From 1941 to 1945 America was engaged in a war perceived to be right and just by most Americans. World War II was an all-out effort to preserve the American way of life, a concept which had a widely varying definition. Those people not directly involved in combat inhabited a mythical land, the homefront. They were caught up in a period of dramatic transformation and transition: as a nation, they were emerging from the Great Depression into an era of prosperity; confronting the inconvenience and frustration of rationing and shortages; moving restlessly from coast to coast, job to job; unknowingly laying the groundwork for changes in sex roles which would have profound effects in the future; coping with loneliness and loss; denying the civil rights of a large number of American citizens The war years were a time of transformation, transition, upheaval, and confrontation with authority.
My students, too, are at a transitional point in their lives High school lies ahead of them; the trappings of childhood are dropping away. My eighth graders are attempting to define themselves, find truth and logic in the world, challenge authority and, above all, determine what is right and just. This search is not an easy one for them. It is as if eighth graders are at war with themselves, their parents, and their teachers. They are attempting to confront and to come to terms with themselves, to find peace. This is a search for self and peace and is accompanied by questions and doubts that make their way into the classroom. Too often, I feel that I teach and my students learn in a vacuum. Literature can help my students answer their questions and confront their doubts. Learning will be of value to my students if they are able to connect with the topic under study. Increased self-knowledge and self-awareness are vital parts of this unit of
Although the study of World War II will provide us with a context for discussion, the primary focus will be on how these situations apply to my students. I have made conscious connections between literature and history in this unit, so that we will be able to move beyond the surface of our reading. This unit is designed to accomplish the following:
1. a greater understanding of a historical period, made up of
a. how the changes which took place have ramifications today, for we’ll study events no longer accessible to our observation, balancing them against our current knowledge;
b. how the time period affects the characters in the book under study and the connections my students can make with those characters;
2. an enriched reading experience. Themes in the books we’ll read and discuss will be related constantly to the lives of my students. Emphasis will be on the teenagers’ relation to authority. Linkages among the books will be discussed; and
3. knowledge and understanding of references to wartime measures.
In this unit, I will focus on the teaching of two novels,
, and an autobiographical memoir,
. The stories take place on the American homefront during the early stages of World War II, and are examples of well-written stories with excellent characterization. Because their plots, center on teenaged protagonists confronting selves and authority, I believe these books will hold student interest. Because their actions will raise moral issues, I hope they will contribute to my students’ self-awareness.
My research will provide the background information which will give my students a sense of historical detail. The information will be given in lecture-form preceding our reading and discussion of the books and will be referred to when appropriate during our reading. I will reproduce non-fiction articles about life on the homefront appearing in newspapers and popular magazines of the period which we will read and discuss. If time permits, I will include several short stories in the teaching of the unit.
will also explore the points of relevance and contact among the books under study. These linkages range from the obvious to the subtle. The main focus is on the difficulties faced by the teenaged protagonists in order to set up a connection between adolescence and war.