High School Literature

Each one goes alone, youth or girl, man or woman. Night falls...They go on. They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is even less imaginable to us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that is does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.
— Ursula LeGuin, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" (1973)

This semester I have the pleasure of teaching the high school literature class. For our course this fall semester, we are surveying short stories, poems, and a novel within the category of "Modern English Literature" (1850-present). 

Teaching literature is exciting. As I encouraged students at the start of the course, understanding literature is so much more than analyzing plot, character development, figurative language, or irony (though we certainly are doing a lot of that). To enter into the literary world is to dive into the realm of ideas. One of the first values we learn in scripture is that our God employs his word to order, label, and create. For my literature course we will be exploring the power that words have to communicate ideas, both by reading and writing in response. 

This Thursday we began working through a thought-provoking story titled "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas." This plotless piece invites the reader to imagine the utopian society of Omelas, a place where people live in guiltless happiness. As the writer moves through the idyllic depiction of this world, she invites us to imagine for ourselves what the ideal city would look like were we there ourselves. Yet the story turns as she asks the question, "do you believe it? No? Then let me describe one more thing." What the author describes is a challenging depiction of what price must be paid to maintain such an ideal world. 

I can promise that our literature class will be challenging this semester. Our survey of literature will culminate in a 5-page paper at the end of the semester, tracing one theme throughout multiple works read for class. I'd encourage you to ask your child about what they've read: what themes have emerged, what questions do they have, how have they considered their own experiences in light of these stories?

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