This month, the Classics Club has posed the following question to its members:
Do you read forewords/notes that precede many classics? Does it help you or hurt you in your enjoyment/understanding of the work?
It’s been far too long since I’ve answered one of these questions, so I thought I’d give this month’s a go.
I remember when I read Jane Eyre last year, I glanced at the introduction of my copy before beginning to read, and the first few words spoiled the ending.
I suppose you can say that Jane Eyre is over 150 years old, so there’s no such thing as a “spoiler.” And maybe somewhere in the back of my head, I already knew the ending. And although knowing the ending to Jane Eyre didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the book in the slightest, having it spelled out for me right before I was going to start the book irked me.
I’m a spoilerphobe – hence, my spoiler policy on this blog. Although it is often said that the journey is more important than the destination, I still like the destination to be unknown.
I used to skim over introductions before reading a classic novel, but now I hardly even glance at them. I prefer to read them in depth after I finish the book. I often wish that these introductions were labeled as “critical essays” and put after the text of the work.
Even though I’m not a literature student, I do enjoy reflecting on a book and picking it apart to a certain extent. Introductions and forewords often give a solid overview of the interpretations and scholarship surrounding the work, so I find them useful compasses for beginning to think about the book on my own. Reading them after finishing a book adds to my understanding of what I just read.
That said, I wouldn’t mind having an introduction give some background on the author and the time period as well as a few pointers on things to watch out for while reading. A helpful guide with no spoilers!
What are your thoughts on introductions or forewords? Do you find their inclusion of spoilers problematic?