James Smith
James Smith asked:

I know it's a classic and a must read and I know many of you are more intellectual readers and will enjoy. I enjoyed the historical setting, but struggled with the old english language. I'm willing to give another try. Any ideas on how I could get past the language? Should I get Cliff Notes?

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Chela Just read it slowly, let the language wash over you. Don't stress that you don't understand what is being written right away. Approach it like a meditation... we use the same words as the 19th century authors, their way is no more or no less than ours, just different. Sit with it.
Maryann Elliott Im listening to the Audio of it and so far i can get though it . I ve had to look up a few of the words.
Robin Kane-kerby Try sitting straight-backed in your chair, holding your chin level and reading a few sentences aloud as you peer down the sides of your nose (be sure to insert snobbish tone as you read). I know this may sound unhelpful to some, and to that crowd it very well may be, but putting yourself "into character" (so to speak) has a way of connecting you to the words upon the page. Try it out!

...and for the words you're uncertain about: Webster, Oxford or Google Dictionaries are fine!
Kellyn Roth If it's at all possible, read it on Kindle! Understanding it just a tap away. ;)
Heila I have to slow way down. Sometimes I re-read passages until I "get" them - then it's really worth it! But I think it does get easier as we get used to the rhythm of the writing. Also just trying to really see what the characters are thinking and feeling - and looking for that meaning while reading, can help decipher too. Again, so worth it. I'm amazed at this book, and the themes and feelings that it touches on that are so current-day. So universally human, no matter what era.
Dawnstream I suggest trying some other books from the same time period first to familiarize yourself with the language. Goodreads has lists of the Best Books of the 19th Century and the Best Books of the 18th Century. They have some easier books and some harder books. Most of them are public domain and therefore free electronic copies are available.
Bailey I would say have google with you. If there are so many words you don't understand then google them. I would would suggest reading maybe a chapter or two, then try and recap it in your mind. If you aren't sure what happened look at the Spark Notes. I would try. I feel like it gets easier as continue to go through the book.
Cheryl Currie I like sparknotes.com for reading Shakespeare to my granddaughter, Pride and Prejudice, or Scarlett Letter, etc. They give the modern version right next to the original. Eventually, she gets what certain words and phrases are.
Tabitha First, nothing is a "must-read". Get that idea out of your head and you will find the classics much more enjoyable when you get around to them.

Second, I was having the same issue with the language. I find that the following few tips may be helpful.

1. Be reading multiple books at a time so when one is annoying you, you can put it down and read a different one you're reading that you put down when it was annoying you.

2. Read a little at a time. I would read a page or two and put it back down for the span of at least one book until I was ready to try and understand it again and then keep going. The first several pages were the biggest hurdle for me. I allowed myself time to read the same paragraph over a few times, and properly digest what I just read before moving on.

3. The combination of the first two tips is what has me utterly engrossed in this book finally. I always knew I'd like the concept but the language was hard for me at first. I allowed myself to read a little, digest, and go into a different book so I wouldn't end up hating this one before I understood it. If you're reading for pleasure, there's no rush. Feel free to take your time.
Esra I don't know what you think of e-readers but while reading old English written works it really saves time to look up the words you don't know and you don't lose your flow while reading the story.
Susannah Have you considered listening to the audiobook? I struggle with the language in pre-20th Century literature too, and while I was hesitant for a long time to listen to audiobooks because I wasn't sure if it was "really" reading, I got past that and realized that experiencing the story and the writing, which you absolutely will with an audiobook, was the important thing for me. So far, this approach has worked well for me.
Mercy Hasselblad I like the setting, too! I just had to get used to the language and not read it when I was tired. A vocab-builder! I also like Shakespearsgirl's answer, though, too. I'm thinking of making a version that conveys the beauty and story without all the wordiness. :)
Jennifer Spark Notes has a No Fear version of this book that might be a good option. I picked it up and paged through it when I saw it at the bookstore, and it seems like it does a good job of translating the original text while not dumbing it down any. I believe Spark Notes also offers it for free on their website, so if you don't want to buy a copy, you could check there.

Good luck!
Eric Considering you posted your question 5 years ago, I'm guessing you're over it. One thing I notice, that may be helpful, is a lot of writers when they are talking about things that have less to do with the plot and more to do with building context to lay the foundation for the setting they use writing that is more difficult to comprehend than when they are connecting to us with their plot. It seems to me, more often than not, when the author is giving us something important the writing is more eloquent and relatable, when they are describing the landscape or setting the writing takes on a more obscure and poetry tone -- and let's face it, poetry is harder to understand than direct writing.
Alyssa Downs I listened to an audiobook that was published by Duke. The woman who read it did a really good job of reading in a way that really enhanced the book and provided clarity to its meaning. I think this was a much easier way for me to go through the book than just reading it.
Enoch Brown Hawthorne wrote in the mid-1800s. Although the novel is delightful, I have to say that his word and phrase choices and overall sentence construction is not helpful in understanding his writing. However, it is a classic for a reason: he deals with true humanity alongside hypocrisy and veiled evil in a way that is filled with metaphor and allegory and a deep understanding of human nature as well as things spiritual.
Jamie I find the language difficult/annoying myself, but for what it's worth there's very little dialogue. Most of the 250ish pages are solid blocks of descriptive narrative.
Dahar hah , yeah , the problem is the English , as you are reading some Shakespearean piece of work ,
Chora Try and go slowly. I'm new at this kind of book too, but am trying to approach it like a set reading. So when I find a word or saying I look it up and make a note somewhere. Or when l'm lazy just read it in a funny voice.
It's all about getting familiar with the language so don't freak when you get one page where you have no idea whats going on. Rereading is not a crime.
Good luck. :)
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