The Long Term Effects of a ‘Required Reading List’.
Posted by tamelaquijas on June 7, 2012
When I was in high school (more decades ago than I care to admit), required reading and essays on books we were “forced” to read were the must-do assignments from many of my English teachers. I can honestly tell you, I learned to hate a lot of the classics because of the mandatory reading issue, and I cringe when I look at The Red Badge of Courage, The Great Gatsby, Johnny Tremaine, Huckleberry Finn, and Fahrenheit 451.Honestly, I don’t know why I developed this hatred. Perhaps it’s the over-analyzing of works that my mind might have found truly remarkable, if I hadn’t endured the incessant question of what the author meant when he wrote this or that. The one question that will always stand out in my memories is:
Tell me, class, why did Mr. Fitzgerald decide the women in his novel had to wear white?
She didn’t want to hear the truth of what I thought. All she wanted to hear was F. Scott was attempting to portray their purity, their innocence, to the reader through symbolism.
Lady, the women were wearing white because it was summer in the 1920s! My God, didn’t she ever research the fashion magazines of the 1920s and know that white was the haute couture color of that particular season, cool under the blazing summer sun, and it was all the rage to wear? Obviously not—everything we read has symbolism (supposedly) from Huck Finn’s discussions and the way he held his head, to the color of the blood that is described in The Red Badge of Courage.
Yes, my 7th grade English teacher ruined a ton of books for me. I can’t remember her name any more, but I can remember her face, and how she would argue that we (as students) didn’t appreciate a book’s symbolism.
No, we didn’t and I still don’t. I read for pleasure. I’m not analyzing what’s going on in the authors’ mind when he wrote this or that. Seriously, I hope he or she simply wrote their story because of the need and love to write.
I can tell you this, though. As much as I developed a distaste for those authors because of that particular teacher’s class assignments, I’ve never forgotten the authors or the context of their stories. That’s a terrible thing to remember, an author that you can’t stand until you find another story whose front pages are missing and end up thoroughly enjoying the book.
Something Wicked This Way Come scared the daylights out of me when I picked up the tattered, torn copy from a second-hand bookstore—cover pages missing–for a dime. I loved it! In my lifetime, I’ve never missed any Walt Disney film released, and in 1983, I was off to the theater. Jonathan Pryce’s powerful portrayal of Mr. Dark to Jason Robards’ Charles Halloway made me sit on the edge of my seat, the battle of the proverbial light and dark as so intensely portrayed. The tale of Will and Jim, rambunctious boys off to a carnival that holds more secrets than most, made my skin crawl.
When the end credits came through, I had to laugh.
One of those dreaded authors on my never-to-be-read-list-ever-again, Ray Bradbury, had snuck past my radar.
I developed a new sense of respect for the man, taking him off my banned lists of reading, I loved his dark novels, and The Halloween Tree became a favorite right there with Something Wicked. However, admittedly, I still won’t ever pick up another copy of Fahrenheit 451 without frowning and feeling sick to my stomach.
The writing world lost a truly gifted man earlier this week, when Ray Bradbury passed away at the age of 91.
- Ray Bradbury, author of ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ dead (news.blogs.cnn.com)
- Ray Bradbury Passes Away (themillions.com)
- In Memoriam: Ray Bradbury (outsidethebeltway.com)
- Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, dies (itv.com)
- nparts: Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury dead at 91Ray… (seattle-gadgets.tumblr.com)
- Ray Bradbury and the fever of inspiration | Dan Gillmor (guardian.co.uk)