The following article is a guest post.
In 2011 the renowned eye wear brand Oliver Peoples paid homage to the 50 year anniversary of Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Oliver Peoples Prescription Glasses introduced a brand new model to its collection, inspired by Hollywood actor Gregory Peck and his starring role of Atticus Finch in the film adaptation of the book. Featuring an exaggerated keyhole bridge and horizontal plaques on the glasses frame front and temples, the model has a classic P3 lens shape. The model was based on the exact pair of glasses that Peck wore in the film.
Oliver Peoples’ decision to pay tribute to the literary classic was partly due to their grassroots and influences. Right from their earliest days the eyewear brand took inspiration from various American cultural references including films, music and books.
For the lovers of literature Oliver Peoples Gregory Peck model was certainly met with approval, as Harper Lee’s timeless tale of innocence and injustice is an important part of America’s literary history.
But what the other famous American titles do we all recognise?
John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men documents the daily struggles of Lennie and George as they work to realise their hopes, dreams and ambitions of owning their own ranch. Working as farm hands they struggle with obstacles, lack of family, cruelty, self-doubt and loneliness. Steinbeck centres the novel on the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression that followed. During this time there was a lack of steady jobs and workers were forced to travel from town to town working in short-term employment. Steinbeck perfectly encapsulates the way in which the Great Depression changed the landscape and way of life, by telling the story of the common man.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is perhaps one of the greatest documentations of 1920’s America. ‘The roaring 20’s’ was a time of extravagance, greed and materialism. On the surface, the novel appears to tell the tale of distorted love between a young, reckless gentleman and the women that he so badly desires. However, Fitzgerald is actually describing the demise of the American Dream, which had been blemished by decayed social morals and an endless need for material possessions.
Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Set in the Deep South, Twain explores the end of the Civil War and the struggle to abolish racism and slavery. In the novel we meet the protagonist Huckleberry Finn a lower class, uneducated boy from St. Petersburg. Forced to grow up quickly by his drunken father, Huck has formulated his own unique view of the world around him. When his adventures lead him to Jim, a runaway slave who is hoping to escape to Ohio to buy his family’s freedom, Huck questions the so-called ‘civilised’ society that surrounds him.
J. D Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye tells a story of a young man named Holden Caulfield. Holden is a rebellious sixteen year old who moves from prep school to prep school, failing each time. He struggles with the idea of conforming and is terrified by adulthood. Instead of admitting to his uncertainty and fear he chooses to alienate himself under a blanket of cynicism and trouble ensues. Littered with profanities and taboo it was met with controversy. It was thought by many that Salinger aimed to capture the cultural revolt that was occurring in 1950’s America. The industrial revolution had allowed people to prosper but had also bought with it many social rules that stifled the younger generation. Young people felt that they were having to restrict their own personalities, live by the rules and conform.
George Orwell, 1984
Portraying a totalitarian society, George Orwell paints an extreme picture of what a modern-day government may enforce if they had absolute power. Orwell imagined a rule that enforced psychological manipulation, physical abuse and tightened control on every aspect of life. Orwell’s novel was most certainly influenced by leaders such as Hitler and Stalin, however it was America’s approach to communism that inspired him to write 1984. In 1949, before the Cold War had come to a head, many Americans seemed to support the idea of communism, with many media outlets elevating the Soviet Union as a great moral experiment. This terrified Orwell, so he wrote 1984 in order to depict the near future if communism and totalitarian governments remained unchallenged.
There are so many classic literary texts that document American culture and history. Unfortunately, for the rest of these well-known titles, they didn’t provide Oliver Peoples with an iconic intellectuals who could really pull off a pair of Oliver Peoples Sunglasses or even normal glasses.