Classic Literature Helps Spread Important Messages to High School Students

By ISAAC MEJIA

Cover photo of both Classical Literature Books discussed in the article (Isaac Mejia/ Ethic News)

Books have stood the test of time and shaped generational values for centuries. Although they may not be the first choice for teenage entertainment in the 21st century–competing with social media platforms–they still remain prominent in the lives of many high school students. Students that learn from their powerful messages experience a different perspective of life through depicted characters. A good book has the power to impact the lives of readers by taking them on unseen adventures, creating suspense that hangs them on the edge of every page and providing a means of escape from the difficult realities of life. Many books that students read in high school fall into the genre of classical literature. These acclaimed books are notable for their longevity, insightfulness and recurring sympathetic reactions from readers. Authors of these books are recognized for their ability to connect to readers on an emotional level. Many classical literary works are deemed pivotal to students’ education so much that they are instilled into the curriculum of high schools across America. “The Grapes of Wrath and “To Kill a Mockingbird are both classical literature novels that entertain and educate students.

“The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

“The Grapes of Wrath” describes the journey of the Joad Family. This family, deprived of subsistence, embarks on a difficult journey to California in search of work. Readers are able to experience first hand how it feels to lose everything and struggle to survive through the leading protagonists: Tom, Ma, Pa, Rose of Sharon and Jim Casey, each character battling their own internal wars. This allows readers to witness the development and transformation of each character. As the Joad family travels from Oklahoma to California, readers are taken along, enduring the families feelings of discomfort, discontent and frustration as they repeatedly fail to escape their desperate circumstances and face the corrupt economic system. Throughout the novel, readers are rooting for the Joad family to succeed and are committed to seeing them escape poverty, which provokes feelings of anticipation throughout the novel. Steinbeck demonstrates that people are united by their shared experiences of hardship and teaches that the love of family can fortify your resolve.

“The Grapes of Wrath”, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, was turned into an American film in 1940. The film had been directed by John Ford (Image by the American Film Institute).

“To Kill a Mockingbird”by Harper Lee

“To Kill a Mockingbird” takes place in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama during the mid 1930s. The book is narrated through the eyes of a young girl named Scout Finch. As Scout matures, readers watch her recognize the unjust racial prejudice affecting the social climate of her town. Throughout the novel, she comes to terms with her own fears, and readers become aware of her developing perception of the world. When her father volunteers to represent a black man wrongly accused of rape in court, readers are able to experience how it feels to live as a victim of racial discrimination. As the trial unfolds, readers wait eagerly for many of their questions to be answered and yearn for justice to be served. Scout, grounded by her innocence, realizes the harsh and beautiful aspects of humanity and readers begins to reference their own morals as they encounter grave issues such as murder and sexual violence. Lee teaches that it is important to judge people solely by their character.

A 1962 American Drama Film was created based on the novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The film was directed by Robert Mulligan (Image by the Courtesy Everett Collection)

“To Kill a Mockingbird” and the “Grapes of Wrath”  were both taught to students at Redlands East Valley High School. These Classical Literature books along with many others are analyzed and evaluated to strengthen students’ critical thinking. 

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