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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 1 Issue 7| September 17, 2006 |


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The timelessness of classics

Hammad Ali

I struggled to keep my eyes open, wondering how time could move so slowly. I could swear each minute in this class was about the same duration as ten regular minutes. Add to that the fact that there were still about twenty minutes to go, and you get a picture of my state of despair. Why on earth did we have to do the English Literature class? Even if we had to, why couldn't we just stick to fun books like The Hardy Boys? Even Sherlock Holmes would be welcome.

That was how I felt about classics, in particular those by Mr. Charles Dickens, in my school days. Literature classes were the most painful, and hardly anyone ever had any interest about what was going to happen to Mr. David Copperfield (not the magician) or Mr. Oliver Twist (any relationship with the Mr. Twist potato crackers not confirmed). I had no idea why the teachers had to insist on making us read these boring stories about people from a long-forgotten era, with languages and lifestyles so far removed from what we encountered in our daily lives. As each school year came to end, the thing I rejoiced the most (right after having passed the finals, of course) was getting done with yet another of those four to five classics that one is supposed to read through the school years.

Finally school life itself came to an end, and it was time for me to write my O Levels. Once that was done, it was time to browse through all those schoolbooks and decide which to keep and which to send off to Nilkhet. It was then that I found out at all those classics, and something inside me made me set them aside for a reading. Maybe it was the fact that these 'ultra-boring' books were now reminders of a school life that had freshly come to an end. Whatever it was, I am thankful I kept them for another reading. It may very well have changed my life.

For the first time in my life, I saw the pain and confusion that haunted David Copperfield (still not the magician). I did not live in the same settings, yet his confusion about love, his desire to protect a sister and his feeling of helplessness all seemed so familiar. Maybe it was because I was now older; maybe it was just the fact that I was not being made to read it by a teacher. Whatever the reason, the book was thoroughly enjoyable and I hardly realized when I finished it and moved onto Great Expectations, which to this day remains one of my favourites. I made the journey of life along with young Philip Pirrip as he moved towards his great expectations while feeling at least a little guilty about implying that Joe's simple way of life was not good enough for him. I had a face in mind when Dickens mentioned Estella, and secretly wished our story turns out just the way it did for 'Pip' and Estella. To cut a long story short, before I knew it I was a big fan of classics and regretted not having paid more attention to the class discussions. But even that had its benefits, since it let me analyze the characters and incidents with an open mind, and reach my own conclusions rather than those taught to me in class. I was in love with Charles Dickens' writing style, the way he let his humour shine through even the darkest of settings and the way he expressed his sarcasm through his characters. The writer I detested in school became the writer I almost idolized, and the one who inspired me to try writing for myself. Within a span of less than a year, I went from hating literature to loving it and trying my own hand at creating that same magic. All thanks go to the classics that I abhorred in school and waited to get done with.



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