As I get closer to finally finishing all of my teaching licensure tests and certifications, I have really realized where my passion lies within the subject of English: literature. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of poetry – when it comes to the world of sonnets, haikus, limericks, and anapests, I have to really put my thinking cap on and analyze the poem to understand it. I enjoy editing papers and getting into the science of grammar and punctuation, but that doesn’t get me fired up. What I absolutely love thinking about, analyzing, and dissecting is classic literature, and reading literature throughout my life ultimately helped me realize that I wanted to teach it to students and make it interesting for them.
Ultimately, I am making a point with this post, I promise. But let me explain a little bit first. I almost flew off the handle last night when my friend’s little sister (who is 16 years old) said that she hated the book The Catcher In the Rye. I was appalled. When I was in high school, The Catcher in that Rye was my absolute favorite piece of literature. I related to Holden in so many ways. For one, I’ll admit that I do like dark, cynical humor at times, so that may be one reason that his character was endearing to me. Holden was, however, an unhappy teenager that only knew how to express his feelings of resentment and unhappiness through antagonistic comments and habitual lying. He was insecure about his looks, and he felt awkward and alienated when it came to women and sex. The only stable person that he felt would support him was his little sister, Phoebe, and he had never fully recovered from the death of his little brother. He had pain that many awkward teenagers have and he didn’t know how to control his emotions or his feelings. How many teenagers can relate to that general feeling?
Almost all classic literature was written to be based on very strong universal themes that many people have strong opinions about. Whether it be love, our government, or social and race relations, literature explores so many different parts of life and so many human emotions and characteristics. There is almost always a way that people (as students, teachers, or general readers) can find a way to relate to a piece of classic literature and start exploring their own personal beliefs and convictions. I think it’s particularly important for young students to use literature not only to stimulate their mind but to explore topics and develop opinions that are not always based from being on a social media site or looking at a television show. Bottom line, students: Read things of substance, and read it as if the writer personally wrote that book to speak to you, and do this as often as you can. You may come to really enjoy it.