I created this infographic with some life lessons from classic American Literature. To see it actual full size, you might have to right-click it and save or open it in a new window. Enjoy! If you have time, leave me a comment below and tell me your favorite from this list!
When I first became an English teacher, there was one subject above all others that I intended to avoid: American Literature—you know, that typically junior-level English course with everything from dry Puritan writings to indecipherable Huckleberry Finn dialect. What fun. Not only did the literature fail to excite me, but as an American myself, I deemed my country’s literature too close, too familiar. The stories of the rest of the world seemed more interesting and important. Yet, as it often happens in life, I found myself walking the very path I had intended to avoid. The assignment of teaching American Literature fell to me, and I reluctantly complied—knowing full well that it would be drudgery—a prediction that proved to be accurate during that first year teaching it. I chalked this defeat up to the subject matter and resolved to avoid it in the future whenever possible.
Although I hate to admit it, some novels are almost unreadable. It's not that you can't read them; it's just that as you do read them, you lose the will to read further. The Last of the Mohicans was always one of these books for me. The description is so overbearing and the plot so seemingly thin that I never could muster enough resolve to finish it. Yet when I pushed through, I found one of America's first great adventure stories and the birth of an American archetype.
The Scarlet Letter is unquestioningly a pillar of American Literature (some argue the greatest American novel), but what does it have to offer young adult readers? Apart from peeling back layer after layer of symbolism, is there worth in making this novel required reading? There are very few books that I remember enjoying from my own high-school experience--no fault of my teachers but my own--and The Scarlet Letter was one of them. Nothing about the premise of the novel drew me to the story: Puritans and unwed mothers are not the primarily interests of...