Category Archives: Literature

16 Oct 2017

A (Fallen) Hero: Atticus Finch, Legacy, & The Common App Essay

Since 1960, the year Harper Lee first published To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch has figured prominently in the hearts, minds, and college essays of America’s youth. Atticus – the staunchly principled Southern lawyer (who heroically defends Tom Robinson, a black man unjustly accused of rape) – helped Mockingbird win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961. He stood as a model of moral courage and unflappable resolve in the face of injustice and racism. And now, the literary icon thousands of students have surely written about to help them get into college, is the subject of dismay, confusion, and disappointment.

On July 14, 2015, 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, a previously undiscovered Harper Lee novel, Go Set A Watchman, was released to the public. It appears that Watchman was actually a first draft of Mockingbird – a fact which makes the book all the more shocking; readers are confronted with a very different Atticus. The Watchman Atticus belongs to a group closely tied to the KKK, and is thoroughly unwilling to change with the times. What makes this discovery so surprising is that Watchman is set 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird, which begs the question: how could this be the same man? How could this heroic father become as bigoted and backwards as the very people he stood up against in Mockingbird?

In some ways, though, Watchman makes To Kill A Mockingbird, and more specifically Atticus Finch, all the more extraordinary. Mockingbird was written through the eyes of Atticus’ six-year-old daughter, Jean-Louise, who understandably saw Atticus, her father, as a hero among men. His moral failings, therefore, went unacknowledged. But much of Atticus’ actions in Mockingbird, even in light of Watchman’s revelations, still prove heroic; Atticus did defend Tom Robinson, a black man in the South, from an unjust hanging; he did sit outside Robinson’s cell one night with a shotgun to protect him from a violent KKK mob; and, most significantly, he did manage to put aside his archaic personal views when it was called of him. Though in the wake of Watchman, our perception of Atticus may have changed, Lee’s two novels combine to form a powerful message: We can put aside personal beliefs, however strong they might be, to do what is righteous in the end. As such, Atticus Finch’s integrity may even be more praise-worthy today than it was 55 years ago, given the intensity of his troubling convictions. For college-gazing high school students who, until Watchman, were thinking of writing about Atticus on their Common App, maybe there is still something there worth exploring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Nov 2012

10 Sexiest Works of Classic Literature

Who says classic literature can’t be sexy? Believe it or not, romance, tension and sexual morality were all seriously interesting themes to the classic authorial mind. The spiciest of such authors even occasionally penned explicit scenes. If mama asks, you’re just reading to improve your vocabulary, worldly knowledge and reading comprehension skills…

…She’ll never know you’re really reading steamy classiXXX!

1.)

 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Banned in 1857 for obscenity, Madame Bovary tracks Emma Bovary’s attempts to escape the banality of married life by having numerous, passionate extramarital affairs. Although not the most graphic book on this list, Madame Bovary was certainly a titillating piece of work for its time!

2.)

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Now we’re getting graphic! Lady Chatterley’s Lover tracks the tortured dissatisfaction of Constance, a young married woman, whose upper-class husband was paralyzed in World War I. Constance’s frustration eventually leads her to have an intense and ecstatic physical affair with a member of the working class. More than just a work of smut, however, the novel is an intriguing investigation into the importance of both intellect and physical pleasure in happiness, spirituality and love.

3.)

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Can we even call this book sexy? Lolita tells the story of a twisted love affair between Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged man, and Lolita, a 12-year-old girl. Unembarrassed about Humbert’s aching desire for Lolita, the novel is certainly steamy and will make you question the definition of honest, acceptable and mutual love.

4.)

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

We all know the story here. While never truly explicit, Romeo and Juliet is a play full of sexual charge. The play traces the marriage and tragic downfall of two fatally attracted, secret lovers. What could be sexier?

5.)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Will Jane Eyre’s quest to find love end blissfully or in despair? Either way, Jane’s tale will enthrall you in the tension of attraction between a homely girl and a dark, powerful and all but unattainable man.

 

6.)

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Set in France during the late 1920s and early 1930s, Tropic of Cancer centers on the sordid life of a bohemian writer, describing his experiences with sex, homelessness, hunger and despair. The book was first published in 1934 in France, but was banned in the United States for its many vivid descriptions of sexual encounters. Still, Tropic of Cancer is a noteworthy meditation on the human condition—a poignant critique of conformity and hypocrisy. Think: Fifty Shades of Grey for the philosophical crowd.

7.)

Just about anything by Sappho…

As many soon-to-be college freshmen will learn, Sappho is the sauciest Greek poet in town. Sappho lived from approximately 612 to 570 BCE, and wrote numerous poems about both gay and straight passion and love. Sappho’s poetry is, in fact, so suggestive that the word “lesbian” derives from the name of her native home-island, Lesbos.

8.)

 Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Oh, the longing of poor Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw! Wuthering Heights is a story of tormented love, thwarted by circumstance again and again. Once young and inseparable lovers, Heathcliff and Catherine are torn apart by jealousy, family drama and Catherine’s own preoccupation with social status. Wuthering Heights is sure to make you feel the agony of obsessive love, forever unfulfilled.

9.)

Howl by Allen Ginsberg

Even though it has long been considered one of the greatest works of American literature, Howl is chock-full of sexual imagery! The poem faced an obscenity trial in the United States in 1957 due to its graphic and often disquieting depictions of both gay and straight sexual practices. To boot, Howl is also brimming with references to illegal drugs.

10.)

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Like many works on this list, The Sorrows of Young Werther is a tale of love that ends in tragedy. Herein, Werther falls in love with Charlotte, a beautiful woman who, to Werther’s dismay, is already engaged to another man. Unable to let go of his love, Werther cultivates a close, torturous friendship with Charlotte—an act of masochism that ultimately becomes too much for Werther to bear.

 

Such are the scandalous books of the olden days. I hope this list will inspire you to read more classic literature!

 

Glossary
These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Poignant: affecting or moving the emotions
Conformity:
compliance with social standards and practices.
Hypocrisy: a quality of acting like one possesses great virtue or moral principles that one does not actually have