How Dare You Think You Will Enjoy Great Literature!

The theme in my life this week has been self -esteem, or rather lack of it.  It seems that there is an epidemic going on.  I don’t know whether it is always there or I am noticing it more since I am on the last legs of Mulgrave Castle, a romantic mystery which has self- esteem as its theme.   Of course, lack of self -esteem comes in many guises.  The one I want to focus upon in this article is how other people can make you believe that you do not have the right to enjoy great literature.

Menabilly. Hidden by the woodland, Menabilly w...

Menabilly. Hidden by the woodland, Menabilly was the home of Daphne du Maurier, and the inspiration for Manderley in "Rebecca". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lack of self-esteem is universal, so much so that writers like Daphne Du Maurier have used it as a plot device.   In Rebecca, the main character who tellingly is never named, cannot believe that she has been rescued from being a paid companion by the older, attractive, handsome Maxim de Winter.  The whole of this wonderful, psychological drama hangs on the fact that the new Mrs de Winter has low self -esteem.  In fiction, that is fine.  In reality, it is not.  In Rebecca, we see obnoxious characters like Mrs Van Hopper chiselling away at her paid companion’s sense of self to make sure that she stays underfoot.  In reality, I get told by people how, when they were children,  grown-ups told them that writers like Shakespeare and Dickens were too difficult for them.  Let me catch my breath a moment whilst I let out an exasperated sigh.

Title page of the First Folio, by William shag...

Title page of the First Folio, by William shagsper, with copper engraving of the author by Martin Droeshout. Image courtesy of the Elizabeth Club and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl/oneITEM.asp?pid=2018031&iid=1071364&srchtype= (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have said it before and I will say it again – most people, if properly introduced and grounded in Literature will enjoy it at some level.  A case, in hand, I took a lesson about “The Laboratory”, a poem by Victorian writer Robert Browning to a mixed group of adults.  In the audience were three male fire fighters, two of whom were positive Victorian poetry was most definitely not for them.   After the lesson, the two fire fighters who were sure that they would just switch off from this stuffy old nonsense, said that they had actually enjoyed it.  The general consensus of the group was that if they had had that lesson whilst at school, they would all see Literature differently.  I was lucky that I had great English teachers.  As the years have gone by, it has slowly dawned on me how many people either were not taught writers like Shakespeare or it was offered in an unhelpful way.  This leads me to ask – why is there a sense of elitism with writers like Shakespeare?  After all, let’s think back, Shakespeare wrote and performed his plays mostly for the Joe Bloggs and Fanny Rumble’s of the sixteenth century.  Okay, so he performed in front of Elizabeth I, but mostly it was in front of ordinary people like me.  So, I say to you, whoever you may be, LITERATURE IS FOR YOU.

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4 Comments

Filed under Education, Self Esteem and Literature

4 responses to “How Dare You Think You Will Enjoy Great Literature!

  1. self esteen as a plot device. makes it a fragile plot, but it obviously has worked.

    • Yes, as modern readers it is difficult to imagine that a young woman could be so lacking in self esteem. However, it is quite amazing how much low self esteem there is about. I think, amongst others things, that is one of the reasons why the book is so popular and has stood the test of time – people empathize with the modest heroine.

  2. Pingback: Mulgrave Castle – Harriet Twine, The Saucy, Victorian Detective. (5) | loonyliterature

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