“You should also read some of the other major novels that are mentioned… such as Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter, Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Chopin’s The Awakening.” ~CollegeBoard 2012 Official CLEP Study Guide~
These are the three books that appear most often on the American Lit CLEP. Questions involving their characters, settings, and influence in the culture abound on this test. But just what is this literature? This is the “cream of the crop” ? This is as good as it gets?
Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter
What every good book should be. An unfaithful wife, an adulterous pastor, an ending full of shame and bitterness. That and the Puritans are made to all look like adulterous men and women who mock others. Great story. This is a “classic” that appears on EVERY practice test at least once.
Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
This is a book that the libraries banned because of foul language. And other commentators complained that it was coarse and racist. Schools today still ban and restore it through the years.
As if that weren’t enough, there is Mark Twin himself. His view of Christianity alone is enough to make you get rid of all your Twain writings. He didn’t believe in the Bible, or the goodness of God. He didn’t believe that Jesus would be a Christian. He wrote novels that ridiculed Christianity. I could go on and on. Here is a quote from his autobiography that says more than I can:
“There is one notable thing about our Christianity: bad, bloody, merciless, money-grabbing, and predatory as it is–in our country particularly and in all other Christian countries in a somewhat modified degree–it is still a hundred times better than the Christianity of the Bible, with its prodigious crime–the invention of Hell. Measured by our Christianity of to-day, bad as it is, hypocritical as it is, empty and hollow as it is, neither the Deity nor his Son is a Christian, nor qualified for that moderately high place. Ours is a terrible religion. The fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilled.”
Again, a “classic” that is tested continually.
Chopin’s The Awakening
No, I have not read this. I would not be allowed too. But here is what I have gathered.
Again, another banned book and author (is that the qualification for an American classic?). This book was banned across the country and the author was banned from her local meetings. This tells the story of a young wife and mother who finds she just wasn’t made to mother. She doesn’t miss her children, in fact she finds their absence over the summer a relief. She begins to search for herself as a human being in the universe. (weird, right?) Her self righteous wanderings take her to a life of adultery and immoral relationships.
Once she has given up everything in her life to find herself, she, ironically, finds there is nothing to live for. So, she does what every wonderful woman in a great American classic does… she walks into the ocean and kills herself.
Okay, now that’s a book every college student needs to read? Why?
One of two things has happened here:
- The people who write the books and decide the classics are totally ignoring other, good, American Literature. Which is sad.
- There is nothing better than this that has been written by Americans. Which isn’t sad, it’s embarrassing.
This is a college test. Why are we testing books like this? Books that are routinely banned for immorality, language, and cultural comments? Every young man and woman in a traditional college taking a American Literature exam needs to have read The Awakening? Again, why?Re