After yesterday's riff on my love of the sea, I decided I couldn't dedicate a whole post to tea, as much as I wanted to :) Instead, I'm going to say something very simple, very quickly and feck off to have some tea, which seems a reasonable compromise!
In the first few years of secondary school, we learned a lot about themes in books. The theme of To Kill A Mockingbird is racism and society. The theme of Of Mice and Men is violence and cruelty.
I don't buy that. I think Mockingbird is about a family facing a fight for their principles, and Of Mice and Men is about two guys who want to buy a farm. I'm with Stephen King - I think the story has to come first. It's the story we remember. We feel for Tom Robinson because we remember Jem walking up to his father in tears saying 'It ain't right, Atticus.' And because we remember Tom stopping to help Mayella Ewell. And Tom's community covering Atticus's back step with food, and how Atticus had to fight to stop the tears.
And when I think of Of Mice and Men, I do think of bleakness and cruelty, but I think of scenes - how there is simply no place for Lenny, how George never leaves him although he must have wanted to.
Good books can educate and enlighten. But they'll only stick in the mind if they're good. If there's no story, no characters, no technique, nothing to love, we're not going to get the message.