Listing of my other half of Top ten classic literature. Click here to check out the former list if you haven’t already.
Here we go..
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
By Jane Austen.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
Austen’s place in the English literary canon has remained solid since F.R. Leavis in his influential book ‘The Great Tradition’ listed her as one of the greatest English novelists. For the average reader, Austen may seem the epitome of pretentious snobbery and an unfortunate reminder of sweaty school days spent stuck indoors, but approaching her work with a fresh perspective is key to understanding her subtle (but masterful) craft. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is one of those novels that everybody has heard of, probably due to the copious televised adaptations or academic study: but is it worth the hype? My answer is: yes! The novel is complete in every sense of the word: boasting incredibly flexible characterization (from the critical and vivacious Elizabeth Bennet to the ironically ill-mannered and supercilious Lady Catherine de Bourgh), Austen weaves a biting social commentary and an innovative appropriation of the ‘romance’ genre. Readers approaching the text after watching the popular ITV adaptation starring Keira Knightley should be careful not to reduce the novel to a simple love story, for its merit lies in the complex web of relationships between the characters that Austen subtly manipulates. One might think one knows a character, but Austen’s skillas a writer is revealed (amongst other ways) in her narrative control: if you think you know Darcy, think again! From the ballroom of Rosings Park to the living room of the Bennett household, perspectives clash to reveal the unreliability of Elizabeth’s perception and the duplicity of middle-class society. The inexperienced reader may at first struggle with Austen’s wordy prose, but a careful reading will reveal Austen’s equally careful writing as the witty dialogue and careful juxtaposition of scenes will keep you entertained and laughing until the very end. It really is worth dedicating your time to one of England’s most loved novels, and readers that do will be thoroughly rewarded by Austen’s witty, biting and humorous social satire.
By Bram Stoker.
“Once again… welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring.”
With those words, Count Dracula has been welcoming readers into his castle in Transylvania for over 100 years now. Dracula was not the first vampire in literature, but he is easily the most important. The count has flown like a bat out of Bram Stoker’s classic novel and into our cultural imagination. The vampires of today’s fantasy fiction all owe something to the dark count.
Dracula isn’t a book, not anymore. Dracula is a name, a broad stereotyping of a character which encompasses many different components and interpretations of our favourite Count. Having been a fan of the concept of vampires for some time, earlier this year I was intrigued to return to the beginning of the vampire genre when I first picked up this book.
The novel is a fascinating entity, not least because of the differences from the modern perception of it. For example, there is the fact that the Count himself isn’t hurt by sunlight, a concept which was only introduced in the silent film Nosferatu many years later. This fact is indicative of a problem which arises for any modern reader of Stoker’s novel, namely, we’re modern and so have a lot of pop culture baggage to contend with whenever we try to get drawn into the novel.
On a side note, it is curious how many gothic stories use this framing device. Frankenstein begins with letters and James Hogg’s Confessions of A Justified Sinner is told in a rather meta-fictional way via another such device, but that is beside the point. Dracula’s device of letters really enables you to understand and sympathise with the characters and see their true thoughts as they try to defeat Dracula. The book plays with this format telling the story in telegrams and diary entries printed in newspapers which are then cut out as newspaper clippings as well as straight journal entries.
The main characters are all very well portrayed, each with a separate personality, quirks and role to play in the story. The story itself is heartbreaking, full of the emotion of the characters as they deal with life, death and love, this is beautifully realised. Dracula touches on many themes, savagery, love, religion, technology and xenophobia to name just a few. It leaves you thinking upon it for a long time afterwards and is required reading for any fan of horror or vampires. Dracula is to vampire novels as A Study in Scarlet is to detective novels: one of the first, greatest and the story which introduced the character for those genres.
The style is fantastic, It feels almost like you are reading a study guide at university. The story is original and the characters are a bit different but that may just be because this story was written in the 1890’s, but they are well developed and you do get to see a different side of them through their journal entries. Great book, one that everyone should take the time to read.
PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
By Oscar Wilde.
What of Art?
-It is a malady.
-The fashionable substitute for Belief.
–You are a sceptic.
-Never! Scepticism is the beginning of Faith.
–What are you?
-To define is to limit.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a wonderfully entertaining parable of the aesthetic ideal (art for art’s sake), and a sneak preview of the brilliance exhibited in plays such as The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere’s Fan. What began as an outré, decadent novella, now seems more like an arresting, and slightly camp, exercise in late-Victorian gothic, than the depraved fiction alleged by his outraged critics.
Dorian Gray is a good example of a novel that is great not only because of itself but because it has become embedded in both culture and consciousness. Great novels aren’t necessarily only those with great writing, plotting and construction but which come to speak to us and for us.
It’s a fascinating book. Society, as well as the individual, stands condemned in this book. It is a classic tale of the corruption of the innocent by the forces around him/her. We can feel Dorian being dragged down and we watch his descent with all the more horror because each degradation, up until the murder, is almost imperceptible. It is the refutation of the idea of original sin and a rationalist manifesto of personal and societal responsibility.
Dorian Gray is the impossibly beautiful young man who becomes the subject of a portrait by the fashionable society painter, Basil Hallward. When the artist, who has become infatuated with his model, introduces the “young Adonis” to Lord Henry Wotton, he is rapidly seduced by the peer’s witty and corrupting devotion to fin-de-siècle hedonism, some of it inspired by Wilde’s own experience.
Some of the prose is over-wrought, a right royal shade of purple, and there are times when one thinks that Dorian should have a well-stamped passport after crossing the border into melodrama so frequently. But for all that, it is a remarkably powerful tale, deserving of its place in my list.
By Daniel Defoe.
I have since often observed, how incongruous and irrational the common temper of mankind is, especially of youth … that they are not ashamed to sin, and yet are ashamed to repent; not ashamed of the action for which they ought justly to be esteemed fools, but are ashamed of the returning, which only can make them be esteemed wise men.
Robinson Crusoe has three elements that make it irresistible. First, the narrative voice of the castaway is Defoe’s stroke of genius. It’s exciting, unhurried, conversational and capable of high and low sentiments. It’s also often quasi-journalistic, which suits Defoe’s style. This harmonious mix of tone puts the reader deep into the mind of the castaway and his predicament. His adventures become our adventures and we experience them inside out, viscerally, for ourselves. Readers often become especially entranced by Crusoe’s great journal, the central passage of his enforced sequestration. Friday and his famous footstep in the sand, one of the four great moments in English fiction, according to Robert Louis Stevenson; Crusoe with his parrot and his umbrella: these have become part of English myth. Defoe, like Cervantes, also opts to give his protagonist a sidekick. Friday is to Crusoe what Sancho Panza is to Quixote. Doubles in English literature will regularly recur in this list: Jekyll and Hyde, Holmes and Watson, Jeeves and Wooster. In storytelling term this is pure gold.
Robinson Crusoe is an adventure novel that is enormously popular particularly among young readers. The parts of the story dealing with ship wreckage, mutiny, pirates and cannibals will surely fascinate the young and old alike. The book tells you a great deal of loneliness and how a man survives on an island with no human inhabitants. The major part of the book shows us how Robinson copes with hardship and overcomes his shortcomings thereby leaning to appreciate his strange life. The original book is a little difficult to read with its rich complex sentence structure; other than that it is a pleasant novel.
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
By Alexandre Dumas.
Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you
The Count of Monte Cristo is an intriguing adventure novel. It is also a story about jealousy, betrayal, endurance, revenge and hope. The story gets us hooked as we come to know Dantes’s ultimate plan and keeps us wondering how exactly he will get justice. Each and every character of the book is well described and captures the attention of the reader. The introduction of some characters in the beginning of the story might seem unimportant, but as we read on, we find they are integral to the plot. The story ends with the moral that good always triumphs over evil.A plot consisting of fourteen years of long imprisonment, a miraculous escape from the prison and the carefully planned revenge makes this novel a well crafted work .An enjoyable read for children and adults alike.
Despite its plethora of plot strands, places, and characters, and its layers of detail, rendered with a miniaturist’s anxious exactitude, The Count of Monte Cristo remains compulsively readable. In part, this is because of its unrestrained richness – it’s full of emeralds hollowed into pillboxes, diamond-bedecked horses, picturesque bandits and letters of unlimited credit. I also love its memorable, melodramatic crises, like the moment when Mercédès bursts through the polite fictions surrounding “the Count” to utter her despairing, agonised plea: “Edmond, you will not kill my son?”.
It’s about a prison break” Tim Robbins said in the film Shawshank Redemption, or was it Andy Dufresne words written by Stephen King? Well it is much more than that. Revenge is something human that is in all of us whom been harmed in the past. However, non of us would have come up with such plan that Edmond Dantes does in this novel. Alexandre Dumas created something that is pure joy to read. Humanity in its essence. This novel has everything including Napoleon Bonaparte. It is a must read.
That concludes my list.
These ten are my ultimate favourites but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the other ones. The love for classic literature runs in my family and I have thisbeautiful collection of literatures which includes Jane Austen seven novels, Charles Dickens, Bronte sisters, Jules Verne, Grimm’s fairy tales, Arabian nights and Hans Christian Andersens fairy tales( The little mermaid story is so heart breaking in this one but I love Disney version of Cinderella more). It’s my escape from the real world.
So what are your top ten and what is your no. 1 and if you could change or replace only one of them what would be that or anything about classic literature It is my favourite topic of conversation let me know in the comment section below
We can chat on