, is basically a 1930s Quentin Tarrantino. If you read the story "D, my name is Death" by Arthur Leo Zagat, you realize what I mean. Why is his name forgotten? There are many like him. Then there is the question of the many texts that are hidden in the cultural periphery of global culture.

So, a good place to start is to simply enjoy the stories, get to know the characters. A lot of movie versions make subtle changes to plot and meaning. Note these. Then you get an overview of the stories, and may ask questions. What do they want tell us. The next question then becomes: how is this meaning conveyed?
Last edited by michaelhw; 10 months ago
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Napp
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#9
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#9
Thought you meant actual classics books for a second there :lol:
Reading them in conjunction with things like sparknotes etc. tends to be helpful in simplifying those really quite astonishingly boring tombs into readable english.
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