Depressing Topics in English Class Have Benefits

Ashlyn Hoffmann, Staff Writer

When we were younger, the English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum sheltered us from sensitive topics such as genocide and suicide. Now that we are in high school, the novels chosen to be read in ELA tend to touch on depressing and gruesome topics. Some will say that these novels should be avoided, but novels with sensitive topics have significant benefit to high schoolers’ growth and should continue to be taught.

Depressing novels aren’t only important in the ELA curriculum, but also in everyday life. In the article, Why We Should Read Sad Books, Christi Williams mentions many reasons why depressing books are good for us with one of them being about how these novels prepare the readers for the struggles of the real world. 

Williams said, “sad books take us through hardship and suffering in stories before we have to go through them in real life. They give us emotional practice for future grief.” 

Not only does this reasoning explain why these novels have benefits, but it also helps explain why they should be read in high school. Life is filled with tragedy and although it is best to shelter young children from it, high schoolers are only a few years away from adulthood. By being able to grieve with characters, we emotionally prepare ourselves to accept the pains of life before we experience them. 

People argue that these depressing and gruesome novels cause depression, but they’ve been shown to cure it. Most high schoolers are going through or have gone through tough situations such as hard home life, friend issues and mental illness. Embarrassment has prevented many of them from speaking up, thus causing them to think they’re alone. In reading about people in the same situation, teenagers realize they aren’t alone. Melissa Gouty talked about this in her article, Why Reading Sad Books is a Good Thing

She said that the purpose of depressing books is, “to find that we are not alone. None of us have perfect lives. … in reading, you discover stories of those with the same issue.” 

This is a message that many high school students need, thus making these books a crucial part of the curriculum. ELA teacher, Meekah Hopkins talked about her viewpoint on depressing and gruesome novels in the ELA curriculum. 

She said, “Reading stories helps us understand the world better. The world is not just triumph, but tragedy. It’s in the complexity of the two that we are able to come to terms with what it means to be human.” 

She explains how reading about our dark reality, we get the chance to make the world a better place. If we only learned the good in the world, we wouldn’t get the chance to develop opinions or experience every part of life. 

Although people argue differently, depressing and gruesome novels have an important place in the ELA curriculum and are necessary for development as high school students transition from childhood into adulthood.