All tagged Tracy Chevalier

Teaching the Classics: The Scarlet Letter


Note: This is the first in an ongoing series from Sandra, retired high school English teacher and current substitute teacher in the same subject area, discussing the classic novels she taught, their relevance to today's teens and pairings with contemporary fiction.  

I taught high school literature for twenty-six years, many of the same books year after year. You’d think they would become ho-hum with a huge yawn after a few years. 

No so. 

There’s always something new and fresh that first-time readers bring to a text so it stands the test of time—meaning they relate to the characters and situations regardless of era or setting. Some books are simply universal. The Scarlet Letter, which I've written about previously, stands out for the fresh perspectives my students would bring to them each time I taught these books.

It’s all about making connections and drawing parallels.

I recall one student gingerly holding a copy of The Scarlet Letter between her thumb and index finger. The expression on her face was somewhere between horror and admiration as I shared that I had taught, and therefore read, this book every single year.

“What? You’ve actually read this at least twenty times? That’s that’s—I don’t know what is is,” my student said.

Read the rest--> 

Review: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

...she held out a hand toward Honor. A small, ambiguous gesture, it still had the power to untwist Honor's stomach, for it said: I am running away. Help me. She and the woman were now linked by that gesture.

In Tracy Chevalier's The Last Runaway, Honor Bright, a fresh new arrival and Quaker from England, stepped upon America's shores carrying within her an idealism bred from years of an upbringing that taught her that,

“...everyone has a measure of Light in them and though the amount can vary, all must try to live up to their measure.”

Honor feels feels bound by her morality and what she believes are universal truths to take a stand, which ultimately requires she follow her heart. Her heart would lead her to take a road less taken, to defy her husband's wishes and the law of her newly-adopted country.

Robert Frost put into words the dilemma that played upon Honor's sense of right. She looked upon the horrors of slavery that opened before her and knew she must choose. Two roads lie before her and one she must trod upon.

Honor's first less travelled road was prompted by her decision to accompany her sister to America where her sister planned to marry and settle in Ohio with her betrothed and settling into life as a farmer's wife. This road for Honor began as a roiling and wretched seasickness lasting the entire trip across the grey sea. The experience left a  horrible memory for Honor. She determined sea travel was not an adventure she would elect to again experience, so staying in America was to be her fate.

Upon arriving in their new county, Honor's sister succumbs to illness and dies before seeing the man she intended to marry. Honor continues the trip to Ohio alone where she temporarily stays with her sister's intended spouse.

In England, morality was familiar and ordered, righteousness a way of life--in America, the lines blurred.