Teens from around the world share plenty in common. One of those coincidences is that they must read their country’s literature in High School. These books are part of a program and had a purpose in your academic life. Now, could they also be a nourishing treat for your personal adult life?
As part of the language learning process, reading is absolutely fundamental for comprehending grammar, syntax and lexicon. Therefore, the Centro para el Desarrollo de Lenguas Extranjeras (CDLE) recommends reading Venezuelan classics as well as American literature today. Besides the technical benefits, readers might also find philosophical or personal connections with the stories.
The CDLE recommends the following books to start this journey:
The list starts with the American classic To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Written in 1960, this novel is a portrait of the southern life seen through the eyes of a six year old girl named Jean Louise Finch nicknamed Scout. The story takes place in the fictional town of Mayville, Alabama, during the 1930’s Great Depression.
Through the adventures of Scout, her brother, Jem, and their neighbor Dill, the story takes on topics such as classism, racism, ignorance, prejudice and violence.
J.D. Salinger wrote The Catcher in the Rye in 1951, and is a story about a 16 year old boy named Holden Caulfield, who is expelled from Pencey Prep and heads towards his home in New York city. In that time, he faces with deep questions about adulthood that nobody seems to answer properly. The novel focuses on the sense of alienation, loosing innocence, death and the arduous search for truth and wisdom.
Another key to this unique novel is the peculiar narrative styled used by the protagonist: the way he speaks in passive voice, how he uses punctuation signs and the words per se give him an almost rude, yet honest, attitude towards the reader.
In 1963, and under the pseudonym of Victoria Lucas, Sylvia Plath published her only novel: The Bell Jar. The title of the book is a metaphor for mental illness. Esther Greenwood, a young college student, is offered a summer internship in a magazine in New York city. But, once she deals with two other girls that challenge her paradigms of what’s femininity about, fails to enter a writing class, fights with her boyfriend and must live with her mother, the girl suffers a breakdown. Then, she is sent to a mental institution.
The novel circles around what was expected from women, and how defiance was taken from avant garde ladies during the 1950’s America.
The dystopian tale written by Ray Bradbury in 1953, Fahrenheit 451, takes the reader to futuristic America in which books are constantly burned, people drive fast, watch too much television and listen to a radio attached to their ears. Censorship is one of the many themes that follow along the story of the fireman Guy Montag.
After talking to a professor about the importance of literature, he is forced to burn his own home down and that leads him to a group of humans who live as humans did before the book burning era.
Finally, the CDLE recommends dramaturgy with the text A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams. This eleven-scene play is a modern tragedy about Blanche, a southern girl who travels to New Orleans to visit her sister Stella and her husband Stanley Kowalski. There, she suffers a transformation that unveils her true self, meaning that the serene, eloquent, sophisticated and wealthy persona was a rouse.
The characters represent everything that is wrong with southern society in the 40’s, therefore falls in the genre of realism. Reading stage plays should not be intimidating. As the reader follows the plot and the author describes scenes and people, it is easier to both understand and imagine the story.