‘Go, Set a Watchman’ – a wager on Lee’s legacy?

Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ caused a veritable storm in the literary world when it was first published in 1960. Fifty five years later and the news of the imminent publication of a recently rediscovered sequel, ‘Go Set a Watchman’, has caused just such – if not a greater – stir. With millions, including myself, already pre-ordering their copies even four months before its publication, ‘Go Set a Watchman’ has cemented itself in the bestseller lists.

But the publication of a sequel to a novel such as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, which holds such a special place in so many bookshelves, must surely be a risky move? Especially amid the speculation that the novel is being published against the publicity-shy Lee’s will.

Indeed, it does seem somewhat peculiar that news of the novel’s discovery has only come to light after the death of Lee’s older sister Alice, who took care of her financial affairs and was her chief adviser. Not only this, but the fact that Lee is 88 years old, practically blind, profoundly deaf and has suffered from a stroke could certainly lead to questions being raised over whether she is being taken advantage of.

The seemingly cryptic title has been a source of some perplexity. It is actually a biblical quotation from Isaiah 21:6, a prophesy of the fall of Babylon: ‘For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.’ It could be assumed that Atticus is the ‘watchman’, the source of moral guidance in Maycomb. But what to make of the quotation being from a passage professing the fall of Babylon? Could it be referring to the ‘fall of Maycomb’ and the rapidly changing Southern way of life?

As for the novel itself, it is set twenty years after ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and concerns the grown-up Scout’s return to Maycomb from New York. It was from the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood in ‘Go Set a Watchman’, which publishers preferred, that ‘Mockingbird’ stemmed. This may be the root of another worry – could it be a bad omen that publishers chose originally not to publish ‘Go Set a Watchman’? Will it just be another disappointing sequel?

Lee had previously been regarded as one of the greatest ‘one hit wonder’ novelists, along with Emily Bronte, Sylvia Plath, Oscar Wilde (who although he was a prolific playwright only wrote one novel) and Margaret Mitchell. Now her previously untarnished reputation is being risked.

Fans of Harper Lee have had to wait over half a century for a sequel and the stakes are high. It would seem more than a challenge for a second novel to live up to one such as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

By Rose Grossel

Time for sleep not school?

Like so many other people, my least favourite sound is that of my alarm clock going off at twenty five past six in the morning; a time when no rational human being could ever possibly want to be awake. Never does my bed feel as deliciously warm and enveloping as when I know I have to get out of it; and never do I feel more like ‘The Princess and the Pea’ than when I know I have to get to sleep.

My problem is not uncommon, in fact it is experienced by practically every teenager and the roots of our troubles are purely biological. Feelings of drowsiness are induced by the hormone ‘melatonin’ which teenagers do not produce until three hours after younger children or adults do, thereby meaning, as said in the New Scientist, that: ‘teenagers are biologically incapable of going to bed at a sensible time.’

A teenager needs nine and a quarter hours sleep a day. While it is not realistic to suppose that the average teenager actually gets this much sleep on a daily basis, having significantly less sleep than this can worsen academic performance, lead to grumpiness and irritability and weaken the immune system. Would starting the school day later combat these problems? Experiments have shown, certainly in relation to academic performance, that the answer would be yes. Results from a recent study conducted by Oxford University were quite astonishing. They trialled 32,000 GCSE students in over 100 schools and found that starting the school day later significantly improved GCSE results. In a school in North Tyneside, Newcastle, the number of pupils achieving five good GCSEs rose from 34% to 50%.

Not only this, but more sleep would significantly improve the immune system, which would increase school attendance. I do not think that I speak alone when I say that there is nothing more miserable than going down with a cold or flu in the middle of the school term.
However, as wonderful as starting the school day later may seem, is it really practical?

Quite simply, no. If the school day began one hour and thirty five minutes later, it would have to end one hour and thirty five minutes later. Thus the school day would end at, say, 5:30 instead of 3:55. This would create numerous problems and raises the question would any gains actually be made by starting the school day later?

If the school day ended later, students would get home later, they would start and finish their homework later and, as a result of this, would go to sleep later. Therefore, they would get no more sleep than if school started at 8:25 and so would be no less tired at school the next day. On the other hand, since teenager’s brains do not begin to properly function until later in the morning, no matter how much sleep they are getting, perhaps it would still be advantageous.

Even so, finishing later would leave very little, if any at all, time for after school extra-curricular activities. And if we just started at 10 o’clock and finished at normal time, approximately 170 hours of valuable lesson time would be lost per year.

So, although I solemnly wish my verdict was otherwise, starting the school day later is simply not practical. Although it could improve academic performance, reduce the number of grumpy and irritable teenagers and increase immunity, there are not enough hours in the day for it to be really worthwhile.

By Rose Grossel

Women in politics

Women in politics. Now I know what you are thinking: “Oh dear, another feminist – how cliché”, but I would ask you to re-educate yourself into understanding what a feminist actually entails. As, when talking about the lack of women in politics, I am not intensely urging the female gender to over power Britain, as some may assume, just to be simply equal to men.

The correct definition of a feminist – for those who are unsure – is ‘an individual who supports the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’ meaning that women should not be treated higher than men, but treated with equal respect, power and authority.

The equality of men and women over the years has agreeably improved however this longitudinal dilemma is not even close to the end, as I believe that the only way to purely rid of sexist behaviours within society is to fairly increase the number of female members of parliament.

51% of the UK is female proving that there are more female citizens in Britain than men, however strangely less than 25% in both Houses of Parliament are made up of women. This seems surprising as women are obviously viewed as the minority in parliament however there is a clear majority of women in the UK as a whole. This off-balance demonstrates how parliament can’t be truly representative of the nation therefore something must change.

On Thursday 6th November, Nicki Morgan, the education minister, conservative member and most importantly ex-head girl of Surbiton High School, generously gave her time to visit the sixth formers, along with Alistair Stewart, to answer various questions which we had the opportunity of asking. From personal questions about when and why she wanted to be involved in politics, to specific questions about her field of education. It was a rare and appreciated opportunity which allowed us to perceive what intelligent women in politics have to offer. Nicky Morgan also agreed that more women should be encouraged to participate in politics as the ratio of men and women is off balance and needs to altered.

By amending and increasing the number of women that sit in parliament I believe that equality for all citizens will soon follow.

BY SASHA LAWLESS

 

Lights, camera…breakdown: what is it about child celebrities?

With every flick through a magazine, every guilty watch of daytime TV, it seems that another once sweet-faced, ever hopeful childhood celebrity has morphed into a drink-fuelled, drug-abusing, law-breaking adult, whose hopes for a beautiful career has smashed to smithereens. There’s something about being in the public eye at a young age that leads, more times than not, to some sort of emotional or physical breakdown. And one has to wonder why…is it is a need to constantly be in the limelight? A want to prove you’re not always going to be the cute, giggling child you were at the height of fame? Or is it something deeper? Do these child actors and singers ruin their careers so drastically to ward off other children from following in their fate? To warn them: don’t become famous at a young age?
Once upon a time, not so long ago, the name Miley Cyrus was one that made mothers proudly smile. “My daughter just loves Hannah Montana. She’s so lovely, isn’t she?”
“Oh yes, such a good role model. I was thinking of getting concert tickets for my one’s birthday present. What do you think?”

A few years ago, the thought of herds of children paying money to watch Hannah Montana perform would be quite regular. But skip forward in time; to 2014…that image is not so rosy. Because Miley has ditched the wholesome smile, well-dressed clothes, respectable image and name of a ‘child role model’, and catapulted into being a twerking, offensive, inappropriate, drug-using, scantily-clad wearing mutant of what she once was. The words of her famous song, ‘Best of Both Worlds’, ring in my ears… “Yeah being famous it can be kinda fun…” Where does fun end and responsibility begin? A responsibility to be a role model for young children, the future men and women of today, who watch Miley’s life constantly and wish to live it themselves. Miley Cyrus, whether deliberate or not, has lost the respect of mothers and fathers across the nation. She has also cast herself as yet another childhood actor gone horribly wrong.
But it is not just her. Remember when Justin Bieber was just a teenage boy with a silly haircut and a girly singing voice? Now, he’s been arrested for reckless driving, drug taking and assault. There’s also lovely Lindsay Lohan from ‘The Parent Trap’: who can forget how Lindsay Lohan turned out. She’s appeared in court 20 times in the past years – let’s remember she’s not yet 30.
Shia Le Beouf, Amanda Bynes, Macaulay Culkin, Britney Spears: all examples of children who got into the soul-draining industry of entertainment far too quickly and deeply suffered the consequences. There must be, must be some reason for their downfall. Surely these children have been corrupted by Hollywood, they have not corrupted Hollywood.
It makes me wonder how these childhood actors are treated, which causes them to have such breakdowns. Of course, not every childhood starlet grows up badly: the Olsen Twins, Mandy Moore, Leonardo DiCaprio have all managed to grow from strength to strength, and use their experience from being famous at a young age to make a name for themselves. But this is a small percentage of child actors and singers. What is it about being in the spotlight, the lights and cameras at a young age that leads to a breakdown?

 

By Hope Supple

Random Acts of Kindness

Last week I witnessed one of the most heart warming sights ever. As I walked out of Fulham Broadway Station, battling my way through the rain with my hood up as protection, I saw a homeless man huddled outside, with nothing but his sleeping bag to warm him. As I fished around in my bag to find a couple of coins, two girls started talking to him and gave this man, alone and cold, a rain mac, an umbrella and various other things, which they had just gone to buy him. Why, I must ask, had I not thought to do such a thing? Why, I must ask, did it shock me that, in our world of hard-faced commuters, someone could reach out and show compassion?

After this revelation I seemed to hear about random acts of kindness everywhere. My friend was buying a train ticket when she found £10 in the machine with a note saying “have a nice day!”. Then I found a website called “www.randomactsofkindness.org” which gives people ideas of different acts they can do and shares stories of what other people have experienced.

One story is about a girl who paid the bill for the old woman sitting next to her in a cafe. Another of someone who gave cookies to homeless people on her way home. One about a 5 year old boy selling lemonade to raise money for Lily Graham, who suffers with cancer – he raised $850. Another story told us of a stranger giving someone flowers with a ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ card on it.

All of these things, big and small, make such a difference to peoples lives. Kindness breeds kindness. The small action of one person can lead to millions of people doing random acts of kindness. Making someone smile when they are sad, keeping someone warm when it rains,  and generally brightening someone’s day.

Kindness breeds kindness. Generosity is contagious. Goodness leads to goodness.

This isn’t just a theory or a hope. James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis published their findings in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Science’, after an experiment they showed that peoples actions didn’t always lie in the calculation of odds or rewards. But by copying the behaviour of others. Therefore when one person gave generously and irrationally, others did the same. Thus, generosity is contagious, as is kindness.

Not only this, but witnessing a random act of kindness is thought to make you feel elated, happy and at peace. The psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes it as a “warm feeling in the chest, a sensation of expansion in [the] heart, an increased desire to help, and increased sense of connection with others… a manifestation of humanity’s ‘higher’ or ‘better’ nature.” It’s true, when I saw these girls giving the homeless man gifts I felt overcome with joy, so much so that I was nearly in tears with my restored faith in humanity.

It is often so easy to forget the good things humanity has to offer when the news bombards us with all the sorrow and evil in the world. But even one random act of kindness can restore someones faith in that little known thing called humanity. As Martin Kornfled pointed out “If we all do one random act of kindness daily, we just might set the world in the right direction”. Why not try it? Do a random act of kindness, feel the elation, spread the kindness, and let others see that there is still hope for humanity in this world.

So, to the two girls at Fulham Broadway Station – Thank You. You have restored my faith in humanity and the power of random acts of kindness.

Visit http://www.randomactsofkindness.org to find ideas and stories about how to spread kindness.

By Tilly Davis

Meddling Michael or Good Gove?

Michael Gove. The ex-minister of education for Britain. A man whose name rings alarm bells for every teacher in England. In 2010 the conservative MP was appointed Secretary of State for Education as a result of the coalition government between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. A strict and rigid reconstruction of the education syllabus has generated frustration and outrage for members of the education sector, and as a result many of his proposals have been rejected due to his seemingly disruptive approach. The main criticism of him would probably be his critical nature towards the teaching profession. Teachers despise this approach as they don’t believe he has any understanding or experience on how to teach purely to benefit children of all different backgrounds.

However, as a result of his unpopular outlook, maybe his positive attributes and contributions have been overlooked.

Although some of his actions may have been disproved by a majority of teachers and education workers his overall intentions were to improve the general education system in England. For example, the ban of controlled assessments during GCSE English. As a Surbiton High School pupil I was initially against this idea as I personally felt that the controlled assessments that I completed helped diffuse the stress from one exam to across the year. However, looking at it from a wider perspective I can understand the benefits of this proposal due to the fact that it could be considered unfair for students who gain no outside help, in comparison to students who are lucky enough to be tutored and assisted to a greater extent.

On Friday 3rd Jonathan Dimbleby presented the BBC Radio 4 show that took place at Surbiton High School where Michael Gove (Conservative) made an appearance along with Baroness Williams (Liberal Democrat), Patrick O’Flynn (UKIP) and Emily Thornberry (Labour). In contrary to my initial expectations, Michael Gove came across as articulate, well-spoken and compared to the other members, calm and collected. His ideas on the economy and his defences seemed valid and surprisingly reasonable.

Another talk that Gove made at the London academy of excellence praised and appreciated teachers for all they had done, however this clearly went unrecognised. Within his speech of approval he states ‘today I want to thank them. By pointing out quite how much they’ve done. The people who work in our schools at the moment have, I think, made history.’ Perhaps the reason this has become unnoticed is due to the media finding it easier to scrutinise and act negatively towards politicians in order to gain support and attention.

The bias perception of Michael Gove has perhaps infected us all and maybe it’s too late to change it, however I believe we should keep an open mind. Michael Gove has made seemingly pointless and frustrating changes but he has also helped amend the education system for a large majority of school children. His sudden changes in the syllabus have allowed him to be judged as a ruthless and ignorant politician with insufficient interests when in fact he has offered ‘children a better start in life.’

BY SASHA LAWLESS

Moon landing Myth

On July 16th 1969 a crew of three members; Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins made their adventurous and potentially life threatening journey to the moon. They soon entered the moons orbit, but a few challenges arouse.

On the 20th July 1969, the cameras were posed (which were transmitting images to over 6 hundred million people on Earth) and Neil Armstrong was ready to take the first steps ever on the moon. Once on the moon he stated “that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” – a saying which will long be remembered in history. Buzz Aldrin then also stepped on the moon, and they placed the symbolic American flag onto the moon’s surface. They then remained on it for 21 hours and collected Moon rocks for scientists to examine once back in America. After probably the most spectacular and memorable 21 hours of their lives they then headed back to their home, and arrived on the 23rd July as heroes.

However, since the moon landing, many conspiracy theories have been released about NASA faking the launch to the moon, thus deceiving the whole World. One main argument conspiracy theorists have pointed out is that when Neil Armstrong was on the moon, viewers witnessed the American flag waving and fluttering as it was in the ground. This event has sparked the beginning of this controversial debate, because everybody knows that there’s no air in the moons atmosphere, and therefore no wind to cause the flag to flutter.

Furthermore, images that were taken were expected to show the shadows of objects and people on the moon running parallel with each other, because there is only one strong light source – the Sun. But the pictures do not shows this. Instead they are all in different directions, thus have lead conspiracy theorists to believe that this was a film set as there would be many different light sources.

Another argument supporting the hoax theories, is that in none of the images from the moon are any stars present. Many scientists have stated that this does not make sense, because stars are so bright one would definitely be able to see them from the moon. People have therefore claimed that NASA intentionally left out stars from their “fake” images, because it was too complicated as they would have to find out the exact location of different stars, thus they risked the chance of being caught out by their hoax.

Moreover, another convincing argument is that in one of the rocks on the moon there is a perfect letter C drawn into it, suggesting that it must have been man made, further supporting the argument that NASA faked the whole event by filming it in a studio. In response to this argument NASA stated that the developer of the moons pictures must have put it in as a joke.

Lastly, many sceptics have suggested that the film director Stanley Kubrick was the person who filmed the hoax in a studio, because the US government approached him and told him that they wanted him to do this, in order to beat the USSR in the space race. Then as a “practice run” he made the film “A Space Odyssey” which was released a year before the first landing on the moon.

After the moon landing Neil Armstrong became a reclusive man, only giving a few interviews between you the landing and his death in 2010. Some people have argued that surely a man who has played a part in making history would want to tell the world about this experience, unless he was afraid of being caught out?

If you’re interested about finding more out on this case, then you can watch the programme “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?which was broadcasted on Fox in 2001 as is available to watch on YouTube.

By Sophie Rogers

Private Lives in the Public Eye

After almost 200 private photos were leaked through an iCloud hacking scandal in August, the lives of the victims were turned upside down. The huge number of celebrities who discovered their name on a list of people who’s iCloud account had been hacked by “OriginalGuy” were soon too find millions of people gawking at photos which they had assumed to be secure and private. Not only have the photos been spread over the Internet and labeled as porn, but ordinary people have gone out of their way to gain access to photos which were taken in the privacy of the subject, and were intended to stay this way.

While the general public gleefully lapped up the humiliation of these celebrities, they expected the victims to feel shameful for taking a risk and posing nude for themselves or their partner. However through the publication of Vanity Fair’s interview with Jennifer Lawrence,  onlookers realised that the reaction of these celebrities would not be as mild as they had previously expected.

The interview Jennifer Lawrence gave in Vanity Fair, threw any chance of regret back in the publics faces, stating “I didn’t tell you that you could look at my naked body”, calling the hackers’ acts a sex crime and those who were looking at photos “perpetuating a sexual offence”. Jen went on to describe the horror most of us would never want to imagine.”I can’t even describe to anybody what it feels like to have my naked body shot across the world like a news flash against my will. It just makes me feel like a piece of meat that’s being passed around for profit.”

  But still the EU commissioner – Günther Oettinger – labelled the celebrities as stupid saying, “If someone is dumb enough as a celebrity to take any photos of themselves and put them online, they surely can’t expect us protect them.”

The comment caused outrage amongst the general public. Granted these photos were technically online, but they were in fact kept private until they were stolen for the private iCloud accounts of celebrities. The German politician, Julia Reda, immediately responded to this by saying that Oettinger had made a “mockery” of a significant problem and that his response to the situation called into question “whether he is qualified for the job of shaping our digital society for the next five years”.

While it first caused shock that “OrginalGuy” was able to hack into people’s iCloud accounts, it was soon discovered that many members of the online forum AnonIB had also been using this technique to gain access to people’s private photos. Not only this, but there is a whole board dedicated to stolen or “obtained” photos. The “/stol/” board acts as an online meeting point for iCloud hackers, who exchange tips and “achievements” with each other.

The issue for me, however, is not the fact that people are prepared to steal someone else’s property. No, the issue is that when people are online they seem to lose all sense of morality.

If a person came up to you in the street and asked if you wanted to look at photos they’d got from breaking into someone’s house, you would surly be appalled and refuse. Yet, when it’s online suddenly the victim becomes the culprit. No longer is the thief in the wrong, but it is the fault of the victim for simply for taking such photos.

The question should not be whether people are right to take the photos, but why others are gaining amusement from their privacy being leaked online. Privacy is not intended for the public eye.

This lack of morality online appears everywhere in our society: cyber bullying, trolling on Twitter – constantly people use their ‘virtual-selves’ to say or do things which they would never do in “real-life”. But of course this is “real-life”. Online or offline the effects are the same and they are never acceptable.

The other issue which this raises is the online misogyny which seems to be surfacing. Is it a coincidence that only women were targeted in this hacking? I think not. We may be targeting sexism rather successfully in “real-life”, with Emma Watson’s recent ‘He for She’ campaign taking the world by storm, but the internet seems to be a new home for sexism. The leaking of personal and private photos are just one example of this.

Instead of criticising celebrities for taking nude photos, should we not be trying to fix the problem of the way people behave online? After all, how would you like it if broke into you home just to steal a couple of photos? No matter what they’re of, they’re private.

BY TILLY DAVIS

The mythical creature that lurks on social media

Despite his political stance and identification with the lower class, Ed Miliband has been ridiculed, taunted and rejected by members of the public. All of this is down to being slightly odd-looking. It seems that for our society, for the people who he will soon govern, appearance overrules politics. Surprising? Unfortunately not. In today’s society, the public figures and celebrities who we see in the papers, on the television – and just about everywhere we turn – seem to be a punching bag for the insecurities and ferocity that every normal person, who reads the paper instead of appearing in it, turn to in order to release pent-up anger and frustration.

Perhaps it is down to old-fashioned jealously. Or perhaps it is something more than that. Possibly, this is more than just picking on other people to bring ourselves up, and seeds to something more.

Following his ‘bacon sarnie’ disaster, Ed Miliband was cruelly slated: for simply not enjoying his breakfast, he was deemed as not being at one with the public, thinking he’s better than everybody else, not relatable, and, of course, people remarked on the unsavoury way he shovelled the sandwich in his mouth. What is it about public figures that bring out such an ugly, unacceptable side to us?

These people who take to the internet to criticise the public have aptly been named “trolls”. A troll (not the internet kind) is an ugly, mythical creature who dwells in isolated places,work together in small groups, and are rarely helpful to human beings. I cannot help but notice that the mythical ‘troll’ does not seem all too dissimilar to the internet troll.
These trolls work together in small hate clubs that join together over the internet, uniting over distaste for a reality TV star or a mutual hate for a politician.

They dwell in isolated places: the corners of cafes clutching their phones, the attic of their house, underneath their covers with the computer screen dimly lighting up their shelter. They cannot be seen, nor heard: only their trails can be found, the footprints of loathing and abuse they leave in their wake.

And of course, these internet trolls are in no way helpful to human beings. What joy do they bring to our lives? Scrolling through a celebrity’s Instagram, between the other decent comments, you cannot avoid a troll’s sneer of a comment. They are never amusing nor intelligent, and they make no input into anybody’s lives: in fact, many go unseen. So, I beg the question, why do it?

Kim Kardashian, reality star and wife of rapper Kanye West, has one of the highest amounts of followers on photo-sharing site Instagram, with over 19 million fans. On a recent photo she uploaded of herself, dressed in a black suit at Fashion Week, people couldn’t help but abuse her, with comments such as “You killed fashion week!” “What’s wrong with that woman” and, “You disgust me. You should not be famous; you’re an embarrassment to our world”. Indeed, there is not a single photo on her Instagram that has not been battered with abuse.

On ‘The Student Room’ a popular website for students to share information and discussions, the question “Does anyone actually like Ed Milliband?” appeared. Some of the comments were so explicit and disgusting, they cannot be shared. Some were milder saying: “I hate his nasal voice…and he looks like an inbred….why don’t you clear your seemingly blocked nose before you give speeches.”

I’m sure that the people who write these comments are not perfect and flawless. I’m sure they have bad hair days and blocked noses and wear odd clothes. People in the public eye once held respect: the general public looked to those in the public eye for inspiration, to dream bigger, to have courage to pursue their dreams, to work harder in their lives.
I wholeheartedly agree, some people who are deemed ‘famous’ should not be given such a title. They should not be privileged enough to be role models to our children, and to the general public. Yet does that give these people, people who are just like us, reason to be subject to such exploitation?

It’s as if we’re in the playground again, and celebrities and public figures have had a post-it note with “KICK ME” stuck on their backs. I doubt these ‘trolls’ would say any of the abuse they proudly stamp out on the internet to these celebrities’ faces. In fact, I bet they’d be lining up for a selfie with them.

Being in the public eye gives people certain responsibilities: you have a duty to be a role model, a respected citizen, a valued member of society. Spiderman’s saying is true, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. But this applies to the owners of computers and members of social media: if you have the power to comment on other people, be responsible. We shouldn’t abuse that power.

Because, we may forget, celebrities are just famous versions of ourselves. As actress Betty White neatly put it, “Trolls suck.”

BY HOPE SUPPLE

The Hierarchy of Classics

At school the only literature we seem to study are those which are deemed as ‘classics’. Dickens, Austen, Wells and of course Shakespeare?

In a nutshell at school people do not study contemporary novels. But with the vast variety of great literature texts out there, maybe we should. I am personally enthralled by both contemporary and classic novels, yet I feel a sense of exasperation at the same time.

Contemporary novels do not necessarily have less complex plots or fewer sophisticated themes. In contrast Classics can be off putting in the style they are written in. Even Shakespeare’s use of the ‘side joke’ only appeals to a 16th century audience, making completely incomprehensible to a 21st century audience.  Contemporary novels are easier to comprehend.  The reader is able to focus more on the backbone of the story, analysing the plot line making it easier to appreciate the plot line more, (rather than tearing away a padding of language).

On the other hand, classics teach people that dedication can be fruitful. Nothing is handed to anybody on a platter and one might argue that the reading of classics helps to reiterate this idea. The fact that the structure and wording of the English language used in classic literature differs from the version we use nowadays adds to the authenticity of the text.

On a more practical note, the great effort it takes to read classics, forces people to analyse the text in greater detail. Developing a new found skill set for several jobs and written exams, whereas contemporary novels benefit the current-day reader linguistically. All readers, whether inadvertently or not, pick up on the language in books and use it to develop their own dialect. Most classics, (even the more recent ones), contain language that is simply not accessible to a modern day audience.

Many will argue that classics have stood the test of time, some have survived centuries,  and others have been read for over a millennium. Why would we keep reading these books if they are not interesting? However, every classic had to be written and published at some point: a point before it was a classic. A book must be read by many people in more than one generation before it can be called classic and our generation will have nothing to show if we do not propel our own books to classical status.

Something old is not necessarily better than something new.

I think the main reason that contemporaries are excluded from the higher levels of education is due to the hierarchy which novels are placed in. We are stuck in a spiral of woes. The more people read a book, the more people read a book. Once a book has achieved classical status, it can be very hard to avoid (especially in the education system).

Contemporary novels have equally exciting plot lines, they are easier to understand and they help people develop their language skills. However, classics have stood the test of time. They have forced people to analyse, and at the end of the day, they are classics. Overall, we ought to juggle classic and contemporary literature as both forms of enhance our learning.

There may be some controversy as to which contemporaries we should study and how often we should rotate the texts in the education curriculum. So we should read contemporary novels but, we should not entirely cut out classics as well.

And who knows, maybe someday our contemporary books will become ‘classics’.