The ‘R’ word in Classic Literature


This post is a short one, posed more as a question to you, and which concerns a somewhat sensitive topic…

Now you’ve probably gathered how much I love the Classics. Anything pre-20th century is most likely to end up on my reading list.
However there is a trend I noticed amongst most Classic books that initially used to horrify me but which I now seem to take for granted because of its prevalence.
I’m talking about racism. Racial supremacy is all too inherent in the writings of Classic Literature. In some cases it’s blatant but mostly, it’s subtle. But it’s still noticeable.

What I want to know is, especially if you love the Classics: how do YOU react when you read, say a piece of fiction by a Victorian writer with clear racist undertones in the text? Does it upset you? Or do you take it with a pinch of salt?
As a person of colour myself, I used to be angry but now I find it quite amusing(in a disturbing sort of way). I always remind myself that writers are only human beings. And human beings are to a greater extent products of their environment. And any piece of fiction is a reflection of a writer’s thoughts and feelings. Therefore those feelings are reflective of the prevailing attitudes of the era in which the book was written. Since the Classics were written in times where racial supremacy was not only the norm but also accepted thinking, I tend to consider this when reading an old book.

I did wonder though, how others reacted to this. So, over to you, tell me your thoughts…

NM 🙂