Throughout your life, society has affected your actions, thoughts, and attitudes towards others. From the prehistoric ages to modern day, societal norms have changed greatly for the worst for the better. Society is still always shifting and changing everyday. With the help of social commentary in the form of essays and novels, the issues with society can be pinpointed and fixed. Social commentary is extremely important and reveals several perspectives and informs readers about the problems that are not always out in the open. The writings are often mind opening and force the reader to critically think about their way of life. Books about society are important to read and you will learn a lot from them. Here are some interesting books that comment on society throughout the ages. Whether you are looking to learn more about social issues or just want a great book to read, here are five books you should check out.
Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice, a novel by Jane Austen, it is set in Longbourn, England around 1797-1815. It was important at this time in history for women to be married before they reached a certain age. At the time marriage was usually for economic stability rather than love. Mrs. Bennet, the mother of the five Bennet daughters, creates schemes and plans to marry off her daughters as quickly as possible since none of them will inherit any of family’s property. In addition to marriage, reputation was extremely important to maintain. One wrong action could taint a whole family. There were so many rules that men and women had to follow in order to avoid ostracism. Social class differences were also very apparent. This novel is wonderfully written and full of wit. Austen creates complex characters and develops them with skill.
Flowers for Algernon
Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes, is a novel following the life of Charlie Gordon after he is given an experimental surgery. Charlie is a mentally disabled man who receives surgery to boost his intelligence. The novel is his journal that he writes in to document the effects of the surgery. Charlie begins to learn the truth about his life and is able to view the world in a different way than he did before. This novel brings light to the cruel actions and attitudes that people often have towards the mentally disabled. Charlie’s coworkers are horrible to Charlie and treat him badly. Others are very condescending towards him and treat him like he is less than them. Keyes brings to light the fact that sometimes the mentally disabled are not treated like humans.
For those who appreciate clever satire and historical events, this is the book for you. Candide, by Voltaire, follows the misadventures of Candide after he is kicked out of his home. He travels to many countries and witnesses everything from the utopia that is Eldorado to the executions of heretics during the Inquisition. In this novel, Voltaire pokes fun of the optimistic philosophy of Enlightenment thinkers through the character, Pangloss. Pangloss witnesses horrific events and experiences many himself; however, he still maintains the idea that everything is for the best. His optimism is a major character flaw and prevents him from seeing reality. Voltaire also satirizes the religious institution and the hypocrisy during the Inquisition. Many more historical ideas and events are mocked in a very entertaining way.
Brave New World
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, is a novel about a dystopian society set in London where the government controls every aspect of life. Humans are mass produced and a rigid caste system is put into place. Certain traits are conditioned at birth, like to hate books and flowers and everyone is taught societal rules through hypnopaedic teachings (basically sleep-learning) at a young age. Emotions are removed from society to ensure stability and bad feelings can be cured with some soma, a drug used to rid people of negative emotions. Basically everyone should be happy all the time. Brave New World warns readers of the danger of a consumer society. The people in this dystopian society are conditioned to give in to immediate satisfaction and desires. They get what they want when they want it. The danger of conformity is also highlighted. No one thinks critically about the actions of the government and nothing is questioned.
To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, is a classic that is read by almost every high school student in America. Scout Finch lives in Maycomb, Alabama and the book takes place between 1933-1935. Her father, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer who defends a black man named Tom Robinson after he is accused of raping a white woman. The novel shows the racism commonly present at the time towards African Americans. The Finch family faces abuse from the racist community of Maycomb after Atticus agrees to defend Tom. Tom faces violent threats from the community and experiences life threatening situations. The importance of tolerance and the injustices African Americans faced at the time are revealed. Prejudice is dangerous and leads to ignorance.