Formal Literary Canon
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein is a very influential novel in many people's eyes, and makes readers think about what is truly important in life and how to handle unexpected situations. Dr. Frankenstein was obsessed with doing something that nobody else has ever done before, and he did just that, although it did not turn out quite as planned. A monster was created, and Dr. Frankenstein abandoned it. He messed with nature, and something bad happened because of that, which signifies the true meaning of Shelley witting this piece. This novel is an important read because it teaches readers about the importance of committing to what you start, and to not try to change nature and the way of life.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath is a novel that reflects the struggles and events that occurred in family life in the 1940s. During the time of the Dust Bowl, tens of thousands of Americans had to migrate to California to find a better life, and Steinbeck uses the brutal honesty of that time period to criticize the government and show the families reactions to it. This novel is important to read today because it teaches the reader about that historical period in our country and highlights the importance of family through the Joad's family. Ma Joad is a caring and selfless mother, and she acts as the "glue" for the family, and adapts to every situation thrown at them. Steinbeck uses her as a model for the readers to strive to be more like.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby was written in 1925 and is very culturally diverse and accurately represents the society and life of people during the 20's. The main character, Jay Gatsby, reencounters his teenage love, Daisy, but she is married when they meet again. Gatsby uses material things, such as parties, money, and clothes to try and win her love back, but Daisy is more interested in his heart and more sincere gifts. Fitzgerald uses Gatsby's materialistic attitude and view to portray to the reader what not to be like, since Gatsby dies in the end due to being misunderstood and not well-liked. This novel is important to read because it shows the society of that time period, and the greedy and selfish characters are mirrors of eachother, and they all serve as a model of what we should strive to not be like. Fitzgerald uses Nick, the sympathetic and kind character, as an example of what we should be; a person who does not care about money or material items.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
During his life, Shakespeare wrote many tragedies about death and self-conflict. In the play Hamlet, Prince Hamlet struggles throughout the piece with himself trying to decide what is right and wrong in his mind. Hamlet's struggles focus around his father's death, and his ghost coming back and demanding him to get revenge on his uncle, King Claudius. Although he knows he should do so for his father, his conscious steps in multiple times and makes him doubt what is right and wrong. Hamlet's contemplates over and over again whether he should kill Claudius or not, and this back and forth goes on throughout the whole play. Hamlet also contemplates life and death, and suicide multiple times, and is seen most clearly through his soliloquy "to be or not to be". This existentialism topic is very important and is a main lesson to be learned in this play. This play is important to read because is teaches about existentialism and how life and death is much bigger than ourselves.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Ralph Ellison's novel Invisible Man represents the meaning of duality and how it affects a person and their perspective on things. "The Brotherhood" deceives and tricks Invisible Man into being their "spy" and Invisible Man contemplates throughout the novel about his own identity and who he really is. He changes personality and thinking based on who he is around and the people that influence him. Multiple identities is a big theme in this novel, and how people are more than just "one thing". This novel is important to read because it is a clear representation of how people conform to society and not being able to be your own person.
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Like the tragic play by Shakespeare, Hamlet, Macbeth is a play that teaches about the greedy and selfish nature of humans and how this behavior affects people. The two main characters, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, are a couple hungry for power and fame. In order to achieve these goals, they begin killing anyone in their way to climb the ladder up to King and Queen. This play illustrates how actions can affect your fate, and the significance of earning your way to the "top". Lady Macbeth's guilt literally kills her in the end, which is part of the big lesson of this play. This play teaches about the true intentions of people, and how being greedy can control your life. Macbeth chose his fate when he chose to deceive everyone he knew and cheat his way to power, instead of being fair. Power corrupts people, and this play is an accurate representation of that.
Night by Elie Wiesel
The main character in Night, Eliezer, is a young boy whose family is sent to concentration camps during the time of the Holocaust. His family was split up after arriving to Auschwitz, and he and his father were separated from his mother and younger sister. He struggles throughout the novel with his true darker self, and his relationship and faith with God. He also contemplates his own self worth and whether he should sacrifice his life for his father's. His father dies at the camp, but he survives and returns home, but is haunted by the memories and images of everything he went through while in the camps. This novel reflects on the cruel and brutal effects that the Holocaust had on people and how they change different people as a person.
1984 by George Orwell
Orwell uses many realistic and relatable events to illustrate a corrupt and self-absorbed society and government. Throughout the novel, the main character, Winston, is disagreeing and trying to overthrow the main power, "Big Brother". Many companies and newspapers in today's society use the famous line "BIg Brother is watching you" to refer to the government and how they know every move and thought you have. In the novel, Winston rebels against the government and tries to get all of the poorer, less important people, the Proles, to help him rebel. This novel is important because it shows the true colors and attitude of the government, and how they can control more than we can imagine. WInston tries to be the better person and overthrow the party, but is unsuccessful in the end.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice is a novel that exhibits the society during the early 1800's in England, and the greedy and fame absorbed people that lived there. The main character struggles with if she wants to make herself happy and marry the man of her dreams, or if she wants to do as her mother says and marry who they chose for her. The satire about society and people in this novel brings out the humor and truth about this time period in history. This novel is important to read because it depicts the corrupt and materialistic society and how controlling people can be over your life decisions.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter has many themes that occur in other novels, the major one being feminism and women's roles in society. The main character, Hester, is publicly humiliated because of her mistake of adultery, and is mocked by having to wear the letter "A" on her clothing so everyone will know of her sin. This novel mocks feminism because she was punished so heavily for her crime, but if it was a man, his secret would have been covered up by everyone to protect his reputation. This also goes back to hypocrisy and how women were treated so differently and unfairly. Hawthorne's novel is so important for people to read because it teaches about the treatment of women in the 17th century.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a novel that reflects the racist society, judgment, and and morals. One of the main characters, Tom Robinson, was a black man wrongly accused of raping a young girl, and a white lawyer, Atticus FInch defends him. Atticus' family was looked down upon throughout the novel for their father defending a black man. This novel teaches about the importance of doing the right thing instead of always trying to protect your own reputation and name, no matter how the outcome comes out. Racism was very prominent during this time in history, and his novel captures how important race was to people.