Why William Shakespeare but no Agatha Christie?
We have heard it all before: “The classics are essential to the English curriculum”. Then why are only some of them taught? What do Shakespeare plays have that Christie novels don’t? They both hold stories of murder and bloodshed, but there is a difference. Agatha Christie’s novels do not need to be heavily translated from Elizabethan English to modern English. And while it sounds silly that is a real problem, there is a real disconnect between the students and the plays because of the comprehension difficulties. This problem is not present in the more modern Christie novels.
The Problem of the Currently Taught Classics
The biggest issue that arises when it comes to teaching books in school is keeping the students interested in what they are reading. And one of the largest reasons behind this lack of interest is the plot of the novel itself. Take the classic Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities, The plot is simply about life in England and France around the time of the French Revolution. Now there is some potential interest there, but the interest is wasted by the convoluted writing of the novel and how hard it is to read. But Agatha Christie’s novels are never lacking in interest, with shocking murders, twisting plot lines, and enjoyable characters that lock the reader in till the last page. So now the teacher has students invested in what they are reading. But there is still more!
The Benefits of Teaching a Mystery
Most books in the English curriculum are part of the said curriculum to help students learn about literary devices and look into the little details to see the bigger picture, among other things. Mystery novels would be an excellent addition because of how well they would fit into the curriculum. Literary devices like foreshadowing and symbolism are often present in the mystery genre. And the students could have discussions about what certain clues mean, and present theories about how the novel might end, using the foreshadowing and analyzed symbols from the novel.
Happy Birthday Agatha Christie!
Here’s to you! For all the amazing novels, and twists and turns, and heroes and villains. For how you defined the mystery genre itself. Want to read more about the literary canon? Click here to read about how literature is being used to avoid a prison sentence in England.