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Edmond and I: How Literature Altered my Social Outlook This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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Edmond and I

Really, I was just like any other eighth grader. A bit tired of homework, my peers, useless drama and middle school in general. I got pretty good grades, mostly A’s, with the occasional B or C in a subject I didn’t care much about. I had friends, not many, but they were true. I had noticed that I didn’t like people very much anymore, it was almost like a switch had gone off in their heads. A switch labeled ‘self-consciousness and compliance’ which made the girls wear way too much makeup and giggle excessively and the boys attempt futile exhibitions of strength. I found myself revolted, but (now that I look back) slightly drawn to the apparently happy and normal way of life of the self-conscience tween.
I can only describe my life at this time as dull. I was left without a passion, chasing an undesirable dream that I wasn’t really sure I even wanted. I think that this is a crossroads that every teenager meets at one point or another. They must find out what they love and devise how they will attain it. My answer came to me about halfway through that year, bound between two yellowed, torn, thick sheets of paper. His dark eyes seemed to cut into me, his cold expression mocked my yearning to ‘fit in’, his stoic face enlightened me of the world outside the walls of my stuffy eighth grade classroom. I didn’t know it then, but I was holding my future in my hands. It was the moment when the dull, impassionate teen, chasing unrealistic and unhappy ideals, discovers their true love. A love that will alter the course of their life.
“For the next few months we will be reading the Count of Monte Cristo”, our teacher said. The students fingered their copy of the book, flipping through the 500+ pages, and let out groans of dismay. I joined in, eager to mimic their disdain towards boring school work. As we began reading I desperately tried to hate each page, telling myself I could care less about Edmond’s lost love, his sorrowful imprisonment or even his daring escape, but as we rounded the two-hundred page mark I dropped all pretexts. Edmond began to grow on me and his attitudes were just what I needed in such a dire time of social mimesis.
Edmond seemed to add a deeper meaning to my life in three ways: through his disdain, his intricacies and his literary connections. I had not been wronged as Edmond had, but his tale of revenge and individualism resounded thorough me and inspired my social outlook. I realized that social conformity is the antithesis of individual progress and growth. Although I did not take a cold and revengeful response to my peers, I realized that I didn’t have to answer to them when deciding my future goals. Edmond, although he followed this course to the extreme, taught me to give little heed to social norms when choosing my expectations and potentials. Secondly, I was awed, no, baffled, by the complex brushstrokes with which Edmond was painted. He was complicated, brooding at times, dark, enigmatic. Full of life. Something that I could not say for myself. In a world where society is constantly trying to mold you into one specific being, into a carbon copy of the student sitting next to you, Edmond’s individualism and mien were a breath of fresh air. Edmond not only opened my eyes to a new worldview, but introduced me to the passion that my brainwashed mind was yearning for: books. No other place in my conformist, adolescent world would allow me to explore such idiosyncrasies and diversities as are posed in books. They were a way for me to escape from social pressure, discover something new and use this novel information in creating my individual future and goals.
But alas, my passion for reading is shared by few. For many of those morose eighth graders, The Count of Monte Cristo didn’t improve. They didn’t revel in the contempt and intricacies of Edmond as I had. They thought that it was boring, droning. They slogged through page 200 before giving up and simply checking Sparknotes every blue day morning. This general attitude towards literature has been carried into high school by many. And this is a distressing fact. Everyone would benefit from a little challenging of their firmly held belief, everyone is sure to find some passion within the pages of a well-loved book. But reading continues to be scorned upon. I think this hatred of reading may be indicative of the future. A future where everyone sees everything only at face value. The details are lost, the dissention is lost. These attitudes are often the cause for the bleak future laid out in many an apocalyptic quote. Find a way to be different, I say, find a way to explore diverse people. Find a way to investigate theories, formulate new ideas and explore widespread cultures. Read.
As Edmond led me by the hand upon the well trodden pages of the The Count of Monte Cristo, he bared to me his innermost soul. He had love. He had hate. He had hurt. He had sadness and joy. He had a destiny, a future, a fate. He would not take no as an answer from life. He set his own path. He had possibilities, he had limitations. He was an individual. He was violent. He was tender. He was both just and unforgiving. He was a complete man—body, mind and soul. He was whole, absolute and sure. He was an individual, so unlike the teenagers who surrounded me. His countenance was one that I yearned for. One that is often hard to foster in a world like our own. So I read.
And so, as the literature loving, character seeking high school student that I am today, grown up from that life as a dull middle schooler, I urge you, no implore you, read. Read for pleasure or ideas. Read because it will improve your life, broaden your horizons, challenge you notions. Read to test yourself, enjoy yourself or change yourself, just as I have. Read if only to meet a great friend that you can keep with you for your whole life. An ever present friend, with whom you will never be separated, just like Edmond and I.




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Triscuits This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
today at 9:00 am:
I love this so much! It perfectly descirbes how I feel about reading, plus I just started to read the Count of Monte Cristo. Great article!
 
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