Learning from Characters in the Classics

July 29, 2011
posted by Tia in Learning

“Vi,” my son Captain said to his sister the other night as we were preparing for dinner, “you sound like Eeyore.”

Stopping short in the middle of her complaint, Vi looked up at him in surprise. And then she laughed. “Why does Eeyore always sound sad, Mom?” she asked, turning to me. “He belongs to Christopher Robin, and Christopher Robin is always so happy.” A short, impromptu discussion ensued.

This little interchange reminded me how much I really love classic books. In fact, possibly my favorite thing about them is how much you learn by relating to their characters. “You sound like Eeyore” was a comment that awoke interest, surprise, and curiosity, whereas “Why are you being so grumpy!” would have had an entirely different effect. (Not that I’d know…people never say things like that around here, let me assure you. *cough, cough*)

My husband and I absolutely love reading classics together, and with the children. One of our favorite authors is Jane Austen. Half of the reason is that many of her characters are so ridiculous! But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve squirmed while reading an Austen book because I related too closely to the sentiments of one of its characters. One never wants to be as vain as Sir Walter, as self-important as Aunt Norris, or as prejudiced as Elizabeth Bennett.  And yet as we read classics, we see our reflections in their pages, uncomely though they may be.

Classical characters reach inside our souls to illuminate their likenesses buried there. Once discovered, we may do with them as we please; diminish or enlarge them as we choose. Silence our inner Eeyore, perhaps, and invite Christopher Robin out more often. It’s like a game: Choose Your Classical Character. Which do you want to be?

Who is your favorite literary character?

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