Contemplating the inherent morality of novels

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One of my best friends hates reading.

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate a good analysis of a book,” he said, “I just feel like I don’t get anything out of reading the novels they forced on us in high school English class. Like, it makes me feel like it’s a waste, because just the fact that I had to read it on a certain timeline and do a certain thing with it ruined the book for me. I feel like that sucked out the chance to really get anything out of the book.”

At first, I was appalled.

I grew up in a castle of books; as a child, I read anything and everything I could get my six-year-old hands on. I remember my mom handing me books as thick as bricks in an attempt to keep me occupied for a longer period of time, but I bulldozed my way through each and every one. In middle school, I learned how to read the heavier classic books with my teachers while worming my way through countless fantasy novels during lunch and after going home. Books took me out of my own body, put me into adventures, and gave me another home. I read and read and read, and then I wrote because there was this persistent longing to create my own stories, too.

How could someone hate reading? 

“And with essays, I always felt like I didn’t necessarily need the book itself,” my friend continued, “it felt like I could come to the same conclusion or message about humanity without really needing to read the whole 200, 300 page book. I only used the book for quotes, just basic context stuff.”

“But you need the context, don’t you?” I challenged him, “How are you supposed to write about anything without some sort of context to base your conclusions around? You need examples to back up what you write about, and I love novels because they let us get outside our own experiences and into a completely different perspective through fictional characters.”

Some stories can only be told by a specific person, and that person may have decided to write that story into a novel; that novel may be dense, confrontational, and soul-crushing to read, but some stories must be told in a certain way.

And then it hit me. Why novels? 

Not to say that I don’t like novels– I definitely do– but I do wonder why novels tend to bring about an inherent sense of morality. Why is high school English language course curriculum tailored so closely around novels and not other types of writing?

It’s not a question I’m able to answer right now, but I suddenly understood why my friend felt such disdain towards English classes. We worked to improve our reading comprehension, yes, but we also went far beyond in uncovering personal truths woven into writing. The novels served as a vehicle to help us learn more about ourselves and become better human beings; maybe it was just that some folks were more in tune with the book itself than others. Reading itself only gives someone what they want to get out of it, and for some, novels just might not be the best fit to carry a life lesson.

However, I do feel that there are certain pieces of writing that should be read by everyone, regardless of their preferred medium. Some stories can only be told by a specific person, and that person may have decided to write that story into a novel; that novel may be dense, confrontational, and soul-crushing to read, but some stories must be told in a certain way. And those stories must be heard.


I cannot stress enough the importance of Noname.

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