Another Day in Paradise

I love being a literature teacher most days. But this was not one of those days though. The syllabus said my students are to write a comparative essay on the thematic contents of a short story by Pearl S. Buck [The Frill] and another by Ray Bradbury [All Summer in a Day]. Both are typical contemporary writers; hence, the fixation on human suffering and the tragedy of the common man, as well as the propensity to obliquely vilify plutocrats. And we must not forget: this is an era where, except for soaps and romance novels which are not, strictly speaking, literary, poetic justice is considered contrived and happy endings superfluous. Alright, that sounded bitter but I admit, I still have a romantic bone left in my body [in fact, I have an A in Reverend Alfeo Nudas, SJ’s Romantic Movement class]. So go ahead, sue me. But really, this was one of those days when I’d wish to God everyone in this world would, for ten minutes, stop whatever it is they are doing and sit down and read and reflect on, these godawful masterpieces so that once and for all, we can break free from this ignorance otherwise known as prejudice, from this existential death called apathy, from this estrangement with our human-ness. And even if we couldnt have equality in wealth, we could at least be equally sentient and sensitive to each others’ plights. Well anyways, I know its not gonna happen, so, so much for my idealism [it’s an occupational hazard you understand].  So there I sat worrying over my students worrying over how to formulate a thesis statement. I had held my breath as Ms Pretty in Pink raised a pink finger to confirm whether life is indeed possible in other planets. Ms. Smartass, coming to my rescue, snickered and advised her to go find out. This spiteful exchange broke the ice though and I was more than glad to smile gratefully at Ms. Pink, for her Saturnian concern had triggered a flow of inquiries that probably made the task easier for the others. As the bell rang however, I resigned myself to the inevitable. Judging from those questions, I knew only a handful of those young people would take those stories seriously. Within the specialization-manic tertiary level curricula, literature is merely, tragically, a “minor” subject–a necesarry evil, a means to an end–thus, more often than not, the significant human experience it embodies lies unnoticed or forgotten between two thick references in Microbiology and Highway Engineering.

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