It’s a wonder that I have any desire to pick up a classic novel after every single Honors English teacher I ever had worked so diligently to destroy them for me. Seeking hidden meaning and symbolism, talking about themes…basically doing all that stuff that takes away from the simple enjoyment of the plot and what’s going on with the characters…that all made the classics this whole genre of books that I wanted to stay as far away from as possible. I’ve read a few classics since high school…Lord of the Rings, Les Miserables, Histories, The Odyssey…but they certainly do not make up the bulk of the books I read. I’m trying to change that. I’m trying to find a way to quiet the voices of all of those English teachers that still live in my head (and there is one past English teacher that still makes me want to, figuratively, “cross the street” whenever I see her and brandish a crucifix in her direction) and just read the story for the story. Perhaps the authors wanted us to find some deeper meaning. Perhaps the author wanted us to know that by naming the characters “Boldwood,” “Oak,” and “Bathsheba,” he was trying to give us a hint about what kind of person these characters were going to be. Does it really matter if we figure it out when we read their names the first time? No. Not at all. Because it will all become clear once the story has been read. Does it really matter if we find the deeper meaning that may or may not be there? NO. The world will not come to an end if we only read a book for the sheer pleasure of reading it.
So, why did I pick up this classic, Finish #29, Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy? I heard there was going to be a movie. The trailer looked interesting. I thought I’d read the book before the movie comes out, because I know that I’ll never enjoy reading the book if I watch the movie first. (I do not anticipate that the movie will ever make it to our theater…and if it does, it will probably have a similar attendance as when my husband and I went to see Les Miserables –the Hugh Jackman version–which amounted to something like 15 people or less. I find this truly sad. America needs a little more culture and a few less “shades of grey” now and then.)
I did enjoy this book. Occasionally one has to plow through a bit of language that would confuse almost anyone of this century since we don’t speak quite like they seemed to way back then. But the plot was engaging enough to make the plowing through not so tedious, and I was left until nearly the end to wonder how Bathsheba would manage to work out her man troubles. I must say, I wasn’t a fan of Bathsheba.