Literary elitism has got to go.
Last October, S. E. Hinton, author of the beloved classic The Outsiders, took to Twitter to condemn the suggestion that her book be adapted into a graphic novel. She claimed that reading The Outsiders at a young age “shows them they CAN read a book. Not that they can turn pages on a graphic novel.”
Hinton’s tweet is reflective of an elitist mindset frequently fostered within the literary community by which individuals believe certain types of books are better than others.
What Hinton and others fail to consider is that books, like any art form, are subjective; different genres and mediums will naturally appeal to different audiences. That doesn’t make any one type of book better than another but shows there’s value in the broad spectrum of literature available.
Hinton suggests that graphic novels only entail flipping through pages, but what does that matter if they make stories more accessible to a broader audience?
Reading a book in its entirety, especially as a kid, is an accomplishment. But for youth with dyslexia or learning disabilities, reading can be a struggle.
An estimated 10 million children struggle when learning how to read. In these cases, graphic novels serve as more accessible reading material for children who might find finishing a full-length book difficult.
But the value of graphic novels goes beyond people with reading disabilities. This medium uses an entirely different skill set than written books do, interweaving art and words to communicate a story. The artist can dive deeper into the visual aspect of storytelling, playing with facial expression, settings, and body language we might not see as thoroughly in a written novel.
Hinton’s tweet treats graphic novels as a threat to reading, but that way of thinking is flawed. A graphic novel adaptation of The Outsiders could never replace the original book but would make its story more accessible. If anything, it would encourage young readers to tackle the original book if they enjoyed the graphic novel.
Funnily enough, Hinton hasn’t criticized her book being turned into a film.
Condemning graphic novels only excludes people from the reading experience. It creates the sense of hierarchy among books, by which certain formats are more elite than others.
This way of thinking needs to go. When we look down on certain kinds of books, we look down on those who read them.
In reality, a book is a book is a book. The literary community shouldn’t be tearing readers down, but rather encouraging their love to read—in whatever shape or form that might be.
Chloe is a fourth-year English student and The Journal’s Editorials Editor.
elitism, Graphic Novels, Literature
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