Formal Literary Canon
12 of the most important texts to read while in high school
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
The Crucible is important to teach because the history of the Salem Witch Trials is greatly shown throughout the text. Through this book the reader is able to truly understand the history of the trials without actually studying them. In school, students need to read this in order to incorporate real history into their literary studies. Students do not read very many books in school that are based on actual historical event which is one of the main reasons this text is so important to study. Learning about these events is needed because it informs the audience of the mistakes made in the past which helps to prevent them from being made again in the future.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
Frankenstein is important to read because of the way it is structured. It is not structured in the modern form like most of the books in the curriculum which cause the students to change their way of processing. Having three different narrators Frankenstein forces the reader to adjust in order to truly grasp the text. Frankenstein is also important in teaching allusions because the entire novel is simply one big allusion to God and creation. This allusion is brought forth by the creation of Dr. Frankenstein's monster and his need to create something himself.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath is important to read due to its historical significance. Very few texts clearly depict the great depression but this novel does a phenomenal job at doing so while also giving the audience an interesting story. This book enables he audience to have a precise picture of this time period. In reading this novel, the reader can him or herself in the shoes of the characters and truly feel the struggles they went trough. It also helps show the citizens of the US and how they helped everyone as they attempted to make it through this terrible time.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is important to teach because it clearly depicts the era of the 20's. Through reading this text the audience is able to learn of culture in this time period. Culture is shown greatly through the description of how people look and dress at this time. The portrayal of setting through characters displays the cultural background of the novel. It showcases an indescribable time and empowers the reader to insert themselves into this time period as well.
Hamlet by WIlliam Shakespeare
Hamlet is important to teach because it is a great example of existentialism. Through the reading of this book, students are able to plainly see the key ideas of existentialism. Hamlet questions everything through this play, which is one of the main ideas in existentialism. Through the understanding of Hamlet, a student could easily wrestle with the ideas of existentialism and try to understand it. The analysis of Hamlet can help the audience to grasp the meaning of existentialism.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Invisible Man is important to teach because of the lesson the reader can take. In high school everyone struggles with identity and self worth, which is the issue IM is dealing with throughout the entire novel. It also is a great book to use in order to teach or learn about motifs. Invisible Man has many different, and still relevant, motifs throughout the text. These help the audience comprehend the meaning of the plot.
Macbeth by WIlliam Shakespeare
Macbeth is important to teach because of the structure of the text. Throughout the entire play the reader can easily compare prose versus iambic pentameter versus trochaic tetrameter. Students need to study structure in order to understand many of these texts. Macbeth is a great illustration of how the structure of a piece can mold both characters and plot. For example, all but two or three of Macbeth's lines are in iambic pentameter which shows that his character is proper and doesn't enjoy change.
1984 by George Orwell
1984 is an important read for students because of its cultural significance. Through the reading of this novel, the reader is able to grasp how easily the government would be able to completely take over and control the citizens of a place. With this realisation the reader is able to analyze the text and what the characters go through while under the rule of this government. Students can learn from the plot of this text that complete submission to by the city to the government is not a good thing. This novel can also be looked at as a warning to the society to prevent these events from happening today.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice is important because of its social class references. Throughout the entire novel the different social class from this time period are very obvious. Through this culture is also shown. As the novel progresses the split between classes and how the classes treat each other is described in great detail. Social class is a prevalent topic still today and reading Pride and Prejudice it helps the audience to learn how to handle them.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet is an important text to read because it is a great example of theme. Through the analysis of the different themes in this play, the audience can really take hold of the underlying meaning. The themes of love, secrecy and death are the three main themes of Romeo and Juliet. In literature, the theme of the piece plays a large role in the understanding of the text. Therefore, studying different themes is a great tool to processing literature.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter is of great importance because of its historical background. The novel is not directly related to a specific event in the past but it hits on a few of the imperative struggles that went on during this time. Throughout the imagery in the novel the reader can easily see the issue of gender roles in this time. The novel also shows the importance of culture in this time period. This is shown by the requirement for Hester to wear the scarlet letter on her chest.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird is an important novel to study because of the references to racism. Racism during this time period was a universal problem during this time. This proves the historical significance of this novel. Through the study of racism through literature the audience is able to accurately envision what it was like to be part of this time period. WIth this still being a relevant problem today, To Kill a Mockingbird is important to study so that students are aware of the real consequences people went through.