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Monday, March 18, 2013

What do Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird have in common?



They are assigned reading for the high school students in the house.  Emily is writing about To Kill a Mockingbird, Hamilton is finishing The Great Gatsby, and I am re-reading Catcher in the Rye because it is the next book assigned.

These books were assigned to me in college, so I suppose I’m looking forward to The Brothers Karamazov or the Gulag Archipelago when these children get there.

The assignments came up in the midst of our set-to that restricted access to the world wide web.  Our friend Mr. Google is available to them, but Emily apparently is in a snit and Hamilton does not study, as you may recall.

Passing the kitchen table study hall recently, Emily asked me what I knew about To Kill a Mockingbird.  My dear, your grandma has two literature degrees.  She was answering a list of forty questions, due in several days, so I asked leave until the next night to re-read the book.  It has been forty years.

I finished it by midnight, then Googled what was available.  What a shocker.  Her list of forty questions was from a common study guide and answered by everybody and their brother.   Perhaps she was forbidden to go to the web.

We had a good time discussing hypocritical behavior, children crying when they left the court room, and on and on and on.  I love the continuing controversy over Bob Ewell’s killer.  Perhaps that keeps teachers teaching the book for twenty years.  It was Boo Radley, of course.  Unless you have a different theory.

Apparently Hamilton was paying attention; a few days later he asked me to review his Great Gatsby work.  It was sixty questions, a lot tougher.  Fortunately for him, only half a dozen or so were due the next day.  His answers impressed me, dampened by the knowledge he had completed the work because I took away his new library book, The Devil in the White City.  I had no fault except telling him to find and correct all his incomplete sentences.  Even if the teacher didn’t bust him for them, I would.

Yesterday afternoon we went over the rest of the work, due in a couple of days.  He was working out Great Gatsby symbolism.  When he thought he was done I got to lean back in my chair and say “What about all those European names?  What about Wolfsheim?”  Fun!

I went half through Catcher in the Rye last night.  I still can’t love that book.



20 comments:

  1. I have a sneaking suspicion that you are enjoying this!
    Jane x

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  2. All the joys of going to school and none of the misery.

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  3. You'll be revisiting all the great young adult classics...and maybe finding a few new ones along the way!

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  4. To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my all-time favourites. I still read it at least once a year and now it is on my kindle too. Yes, Boo Radley killed Bob Ewell. I've never read The Great Gatsby but that is also on my kindle waiting its turn. I read The Catcher In The Rye when I was about eleven and couldn't make sense of it, so I re-read it a few years later and still have no idea. When I was in school, we hadn't done what your kids are now doing, we'd just read the book and written an essay on what we thought about it, we had to include the answers to a couple of questions, but there was no deep dissection of the story. That came in later years and I'd left school before that. Even now, I read a book for entertainment value, not to pull it apart and find out what the writer was trying to say and why.

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  5. I just reread To Kill A Mocking bird and The Great Gatsby within the past few months....I kept wondering what i thought when I read them 30 plus yrs ago...

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  6. Only book I've read from them is The Great Gatsby, which I liked.

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  7. You must be quite the speed reader to plow through those books so fast! Your background must be a huge help for those kids. I hope the appreciate how lucky they are!

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  8. I don't know if it's good or bad that their gramma/guardian has literature degrees. We had to read Catcher In The Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Mill On The Floss, Tess of The Dubervilles. Those are the ones I remember. I was a reader but there was one book assigned I just could not read though I tried. I got good grades on the work anyway as all I had to do was listen in class.

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  9. My first two thoughts have already been expressed in the first two comments (and more succintly, too!).

    I loved Mockingbird; I never could get going with Catcher in the Rye, but I've heard others say they love it.

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  10. I never read Catcher in the Rye, but did read the other two. To Kill a Mockingbird was my all time favorite book from childhood.

    betty

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  11. It was Great Gatsby I couldn't come to terms with - loved the other two. And loathed Tess of the Durbevilles. Clumsy symbolism offended the teenage me (if a piece of blood-stained butcher paper blows across your path as you go to visit your potential mother-in-law is it going to be a good or a bad visit? Bah.)

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  12. I did lie to kill a mockingbird and the only book I can remember from high school is Lord of the Flies and still to this day the baseness and meanness of humans baffles me, how cruelty is rampant even into adulthood and beyond.

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  13. Your youngsters are fortunate to have you available for feedback and encouragement. Plus you know incomplete sentences and the difference between Boo Radley and Daisy Buchanan.

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  14. It's good to read that you're not just critiquing the answers, but also the grammar. It astounds me to see so many kids these days who have never learned how to spell nor write a sentence correctly. They're lucky that you are helping them.

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  15. I do not think I have ever been more upset about a child not reading a book than when one of CC's home schooled buddies told me she was forbidden to read To Kill A Mocking Bird. I was reading it again upon it's 50th anniversary when she breezed through the living room and asked why I was reading "that horrible book". I know her parents and it was all I could do not to call her mother and have a heated talk with her but one cannot have a reasonable talk with people who are not reasonable. You are as I have said it before a treasure to these kiddos of yours.

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  16. I thank heaven I can read To Kill a Mocking Bird, or watch the wonderful old film of the same name, with no fear of anyone asking me questions about either! I've loved both of them for years...

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  17. Catcher in the Rye is the only one of the trio I haven't read. Perhaps I should tackle it, even if, like you, I can't love it, perhaps I can admire it.

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  18. Having your grandkids reading some old favorites is like a gift! I remember these books (except for Catcher in the Rye, which I found disturbing and didn't complete). They were a part of my own coming of age.

    Your gr-kids are unbelievably blessed to have you.

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  19. We read Catcher in school and I found it all rather depressing
    You have started me to go and buy a copy again and give it another go x

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  20. I liked To Kill a Mockingbird, but The Great Gatsby was not a favorite. I remember the symbolism of the red and green lights that our teacher kept emphasizing. Maybe I should try reading these books again.... Someday.

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