My son has a project for 10th grade literature. I will narrow down the assignment as much as I can, but I really need help in guiding him how to complete it. "Should The Road be included on a reading list for a class titled Contemporary Classic Literature? Why/Why Not?"-Contemporary or Modern? -What degree does it reflect reality? -What makes it American? -Analyze the theme in novel -Analyze the theme in contemprorary society. -Conclusion with concern, problem, or trend that is prominent in society/Must have literary merit.
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I agree with the above post, and some of what others have said here, especially in the need to focus this topic down somewhat. America is a capitalist society, in the end, and individual competition has always been an American theme. While it is on much harsher terms in The Road, the idea of survival of the fittest, pursuit of the ideal, and taking care of family are all things that could be easily compared to what makes us American (as well as other societies). You could also highlight the survival of ideals, love, humanity and family in the midst of the worst of conditions, and times in America where we witnessed this as well (The Great Depression?).
As grim as it sounds, I would recommend focusing on the theme of dog-eat-dog, or -- more in keeping with McCarthy's novel -- human-eat-human. There are other themes that might work just as well, though.
To me, the novel seems distinctly American in several ways:
1. There's a longstanding fascination with the open road in America. Thiis fascination can be found in American and European literature and film. McCarthy's novel is so powerful, in part, because it turns the idea of a father-son road trip on its head.
2. There are references to a number of American products -- most notably, Coca Cola -- in the novel.
3. There's a huge emphasis on what are the right and wrong ways to behave toward others. Eating people is wrong, according to the man and his son. (They're clearly in the minority, judging by most of the other characters found in the novel.) It would be an easyi leap from the novel's discussion of how to behave toward others in the fictional world to the cruelties of unchecked capitalism or purely selfish actions in our real world. (I"m not preaching revolution here!)
As a related aside, let me comment on the previous post: In my experiences of living, working, and travelling in other countries (from western Europe to the Middle East), I've never met anyone who seriously disliked me because I am an American. The ill will toward America that I did see was connected to the sense that the United States seeks only to pursue its own interests and to impose its will on others by force. Our foreign policy is criticized, for example, as is our ability to consume huge amounts of the world's energy and other resources. America is seen as selfish and brutal by a lot of people in the world.
This is a great project. Once you've had time to discuss your questions with the teacher so you are confident in pressing forward, discuss with your son: what qualities of this book make it American? Think culture, attitudes, points of view which may not be evident in literature from other countries simply because of culture differences, differences in values, and probably most apparent--attitudes. Americans have attitudes of confidence and self-assurance which is often misread as conceit, cockiness, and ownership. This is much of the reason why we, as a people and government, are disliked around the world. How does the book portray this American attitude? As a culture, we have been taught that if something isn't right, fight to fix it. One person can make a difference. You can be anything you want to be when you grow up...the world is your oyster. How does the book portray this American culture?
I appreciate your interest in helping your son with an assignment that may seem overwhelming at first. However, you will be more help once he speaks with the teacher and narrows the focus, clarifies the assignment, or chooses his specific writing direction. Then you can help him get started if he's having trouble; I would encourage you in any case to see what your son can come up with on his own first.
I share the concerns with other editors. The questions look great on this wonderful book, but it would be worth narrowing down the scope of the assignment to pick just one or two and give those thorough treatment rather than trying to answer all of them and give a very shallow response. With any dystopian literature part of the theme is what we are doing to our world now that will make it end in such a disaster in the future, and I think this novel has something serious to say about the human condition.
I agree with #2. The following are a couple of questions you and your son might ask the teacher:
Is he/she looking for a single essay that answers these questions, or separate written answers for each question?
Has he/she provided a definition of contemporary classic literature in class, which your son should refer to in the response to the assignment?
These look like good questions on a great novel. It sounds like your son has a good, engaged teacher.
This assignment which doesn't seem to be unreasonable, should be discussed as much as possible with the teacher who gave him the assignment. There can be all sort so of problems if you start down a road in which the teacher did not expect and if you are off the mark, the son should not be held accountable. Try to discuss it as much as possible with the teacher first, before you offer your own interpretation of things.
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