A Musing III

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
We were discussing the poem “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvel in literature class yesterday (I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it; it is hysterical), and I started musing again. We live in a generation that does not READ, or at least I do, and so does everyone my age and all those twenty-somethings. It’s a sin, really, that we just don’t read, and I wonder what could have caused such a tragedy. I don’t mean that no one in our age group will pick up a book; I just mean that most of us are more likely to pick up a TV remote and forget that there even is such a thing as a “page”, unless connected to the prefix “web-“.

So I explored the problem a bit. I thought of all that I could that would dissuade a person from reading. I doubt any one of these are THE reason, but a part of the whole rationale that makes reading seem so distasteful.

Part of this shameful lack of reading might be due to how intimidating the reputation of books is. It might even be our fault, in that sense. When we think of a “classic” book, we often think of lengthy, difficult tomes. Shakespeare, Plato, Chaucer… all accomplished writers, and all long-winded. Let’s face it, none of these are light reading for beginners. They’re scary! And when a person gets this notion that they ought to have read all the “classics” but are not ready to understand them, they struggle and fail. They associate all but the simplest of books with hard work and even failure. Who wants to work without pay, or fail without reason?

This association with work carries over repercussions as I saw quite clearly in class. On reading “To His Coy Mistress”, over half the class seemed inclined to make the poem far more difficult than it really was. “To His Coy Mistress” is a very funny and very straightforward poem where the narrator beseeches a woman to have sex with him. I’m certain that there wasn’t a soul in the room who didn’t “get it”, but many didn’t THINK they’d gotten it.

When we’re conditioned to believe that all reading is work, we form the thought “it can’t possibly be this easy”, and we reject the most obvious interpretations. We LOOK for it to be difficult, kick ourselves when we can’t find the challenge, and kick ourselves again when we hear the (easy) answers.

Part of the problem also, I think, is the ease of watching TV or surfing the web. It’s less effort. We like our plotlines to be simple and just handed over to us, and where better to get that than from the good ol’ television set? We don’t have to imagine the scene, the characters, or the plot. It’s ALL done for us and we need only sit back and take it in. The programs are not so simple as the days of Beowulf where the good always triumphs and can do no wrong, but they are still painfully predictable as a general rule, because that is what is POPULAR.

Finally, we have this ingrained association of books with learning, and we all know how “cool” school is. When we’re forced to do something (like read) we hate it. It all comes back to that idea of working without pay, and we don’t always consider that the work might actually be enjoyable. If every teacher assigned “Twilight” or “Harry Potter” for reading then maybe students would consider picking up a book. Even this is not a solution, though. How much effort does it take to read these titles? How much can we really learn from these? Sure, they’re a step in the right direction, but they are lacking that useful knowledge component. And really, I suspect that if they were assigned in class for long, they’d fall out of popularity like a rock off a bridge.

So in the end, what can we do? How can we fix this? If there were a simple answer, I’m sure it would already have been found. Many brave teachers have stood against the plague of anti-reading and fallen, helpless to the onslaught. No teacher, try as they might, can single-handedly reverse this. Really, it’s up to us to change ourselves. We’re not kids anymore, and we need to own up. We may live under our parents’ roofs, but we can’t just claim we’re adults when it suits us best. In the end, short of being held at gunpoint, what else would make us change?





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback