Laughter and books make life a little easier

Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something


This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

I do hope today’s post doesn’t shock anyone who knows me in real life too much! 😆

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was prescribed to me in high school. I didn’t like it. Not only was it confusing and the class discussions pretty useless, it was a matter of principle. Isn’t it that way with most people who had English in high school? You hate the prescribed works simply because they are prescribed and you have to read them, rather than for a specific thing that bothers you. Anyway, looking back now, I think I only took one thing away from this book: a changed opinion. But first, I need to tell you a little anecdote.

Four years ago, almost to the day, I joined a website called wikiHow. As the name suggests, it is a wiki (a website that anyone can edit) of how-to articles. As I learned the policies of this site, I learned that its community employs a policy of “assuming good faith”. Someone made a bad-faith edit? Assume it was a mistake. Correct it and show them the correct way. Do not flame them. Do not get angry. If you want to read the whole policy, you can do so here. It was here that I learned not to judge people.
You do not know what another person is going through. You do not know the situation. You have absolutely no right to judge someone for their actions (especially not through the internet). Anyway, what is it that makes you so much better that you can go around judging everyone else?
That’s my opinion. 😛 What a coincidence that this lesson on wikiHow coincided with the time that I had to read The Great Gatsby.

The narrator of Gatsby is Nick Carraway, a man whom others tend to trust and tell things because he always reserves judgement. It makes them feel more secure, because they know that he will not express any judgement that will make them feel bad about themselves. Along with Nick, I learned how little we actually know about what motivates others. Along with him I learned how presumptuous it is to assume that you know about people. I learned to assume good faith – it is kind to yourself and others.

This seems to be the only thing that stuck with me from The Great Gatsby. I changed my opinion about people. Like most teenagers, I used to be very judgemental about others and their actions. My lessons from wikiHow and Gatsby taught me to change my ways. Since those days, I’ve tried very hard to reserve judgement and assume good faith everywhere I go.

For example, not long ago, as we drove into a petrol station, my mother and I saw a policeman sitting on a bench, eating an ice cream. Immediately, my mother was dealing out judgement, going off about how he was slacking and should be doing his job, yet here he’s sitting eating an ice cream. All I could say was “How do you know he is on duty at the moment? Maybe his shift’s over?” I didn’t say anything about judgement, because that would only lead to a fight. People don’t take that kindly and anyway, it’s more important for me to still assume good faith.

A last word about The Great Gatsby… however much I hated it in school, I think if I got it as a prescribed book now, after 2 and a half years of English at university, I would like it much more. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my first foray into Modernism. I didn’t know what the characteristics of a Modernistic novel are, or that it is completely different from a storybook. If you want to read it as a storybook… it doesn’t work. If I knew about literature then what I know now, I think it would have made all the difference, but we weren’t taught that in high school. High school is just very good at equipping you to hate English, not understand it. 😉

Enough of this. Tomorrow’s post is about the book that has the most surprising plot twist or ending. 🙂


2 responses

  1. I didn’t hate all my assigned books in English class just because they were assigned. I actually liked most of them! Generally, the books we’re assigned in school are good books! That’s why we study them, right?

    July 22, 2012 at 23:46

    • Then you have a lot more faith in teachers and curriculums than I do! 😉 Most (of both) that I had at school was pretty useless. Oh, the books were probably good and worth studying before, but then they were so mangled in our classes that they were spoiled forever (for me).

      July 25, 2012 at 17:45

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