Doing the Rory Gilmore reading challenge means reading works that are almost impossible to read, or works that you may not have a great deal to write about. So here I have three short reviews of my experiences with books from the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge that I read in high school many years ago.
Mark Twain – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)
I had to read this in school so long ago, and while I don’t remember exact plot details, I do remember very clearly that reading this was the first time I became aware of the existence of slavery in the United States and the racial tensions that existed in the South. That was around grade six or seven, and it seems strange to me now that that was the first time I kind of realized that racism was a real tangible thing. I led a pretty sheltered life, and even though the plot of this book is a bit fuzzy in my memory, I remember the realizations I had while reading it. Being so young, I think a lot of the satire and indictments of racist attitudes went over my head, but I do know this book was kind of a turning point for me. I would go on to be fascinated this period in American History and would complete a thesis dealing with the Fugitive Slave Laws of the 1850s.
William Golden – Lord of the Flies (1954)
Yet another book found on every single high school reading list. It’s about a group of schoolboys who end up stranded in the wilderness after a plane crash in some post-apocalyptic era like setting and details their descent into savagery. The two main characters are Ralph, a fair skinned likeable boy and “Piggy,” an overweight unpopular one. Unsurprisingly Ralph becomes somewhat of a leader to the band of survivors. There a loads of allegories about the different characters and what they represent, (Jack as the epitome of the worst characters of human nature, Simon as a Christ-like figure, etc.). It should be noted that there are no girls on the island, and I do believe that I wrote a pretty convincing report in grade eight about how the outcome would have differed if girls had been stranded on the island as well. Anyways, the main theme is that all humans (although in this case just prepubescent boys) will resort to savagery when it comes to a survival. Its a fair claim, but the image of a pigs head on a stake haunted my nightmares for weeks and was something that I could have lived without.
Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
Probably my favourite book I had to read in high school. (I considered myself lucky, I had to read it twice). By this time, I had already read the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and had made myself aware of the history of racial tensions in the Southern United States. I pretty much knew everything that a white girl living in Toronto could about 1933 Alabama, which prepared me to be a stuck-up know-it-all when it came to discussing this book in class. I got into a lively debate with my grade 10 English teacher about the different characters that were representative of the titular “Mockingbird” and everyone in the class hated me. (I maintained that Mayella Ewell represents a mockingbird but my teacher disagreed). It’s an American classic and is one of the only books that I feel deserve to be kept on high school reading lists.
There is a lot of talk going on right now due to the releasing of the unpublished sequel. I too have my concerns; was Harper Lee tricked into this some way? Does she really want to publish Go See a Watchman? Should everyone just leave the classics alone? Regardless I’m still pretty excited.