Formal Literary Canon

By Zoe King

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is a book of literary merit because it discusses themes typical to the time period of the 1920s right before the great depression. This book shows readers the happy-go-lucky mood of many people in the 20s, and gives insight into the world of the wealthy upper class. F. Scott Fitzgerald teaches readers that wealth can't make a person happy, as Nick watched while Daisy and Gatsby toiled with their storming inner emotions, something that money cannot help.
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To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird discusses the ever-relevant topic of racial discrimination, specifically in the 60s. Harper Lee writes about an African American man convicted of a crime he has not done. By telling the story through Scout's eyes, we see how others responded to racism during the 1960s. This book teaches an important lesson and has for many generations. The presence of Boo Radley throughout the book also teaches people not to judge on a different level than that of racism, showing on a larger scale how people should not judge each other on appearance of rumors they may have heard about them.
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1984

In 1984, George Orwell writes about the oppression of an overpowered government. Though written in the late 1940s, this topic has become widely discussed and relevant, especially in modern times. Many have suspicion that their government is spying on them, much like Winston in 1984. This book also serves as a warning to people to not trust their government and to always have suspicions, if not be a little paranoid to stay safe. Winston gets too comfortable in his position and trusts too much in O'Brien, ending up in the end of his free thought and will.
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Lord of the Flies

William Golding's Lord of the Flies shows the true nature of humans and war. By making all the main characters children, this story has an even darker and resounding meaning. Golding intended to exemplify how the natural instincts of humans are animalistic, and to show that war is all we really know how to do. This topic has become very relevant in just the past decade or so in the world.
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Frankenstein

Frankenstein teaches readers a very important lesson about not interfering with nature or trying to play god. Shelley shows us how Frankenstein's world crumbles after he brings his own creation to life, breaking the laws of nature by pretending to be god of his own world. I think it is important to realize that messing with the true order of things is bound to end in tragedy, as it did for Frankenstein. This story teaches readers the true value of honesty and nature and how our choices can affect the people around us.
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Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing is a unique love story. The characters start off almost hating each other, bickering at every turn. Shakespeare shows how true love can overcome previous feelings in a comedic manner. By making this play entertaining, it captivates readers and makes it more relatable for readers, making it something that can be referred to in today's culture.
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The Odyssey

The Odyssey is important because it teaches readers about Greek culture, which is still relevant in our time. It is important to learn about the world's history, and how people wrote and what they valued in the past. This story teaches readers about all these things.
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Pride and Predjudice

Pride and Prejudice may seem like just a love story, but it actually discusses topics heavier than just that. The main character, Elizabeth, is not willing to sacrifice her values to marry someone just to benefit her family. This brings up the controversial topic of women's rights, something very relevant in modern times.
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The Crucible

The Crucible teaches a lesson through the Salem witch trials. It teaches how we shouldn't believe just what we are told and should investigate further. The story shows how just going off one person's word can cause dire consequences for a number of people. The story also teaches about a vital part in the world's history, explaining the Salem witch trials through the accounts of characters living through it.
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Hamlet

Hamlet brings up the topic of existentialism with the famous question, "to be or not to be?" Hamlet puzzles over whether life is worth living or if he should just cease to live at all. Existentialism is very present in today's time and it is important to understand, making this an important work to have knowledge of. The play also teaches readers not to hesitate, as Hamlet did this nearly the entire play as he avoided avenging his father by killing Claudius until he was almost dead himself.
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Macbeth

Macbeth teaches readers not to mess with fate. As Macbeth ruined his life and the lives of others by playing with his own fate, readers see that it is not something to be messed with. People should just let life's events play out as they are supposed to. This is important to know in modern times, as many people have urges to attempt to change their fates, which isn't always bad, but they should assess all options and make sure it is the right choice before charging into something like Macbeth did.
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