4 CLASSICS EVERYONE SHOULD READ BEFORE THEY DIE
Written for JESPIONNE
As once said by Ernest Hemingway, “there is no friend as loyal as a book.” Books have a way of capturing our hearts and transporting us to worlds we’ve never imagined before. The greatest works of literature are defined as classics for a reason; their themes, characters, and experiences are universal, and people of modern society can relate to these stories in various ways, even though these works were written decades and centuries ago.
Classics have such a big impact that they are making their way into classrooms, and changing the lives of instructors and students everywhere. Here are four novels that everyone should read at least once in their lives because of the lasting impact they’ve had on us.
A ROOM WITHOUT BOOKS IS LIKE A BODY WITHOUT A SOUL.
1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Published in 1958, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is written from the perspective of a contemporary writer who recalls his early days in New York City’s Upper East Side. Set in the 1940s, the novella follows this writer as he befriends his neighbor, the dashing Holly Golightly. Golightly is a young cafe society girl who doesn’t have a job; instead, she lives by socializing with wealthy men who take her to clubs and restaurants and give her materialistic things like money and expensive gifts. Over the course of the novella, Golightly slowly opens up to the narrator, who finds himself intrigued and curious about her lifestyle. Holly Golightly is one of Capote’s best-known creations, and the novella was also loosely adopted into a film in 1961, starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard.
2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Set in the midst of the Great Depression, Of Mice and Men follows George Milton and Lennie Small as they move from place to place in California in search of job opportunities. George and Lennie have nothing but each other, and hope to achieve the American Dream, and a dream to have a land of their own. Though they find work in California’s Salinas Valley, Lennie struggles through many issues like jealousy and extreme cruelty that result in him becoming a victim of his own strength. Written by John Steinbeck, this 1937 novella has made a legacy for itself with numerous adaptations on stage and screen, as well as a way to introduce students to classic American literature.
Blood & Water is the new teen drama that is joining the plethora of private school and suspense filled tv shows but set in Cape Town. The show centers around a teen girl who is set on proving that a swimming star is at a private school is her abducted sister. Since the show is supposed to be released on May 2oth people have been comparing it other popular teen shows such as Gossip Girl and Elite. Being compared to these TV shows, is a great compliment to show since people are basing it off just the trailer. I’m really excited to see how this show does and what it will become.
3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Classified as an iconic work of historical fiction, The Scarlet Letter is set in Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1642 to 1649 as it follows Hester Prynne who conceives a daughter through an affair. What results from her affair is that she is forced to wear a Scarlet Letter A embroidered on her chest as symbolism for adultery. She then struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity, and the novel contains numerous religious and historical allusions while emphasizing themes of legalism, sin, and guilt. The Scarlet Letter was one of the first mass-produced books in America; not only was the novel adapted into films, television episodes, and plays, but also the novel’s plot elements influenced many works in American media.
4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Written by English writer Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre follows its titular character as she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by master Edward Rochester to be a governess for his ward Adèle. Though she finds herself falling in love with Rochester, Jane discovers that there is a terrifying secret that looms over the forbidding Thornfield Hall, which forces her to make a heart-wrenching choice. Jane Eyre revolutionized prose fiction by becoming the first novel to focus on a protagonist’s moral and spiritual development through a first-person perspective. The novel is also considered to be ahead of its time with multiple discussions dealing with topics of sexuality, class, religion, and feminism.
By CLAIRE NEEDELL HOLLANDER for THE NEW YORK TIMES
FRANZ KAFKA wrote that “a book must be the ax for the frozen sea inside us.” I once shared this quotation with a class of seventh graders, and it didn’t seem to require any explanation.
We’d just finished John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.” When we read the end together out loud in class, my toughest boy, a star basketball player, wept a little, and so did I. “Are you crying?” one girl asked, as she crept out of her chair to get a closer look. “I am,” I told her, “and the funny thing is I’ve read it many times.”
But they understood. When George shoots Lennie, the tragedy is that we realize it was always going to happen. In my 14 years of teaching in a New York City public middle school, I’ve taught kids with incarcerated parents, abusive parents, neglectful parents; kids who are parents themselves; kids who are homeless or who live in crowded apartments in violent neighborhoods; kids who grew up in developing countries. They understand, more than I ever will, the novel’s terrible logic — the giving way of dreams to fate.
For the last seven years, I have worked as a reading enrichment teacher, reading classic
works of literature with small groups of students from grades six to eight. I originally proposed this idea to my principal after learning that a former stellar student of mine had transferred out of a selective high school — one that often attracts the literary-minded offspring of Manhattan’s elite — into a less competitive setting. The daughter of immigrants, with a father in jail, she perhaps felt uncomfortable with her new classmates. I thought additional “cultural capital” could help students like her fare better in high school, where they would inevitably encounter, perhaps for the first time, peers who came from homes lined with bookshelves, whose parents had earned not G.E.D.’s but Ph.D.’s.
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Classics / Literature / Books / Reading / Recommendations / Breakfast at Tiffany’s / Truman Capote / Of Mice and Men / John Steinbeck / The Scarlet Letter / Nathaniel Hawthorne / Jane Eyre / Charlotte Brontë / Historical Fiction / Prose / Novel / Novella
July 1 st, 2020