Is there a text (book, poem, play etc) that you felt had a great influence on you because it was emotive or provocative, either in a positive or a negative way? One of my most favourite novels is The Grapes of Wrath because it was so profound and appealed to me on many levels. Steinbeck's passion is, for me, quite palpable and it is a book I go back to often.
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I was horrified by my first reading of Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird, the story of a young boy left alone to wander through war-torn Eastern Europe during the years of the Holocaust. The boy faces many horrors--rapes, beatings, and tortures. At one point, he is hung from the ceiling of a small house with a starving dog trying to get at him from below. For days on end, the boy is forced to spend every minute of the day fighting to keep his body from the reaches of the hungry dog, whose only desire is to eat the boy. The boy (like Kosinski) eventually loses his power of speech due to the horrors that he witnesses. The story is based on Kosinski's own experiences as a youth growing up in Poland.
The Grapes of Wrath had a big influence on me when I read it in 10th grade. That chapter where the turtle gets run over, and the baby floating away- all seared in my memory. This time of year, I am always reminded of A Christmas Carol and the impact it has had on me and my students through the years. I always teach it to one of my classes this time of year, no matter what grade I’m teaching! Here is one of the most powerful parts, to me.
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. (Stave 1, p. 14)
This creepy metaphor rings true to most people I think. We all make our own chains, through a series of decisions. Every choice we make is carried forth with us. I still get goose bumps, even though I have read this story so many times.
The last section of The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is especially moving. I responded very emotionally when I read it last. Alyosha's tragic/suffering qualities are brought to a powerful articulation when a child dies and he leads the children mourners, comforting them and showing them how to be strong and feel fully at the same time.
I also find A Death in the Family by James Agee to be effectively emotive. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin is another book that I respond to, though not quite as strongly as the other two.
While this book would probably not have much of an impact on me today, The Samurai, by Shusaku Endo, had a huge emotional impact on me when I was in college. This is a book that is fundamentally about a person being pulled by the demands of two different cultures. He is trying to be a Christian and a Japanese samurai. These two demands seemed to be incompatible. At the time, I was becoming fully immersed in American society for the first time having lived essentially all my life outside the US. It was not easy to reconcile the demands of US culture with the attitudes with which I had been socialized by my friends outside the US. This was a difficult time for me (as I suppose it is for many people) and this book really spoke to me at that time.
I find that I constantly return to teaching "Of Mice and Men" because even after 20 years the emotions still resonate with me and my students. I am equally touched by the film version and found Matthew Kelly most engaging in the UK stage version. He had been villified in the press with allegations of a sexual nature as the play went into production in 2003. His intense rendition of Lennie gave an added facet to the outcast nature of the character. My heart still lurches every time I reach the part in the text where George struggles to raise the gun to the back of Lennie's head.
My favorite is Frankenstein. The way the creature is treated by his father resonates far too loud for me at times. As a teacher, I have found many of my students have been alienated and act out because of this.Therefore, while the novel is based upon Shelley's nightmare, it remains a reality for many in the world.
When I was fourteen years old in 1961, I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it because I heard some teachers talking about how it should probably not be in the school's library because it was so controversial. My mother bought me a copy.
At that time in my life, it was the most stimulating reading that I had ever done. I read it by chapters and labeled each chapter as I went. In my adolescent mind, it was scary, sad, infuriating, fun, and thought provoking.
The cast of characters were unforgettable. The Finches, Calpurnia, Dill, Mrs. DuBose, the Ewells, Boo, and all the other minor characters work their way into the reader's heart and mind.
My first small town in Oklahoma had few black people in it. In 1956, the black students were integrated into the school and it was my first real encounter with racism. No one treated them badly that I knew about, but they were certainly isolated. It did not impact my fifth grade world, so I did not think much about them.
When I read "...Mockingbird," I realized that ignoring someone is prejudiced in itself. Unfortunately, by that time, the three students in my class had all dropped out of school. Sad, but true.
There are so many lessons to learn in the book. Probably the first time, I had ever cried about an animal was the shooting of the rabid dog. It stuck in my mind for years. Now, I am such an animal fanatic...it may have been that poor dog walking down the streets of Maycomb.
Through Scout's intuitive mind and constant questions, a lifetime of knowledge can be gained. One of the things that I first learned was "walk a mile in my shoes." That was a lesson I passed along to my daughter and my students.
Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell's shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does. So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that's something I'll gladly take. He had to take it out on somebody and I'd rather it be me than that houseful of children out there. You understand?"
The character of Boo was so intriguing to me. What a perfect example of what people do to someone that is different or that is misunderstood! Boo was a good guy...rumors, innuendos, appearances, abuse---all of these things had ruined Boo's life.
Tom Robinson's trial made me want to be a lawyer and defend those who needed someone to stand up for them. Atticus was my hero. Stalwart, understanding, larger than life, all-knowing---where are the men like that? I wanted to marry Atticus, but I never found someone who could walk in his shoes.
Atticus's closing speech to the jury was phenomenal. Even at my young age, I knew that this was great writing. I copied it down on paper...and at one time could quote a good part of it.
There are always families like the Ewells. In my town, we had a family that everyone made fun of and talked about. They lived near the town dump and could often be seen rummaging around in it. The oldest girl got pregnant by her brother everyone said. No one would have anything to do with them. How sad they were!
I wanted Harper Lee to write a sequel to the book. I wanted to know more...what happened to all of these wonderful characters.
This was a book that changed my life, and I am sure there were many more just like me.
The Bible is filled with texts that scare me, that mystify me, that fill me with joy, that comfort me, that challenge me, and any other reaction you may care to suggest!
When I read the Creation stories, I am awed by the creative power and majesty of God. When I try to imagine Jonah running away from God and failing to find any place to hide from God's orders, I am reminded of how small I am. When I read of Jesus's death, I am overcome with awareness of how unworthy I am and of how great is God's grace and love for me! When I read of Paul's travels, I am inspired to be more active in witnessing to my faith in my God among the people and places I encounter.
The text includes prose, sublime poetry, metaphorical adventures, predictions of the future, history, records of legal transactions, travelogue commentary, and so much more! It truly is "The Good Book"!
One of the most emotive novels for me was Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Ubervilles. The long suffering Tess, one of the most sympathetic heroines in literature, is a victim of what Hardy perceived as the Immanent Will, a force of fate that was completely arbitrary. She is tricked and deceived by one man and rejected by the idealism of another that she marries. She endures the death of her baby and separation from family and beloved husband. Alone in an indifferent universe, Tess also witnesses the death of the agrarian life that her family has known for generations.
When Angel, her husband, contrite after returning from South America seeks her years later, it is too late; for, in her sacrifice for her destitute family, Tess has again been forced back to Alec D'Uberville. Desperate to catch some happiness, Tess escapes Alec only by the act of murder, for which she pays the ultimate price. Only for a few days is she reunited with Angel.
This novel that imitates classical tragedy is so poignant because of Hardy's marvelous writing style that creates such atmosphere and sympathy for Tess. Indeed, Tess is elevated in her actions and she is admirable for her fortitude and endurance, sympathetic for her perseverance and unselfishness.
Rather, in his subtitle to the novel, “A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented,” Hardy indicates that Tess’s character remains one of innocent integrity.
In a positive way, Goethe's Faust Part I,
Scenes XVI-XXV (Martha's Garden, Fountain, ... Dreary Day, Night, Dungeon)
followed by Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Darcy's proposal and letter, are the two most emotive texts I've read.
In a negative way (very negative), Lord of the Flies, is most emotively evocative text I've ever read. It made me swear reading altogether for years on end. I thought, "If this is what "literature" is, I don't ever read another bit of it as long as I live."
And I probably wouldn't have voluntarily ever read again if my cousin hadn't forced me to read Wolf's Look Homeward Angel then Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago then Tolstoy's War and Peace. I can't say I understood any of them (Ok, I did not understand any of them), but the language and the structure and the ideas of each were so magnificent that they finally overrode the horror of that awful (yes, I think it is awful) LoF book.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
These lines by Robert Frost in his poem "The Road Not Taken" have inspired me a lot. They have become very important part of my life.
Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keyes, is that one book that I just keep coming back to again and again. I read this book for the first time in 6th grade, and even then, it had a profound effect on me.
This book makes a person think. So many of us claim we want to be geniuses, but we rarely think of the consequences of such a change in who we are. The idea of going from a medically-diagnosed 'mentally-handicapped' intelligence to a genius seems nothing short of a glorious miracle. But Keyes makes you stop and consider what happens as one becomes more enlightened and has his or her eyes opened wider to the world.
I find myself more able to connect to this book each time I read it. For example, I reread it while I was in college, and I understand this sense of disappointment and uneasiness in becoming more world aware. Whereas Charlie became aware of people who liked him and did not like him, I became more aware of prejudice in the world and how it affected people. This let me connect even more to this book.
I am also touched by the ending of the book and this debate Keyes presents in whether Charlie is better off losing all of the intelligence he gained. Without a doubt, this is one book that goes everywhere with me.
The most emotive text i ever read was Romeo nd Juliet.... i love that novel by shakespeare......
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