Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Studying Dickens in High School

I know there are those who absolutely detest reading Dickens. And even though I am a certified bibliophile, I completely understand. Dickens has a style that can be confusing and offsetting especially to those new to classic literature and especially Dickens. On the other hand, his use of language can be absolutely beautiful.

As I planned my oldest son's high school literature course of study, I knew I wanted him to read a Dickens besides A Christmas Carol (that one he can practically quote by memory). Before 9th grade, I wrote down, David Copperfield and Great Expectations as possibilities to be included into one of his years of literature. My son (like his mama) is a writer of fiction. And I told him you have to read the greats if you really want to be a good writer. Dickens is one of those greats. What I love about Dickens is his characters. If you want to learn how to write characters, you have to study Dickens. Thankfully, my son actually enjoys watching Dickens period drama films. We've viewed many of them and so the next step is to read of few them in their entirety.

As I am now planning this coming year and we are doing World History, I decided we will do a World Literature course as well. This is a good time to add in Dickens. I went back to the two possible book choices I chose a couple years ago and I began to research which one would be a good fit for my dyslexic boy. Ultimately, I chose a title that I hadn't considered before but which is often taught in high schools around the country. A Tale of Two Cities. 

Why is A Tale of Two Cities usually chosen above others. Well, to begin with it is less complicated in story and in character and it's shorter. It's also a great way to get into a study of the French Revolution and not focus on just the facts but on the people and how it all came about. His French history coming from Thomas Carlyle. It is much more serious than the bulk of Dickens work, but it will definitely incite lots of great discussion. We'll also be viewing the 1989 miniseries as we go along.

Will we eventually get to David Copperfield and Great Expectations? I certainly hope so. There are great characters in there that he needs to study and will enjoy the journey of doing so.