Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thinking about the Masters

Hi all, it’s Debby, posting during my lunch break Hawai‘i time from a 7th and 8th Grade English class, where I’m subbing. (I know, you East Coast folks are probably sitting down to dinner.) Subbing is loads of fun, but I nearly crawl home. And it’s one of the few places where I’m totally in the moment, unable to think of my own writing—except for those flashes of appreciation I get when I’m reading the assigned literature along with the students. Somehow, it’s different than when I read on my own, silently, alone. Not only is my brain in a more analytical mode in a class, I have to go a lot slower.

The 8th Graders are reading Lord of the Flies, and wow, I’d forgotten the power in this book. There are times I can hardly contain myself, and I have to ask the kids what they think the author was trying to get at. No wonder E.M. Forster chose it as Outstanding Novel of the Year in 1954. This is heavy stuff, and masterful plotting. Most of you probably knew this already, but I read this a LONG time ago, and I know I wasn’t getting it then.

I avoided the sexual parallels when the boys slaughter the sow. Too much for 13 year-olds, and maybe too much for me. Perhaps the regular teacher will handle that, but there’s so much going on here that I could bypass that allegory and deal with the character who represented civilization (rules, order, intellect) and the character that represented anarchy (the darkness of the heart, blood lust, crowd psychology, power without compassion). I could go on and on, but I imagine many of you would be better analysts of the book than I am.

As a writer I’m intimidated and inspired. It’s great to take a step back and analyze a master I haven’t read for, well, about forty years. What’s that expression? Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.


Vicki Delany said...

I just read A Passage to India by Forester for a Book Club TV show I was guesting on. I was amazed at how good it was. And so socially-relevant.

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

That's the way I felt about Lord of the Flies, too. And not for the faint hearted. Yikes.