Human Nature In All Its Glory

Thursday, February 06, 2014

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I was writing an essay on Pride and Prejudice for school (I hardly consider that schoolwork, but anyway) that got my brain reeling. As people generally and as writers particularly, the phrase 'don't judge a book by its cover' is a well-used adage at best.

THE WHY: I suppose this phrase was coined originally to teach children (or adults?) the errors or prejudice. And for that function, you could say it's doing its job just as well as any other of its sort out there - which, I might add, is not a terribly good job in the first place. But for that sphere, it is no better or worse than any other adage. It's when it comes to literature that this saying becomes sticky.

Frankly: do you ever not judge a book by its cover? I know I don't. The cover of a book is the first thing we see; unless we are to make no sort of judgement (debatably impossible), this is our first impression of the book. If it looks shabby and homemade, I will instinctively expect the book to read shabby and homemade. The book could be fantastic; that won't change my first impression and I probably won't even give the book a chance because the cover turned me away from the start.

THE HOW: What am I saying? That book covers ought to be impeccable? Well, yes, that is rather important, but also no. I'm mean that no matter how we try to change it, that is human nature: we will always be prejudging.
So instead of fighting it, we learn from it. 


  1. I've always looked at the cover first to see if it looks interesting. Even with people, well probably especially with people, what you see on the outside generally is a fairly good indicator, the way they talk and dress.

    1. Very true - and sometimes the best books are hidden under ugly wrappings.


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