Books To Read | 6VWO [3 lesson project]

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3 lessons:       

1 = general literature & Shakespeare

2 = Dickens & 20th century

3 = about the list of 5


List to choose a book from:

  1. Huxley | Brave New World
  2. Orwell | 1984
  3. Kesey | One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  4. Potok | The Chosen
  5. Walker | The Color Purple
  6. Malamud | The Assistant
  7. Ira Levin | The Boys from Brasil


1st lesson:


    1. What do you know about Shakespeare? Please list as much as possible.


    1. Think [individually], Pair [talk in groups]  and Share [speak in class].


    1. Discuss the results of 1 with the class.


  1. General Introduction: (Students make notes now) Elizabethan period...


Did you know that William Shakespeare:

    • lived from 1564 (we only know the date of baptising) till 1616?
    • Was born in Stratford on Avon?
    • Father John was a merchant and mother Mary daughter of a landowner?
    • He married at 18 in 1582 to Anne Hatheway who was 26?
    • 6 months later daughter Susanne was born? …
    • Two years later the couple had twins?
    • One of the twins died at the age of 11?
    • He went to London in 1585?
    • 1592 a first pamflet appeared with S’s name in it?
    • 1593 he publishes his first work, a poem called Venus and Adonis
    • 1594 he joins Lord Chamberlain’s men, he remains a member of this theatrical company during his whole career, only the name changed to The King’s Men when King James became the patron in 1603.
    • In 1612 he writes his last plays and then he retires.
    • 23 april 1616 he died in Stratford, where he was also buried.
    • In 1623 two of his collegues published his work, which wasn’t done really, nobody really collected and there was no copyright, but this action gives us a pretty good idea of what was really written by S, and what wasn’t.


Theatres / General:

The first started in inns and their courtyards. Options were limited, but they did what they could. With

Romeo and Julliet for instance they seperated the two groups by wearing different colours. Shakespeare

wrote in Blank Verse (iambic, 5 stresses in one line), in poetry so to speak, which is very difficult to do.

Nowadays people only write plays in prose.

            The renaissance started roundabout 1500. Writers use the old Greek features of drama again.

Serious subjects were being dealt with again. Shakespeare was born at exactly the right time, in a

fantastic cultural era. He wrote for all people to enjoy, which was unique, before it was only for the upper


            Theatres were built outside city walls so censureship didn’t count there. Authorities weren’t fond of

theatres, because the illiterate were being informed now, whereas you could keep them ignorant before.

Actors were shareholders in the theatres they performed in.

            Shakespeare provided his company with plays. A play ran for about 10 days, imagine the pressure

on playwrights! Relatively few have survived considering the amount of them that must have been

produced. Everyone stole from each other, cause the copyright hadn’t been invented yet.

            The success of a play was mostly measured by the number of corpses which were on the stage at

the end. The killings had to be original as well.

            S’s plays are so popular because people can identify with him. Feelings, thoughts, dilemmas, they

are all there.


[I guess you could compare S to a modern day “Joop van den Ende”, if you wanted to make a comparison.]


 Shakespeare wrote all types of plays:

    1. Historical: he borrowed tales from a history book (Holinshed) and wrote new plots to them. Examples

      are: Henry IV, V, and VI, Richard III. Under the heading of historical we could also classify the Roman plays:

      Anthony and Cleopatra, Julius Ceasar etc.


    1. Tragedies: Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and King Lear.


  1. Comedy: The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night.

Some plays are romantic and tragic at the same time: Romeo and Julliet. So the division into groups isn’t

always clear.


(Read aloud)

From:  ‘Macbeth’ (William Shakespeare)


Is this a dagger which I see before me,

The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.

I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.

Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible

To feeling as to sight? or art thou but

A dagger of the mind, a false creation,

Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?

I see thee yet, in form as palpable

As this which now I draw.

Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going;

And such an instrument I was to use.

Mine eyes are made the fools o’ the other senses,

Or else worth all the rest: I see thee still;

And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,

Which was not so before. There’s no such thing:

It is the bloody business which informs

Thus to mine eyes.


Second lesson: Dickens and 19th century.


Realism 19th century: Victorian period.

meaning truth to the observed facts of life (especially when they are gloomy). Subjects were to be taken

from everyday life, preferably from the lower classes.

1812-1870 Charles Dickens… charicatures, flat characters. He was the most important critic of social

conditions, industrialism which he knew from his own experience and human weaknesses, father was in

debt, whole family imprisoned. Worked himself to death from fear of poverty. Great story-teller. Recitals,

14 course dinners etc. Published in installments, therefore a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter in his



Insert more on Dickens ...


Third lesson: divide the students into groups, according to book, and let them talk about what’s important

to know about their books. Impact it had on society, themes, main characters, title explanation etc.


Some notes to use:


Brave New World (1937)

Huxley: theme in work: man’s role in society and to find the meaning of his perception.

Brave New World is a fable about a world state in de 7th century AF (After Ford), where social stability is

based on a scientific caste system. Bernard Marx is the main character in this world where the Alphas are

highest in order and the Epsilons are lowest. Children are made in incubators and are methodically

conditioned to accept their circumstances. Marx visits a Mexican reservation and brings a savage back to

London. He is at first fascinated with this new world, but finally revolted and his argument with the world

leader demonstrates the incompatibility of individual freedom and a scientifically trouble-free society.


This book was received as being decades ahead of its time.

Theme: 1 power ruling the world. And also the fact that people embraced this and wanted this. They are

being supressed as such, not with guns, but through the use of SOMA. It keeps them happy and content,

so that they accept their fate.


1984 - George Orwell (1948)

A nightmare story of totalitarianism of the future and one man’s hopeless struggle against it. Winston Smith has no heroic qualities only a longing for truth and decency. But where there is no privacy, and where deviant ideas result in death he knows there is no hope for him. His short love-affair results in arrest by the thought police and when, after months of torture and brain washing he is released, he finally surrenders.

            This book is a warning of the possibilities of the police state brought to perfection, where power is all that matters, where the past is changed to fit the present, where the language ‘Newspeak’ is diminished to narrow the range of ideas and independent thought. A society dominated by slogans- ‘War is peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strength’ – controlled by the compulsory worship of Big Brother.


  • Orwell warns against totalitarian regimes in 1984 and Animal Farm.
  • Compare our society to the one in the book. Is the monitoring the Party does thinkable?
    • What system do we know in real life that’s copied in this book? (Communism)
    • What saying has sprung from this book and is still being used? (Big Brother is Watching You)
    • Winston Smith commits crimes every day. How? (thought crimes, remembering another society before this one)
    • What’s his job? (History changer for the Party)
    • Everything is the other way around. The Ministery of Love is where you go for punishment and conditioning. O’Brien (who fed him and Julia information about the Brotherhood -against the Party- is actually a Party member and Winston and Julia are captured and conditioned.
    • When all else fails you are taken to Room 101 in which you must face your worst nightmare; in Winston’s case he is exposed to rats in a cage in the shape of his head and they threaten to remove the thing which keeps them away. He betrays Julia.
    • Two Minutes Hate?


One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Kesey (1962)

  • Angst voor vrouwen is een belangrijk thema. Zowel Broom als McM lijden daaronder. Nurse R en de directrice zijn vrouwen. Billy B lijdt nog steeds onder zijn moeder.
  • Machines en de rol die ze spelen in het boek.
  • Waar McM voor staat, symboliek in wie hij is.


The Chosen - Chaim Potok (1967)

  • Title = The Jews are the chosen people of God, and Danny is of course chosen by his father to become the next rabbi.
  • Theme = friendship
  • Theme = struggle between tradition of religion and knowledge (Danny wants to study psychology and is allowed to do so in the end)
  • What terrible discovery is important in the book? (Holocaust; the story takes place around the Second World War)


The Color Purple - Alice Walker

  • Who does Celie write the letters to? (first to God, later on to Nettie)
  • Time frame is about 40 years, beginning before cars, and ending when owning a car was nothing special.
  • Only way for Celie not to feel the pain or any emotions in her marriage to Mr is by imagining she’s wood, she tells herself: “I’m a tree”, so as to not feel the beatings.
  • Characterise Celie’s growth in the novel. (from ignorant, not knowing how to change her predicament she becomes aware of her own worth, there’s a slow awakening).
  • Who sets these changes in Celie about? (Shug Avery, who functions as a kind of God to Celie)
  • Difference with the film --> Shug finds one of Nettie’s letters and gives it to Celie, they then search in Albert’s trunk at night and remove all the letters, but leave the envelopes. (In the film the search is during Easter, when Grady and Albert are drunk).
  • When Celie tells Albert she’s leaving him, he tries to slap her in the face and she stabs a knife in his hand.
  • Shug doesn’t want Celie to accompany her on tour and Celie starts making trousers for everybody. She has her own business now.
  • When Celie has inherited the house (which was hers to begin with) and Shug is in love with a 19-year-old boy she moves into her own house.



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