I might be getting a tad old or I could be slightly out of touch but when I saw someone ask if anyone else reads books from long ago like the 1930’s or 50’s to see how different people were I had a couple thoughts that disagreed with most of that statement. First that books from the 1930’s and 50’s aren’t that old and second that people weren’t that different then. Here is the thing about people. They’re people.
I think about the line in the Isaac Asimov book I read last year on how if someone claimed not to understand people it is because they have too high an opinion of themselves. I think that holds true in this case as well. I am mainly thinking of how I just recently read two books published around 1960’s and the characters were all easily recognizable as people you could find in the modern day and age.
Sometimes I would like people to clarify their thoughts a little more. Ask them what books they read from those time periods or maybe this is my issue of always looking for the similarities or it could be that both my parents were born in 1940 so I grew up on stories of them growing up.
Think about John Steinbeck for a second. The stories from 1930’s America. There are certainly differences in how people lived, in how they talked, in how they traveled, and in a whole lot of other things as well, but there aren’t much differences in the people. People in those novels are kind, they a cruel, and they are all manner of in-between.
When you get right down to it the fact that people are people is why we believe in the universality of art. We think that if we can recognize even one ounce of similarity to today’s world then that work of art has reached beyond the abyss and achieved the highest stature of literature. When, really, all we’re seeing is human nature and that hasn’t changed much for millions of years.