What, according to Jefferson's "The Dangers of Reading Fiction" essay, are the changes associated with reading fiction?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jefferson claims that when someone sets aside "instructional" reading for novels, several negative changes will occur in the reader, such as:

1. Time lost--Jefferson does not see reading fiction as a wise use of time; he believes that a person must keep himself "instructively employed." His mentality is understandable when one considers his era--a period of time-consuming manual labor and weighty matter of state.

2. A poisoning of the mind--Jefferson also strongly claims that novel reading becomes addictive and eradicates one's desire to engage in "wholesome" reading. For Jefferson, a Rationalist, writing that encouraged one to rely on his feelings and imagination has no merit. He goes so far as to call fiction a "mass of trash" which has the power to turn someone completely away from appropriate reading.

3. Poor judgment--Not only does reading fiction take away one's quest for logic (according to Jefferson); it also clouds the reader's judgment and hinders him from performing acts logically, such as business transactions.

4. Moral soundness and a development of "taste and style": Jefferson does admit that reading a little bit of fiction can help someone develop his or her moral compass and that poetry from the likes of Shakespeare, Pope, and others can shape an appreciation for complex writing.