The best thing that came from Twilight
Lately as I’ve browsed the YA shelves of Half Price Books, I’ve noticed a new trend: recovering classic novels similarly to Twilight and placing them in the YA section instead of the fiction section.
The first time I saw a recovering, it was of Wuthering Heights, and I was outraged. How dare they take one of the great classic novels and cheapen it by placing a cover based off of one of the worst novels of all time! What would Twilight fans think when, unfamiliar with the Brontë sisters, Shakespeare, or Jane Austen, whose styles (and vocabularies) are grossly different from Stephenie Meyer’s, they naively pick up Wuthering Heights, Romeo & Juliet, or Pride & Prejudice?
But then I paused and thought… they’d be picking up classic literature, whereas before they likely never would have. And what’s wrong with that? Any English teacher can attest to how difficult it is to get teenagers to willingly read these books. As much as I dislike Twilight and think it’s poorly written, if this crossover campaign causes teenagers to become interested in classic literature, who am I to complain? At least something positive will have come from the series.
Apart from my personal pride and prejudice against Twilight, Romeo & Juliet and Wuthering Heights do have similar themes: they showcase extremely dysfunctional relationships.
The eponymous characters of Romeo & Juliet “fall in love” after briefly meeting each other and marry within days. Their romance leads to the death of their family members and themselves, as well as an all-out war between their families.
Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights control and manipulate each other for their entire lives (and in one instance, beyond it). Their children’s lives are ruined because of their immaturity and severe selfishness. I’ve seen a few dramatizations of Wuthering Heights, and all of them romanticize Wuthering Heights as the “Greatest Love Story of All Time.” The interesting part is that they cut the movie at about the 1/3 mark of the novel. The reason why? If you told the whole story, you’d quickly realize that it’s a far cry from the greatest love story of all time. Far, far from it.
The only major difference between these two novels and Twilight is that the dysfunctional relationships aren’t romanticized. Indeed, both stories end tragically purely as a result of immature, obsessive romance.
Pride & Prejudice, on the other hand, is an excellent novel and one of my favorites. (I’m watching the BBC series as I write this!) Although the two main love plots in the novel experience many barriers, by the end, the reader can see that the relationship is healthy. The couples genuinely care for each other, make selfless sacrifices for the benefit of their partner, don’t attempt to control or manipulate, and don’t stalk “romantically.” The characters grow, develop and mature as a result of their relationships. Quite the opposite of any of the aforementioned novels.
Although I wish that teenagers would read these amazing classic novels own their own accord just because they’re wonderful, I know that’s a far-fetched notion. Twilight has many failings—none of which I desire to go into, as the subject tends to bring up violent passions on both sides—but if its popularity has led to more people reading classic literature, then I won’t complain.
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