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Modern vs. Classic Literature

Library: Sparkler PostSparkler CoffinMaker has been hard at work on this cool post about modern vs. classic lit. Enjoy! —SparkNotes editors

I was part of the comments debate on the post So You Don’t Want to Read ____, and it got me thinking about classics and contemporary works. I’m torn. I do love many of the classics. I’m a Shakespeare nut and I could recite Hamlet for you. But I am also a huge fan of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and I wish I was a demigod (I would so be a son of Hades; he’s the sweetest god ever).

We’ve been celebrating our nerdiness lately, and what better way to do that than start another book debate! I’ve compiled a list of some of the best-known books from several genres for analysis. The question: Which is better, the classic or the modern book?

Now all we need is a Pro Wrestling ring and a square-off between Mr. Bingley from Pride and Prejudice and Tyler from Fight Club…

Category One: Vampire novels
Classic: Dracula, by Bram Stoker
Contemporary: Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
Dracula is the father of all vampire tales: It covers the evil doings of the vampire Count Dracula as he moves from his castle in Transylvania and tries to bring his malevolence to England, and about the characters who fight to stop him. Dracula can be downright blood-chilling and at other times downright bloodsucking, but it does drag in the middle when the vampires (seem to) disappear and the focus shifts from Transylvania back to England. However, the end is well worth the wait, full of suspense that will leave you in a pile of chewed-off fingernails.

Twilight puts a new spin on the vampire tale. Instead of the archetypal vampire count that the main character must destroy, in this series the protagonist, Bella, falls in love with the vampire, Edward. While the idea is new and very popular, the shoddy writing completely undermines the concept, and the protagonist annoys the reader throughout the book. Besides this, the plot is often boring and at other times confusing, and the reader feels more connection to the supporting characters than to the main ones.

Winner: Dracula
Dracula is the obvious victor. Bram Stoker was a master of suspense and frightening tales, while Stephenie Meyer’s writing is often clichéd or clumsy.

Category Two: Religious-themed novels
Classic: Paradise Lost, by John Milton
Contemporary: Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Paradise Lost is a poetic account of the Fall of Man in the Bible. It follows first Satan, who comes out of Hell to tempt Adam and Eve, and then Adam and Eve as they take the fruit from the tree. It is not only a religious classic but a mental masterpiece. The end will certainly make you think. However, the poem is very long and divided into ten books. It does drag on a bit.

Good Omens is not like any other book. It is written by two comic masters and is a hilarious out-of-this-world comedy about the end of the world. When the End of Days starts and the Antichrist is born, the angel Aziraphale (who lent his flaming sword away) and the demon Crowley (who did not so much fall from heaven as saunter vaguely downwards) decide that they like humanity and don’t want it to end just yet. What follows is a hilarious meld of great characters and an amazing plot.

Winner: Good Omens
Though Paradise Lost is a classic and a great piece of literature, it doesn’t compel modern audiences to read it again and again, the way Good Omens does.

Category Three: Fantasy
Classic: The Lord of the Rings series, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Contemporary: Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
The Lord of the Rings follows Frodo, a young hobbit of the Shire, as he travels Middle Earth to destroy the Ring of power that the Dark Lord Sauron created to rule the world. The story is epic and touching at points, and is a great tale that has inspired a completely new genre of high fantasy. However, there are parts (like the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring) that are long-winded, unnecessary, and a little boring.

Harry Potter introduces us to a world of magic and wizardry. Throughout the series, Harry must fight the evil wizard Lord Voldemort, a power-hungry master of the dark arts. While this series is popular worldwide and tells a great story, it suffers from some clichés that hound nearly all fantasy writers.

Winner: Both.
I’d say that this is a tie. Each of these series hold equal merit to me and both have had a huge impact on the reading world.

Do you agree with CoffinMaker’s winners?

Related Post: How to Write Your Own Fantasy Novel

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