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Connecting characters

Sorrow-filled moans and groans are generally the first reactions of students when English teachers assign new novels to read. But is our unenthusiasm justified? Novels in the curriculum serve to measure more than our writing capabilities and comprehension skills; the novels offer crucial moral lessons and help our performance in academic classes in our classes.

Moral lessons and principles in “The Great Gatsby,” commonly read in the junior year, are applicable to societies of both the past and present. We learn that people become dehumanized when there is an over-emphasis on superficial qualities.Human connection is lost when not only objects, but people come with price tags; material wealth can never buy love or friends.

Despite the obscure setting of the “The Crucible” and the difficulty of connection, human qualities are still applicable today: mindlessly believing in everything you are told, or easily being misguided. We often find ourselves believing everything the Internet tells us, similar to how the Plymouth settlers believed the children’s witchcraft accusations. Strictly speaking, it may be difficult for a modern teenager to relate to a teenager who constantly embraces the fear of Native American raids, dines with ten brothers and sisters–often more–or testifies in court cases accusing women of witchcraft. The inability to relate thus slows the the development of any connections. The obscurity of plot or setting may be responsible too–which leads to my next point.

Time of setting in each novel can define how well we can relate to the author’s message. We find ourselves connecting  to “The Great Gatsby” with more ease than “The Crucible.” Why? “The Great Gatsby” bears a plot based on post-World War One New York–the Roaring Twenties– while the heart of “The Crucible’s” plot lies in Colonial America: 1620s. These two novels, centuries apart, possess crucial differences. The Roaring Twenties of “The Great Gatsby” is known for its implementation of jazz, radio, movie theaters and racial paranoia. Similarly, the influx of mass culture and racial paranoia are consistently acknowledged on a day-to-day basis in every city of the world we go to today.

There are many ways a novel could be relevant to students. The novel “Of Mice and Men” is a perfect example, because it is located in a rural setting most of us are unfamiliar to. Therefore, “Of Mice and Men,” at most times, appears harder to associate with modern life. Although “Of Mice and Men”lacks the connectivity of modernity, it still contains relatable moral principles. It teaches us to get through all the hardships in life, by dedicating time and patience; we are able to relate to the burden that George, the main character, has to deal with throughout the stresses of his daily life.

These high school novels not only teach values and morals, but sometimes they are also given to supplement learning in other classes–specifically history. Generally, “The Crucible” is concurrently read with the teaching of colonial America, as the time of the story is set in the Salem Witch Trials. Charles Dicken’s novel, “Tale of Two Cities,” is set in the French Revolution; read in the freshmen year, the novel serves as a window into European History, class taken in sophomore year.

The next time you moan and groan at the thought of reading a new high school novel, rethink the benefits you can reap.  Every novel plays a part in the development of a student’s mentality. They allow readers to connect to characters. They immerse readers into the world of the plot. Finally, they supplement curriculum in other classes. It’s safe to say, that these books are gateways to the opportunity to learn and connect.0

By Richard Zhang, Staff writer
Editorial Cartoon by Amy Lo