Treasure Island

My goal to always have a work of classic literature on my nightstand has become a serious endeavor, and choosing the next book is not easy. There are so many options! I dithered and vacillated about what to read after finishing Frankenstein.

I raced through some short stories by Hawthorne. (His Celestial Railroad is fantastic, and an excellent extension of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.) And I mulled over the choices already on my Kindle. I finally settled on Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I like pirates so I was excited to slowly work my way through this adventure. Treasure Island Continue reading

Frankenstein: a dark and unsettling read

Frankenstein is erroneously assumed to be a big green monster with a pin through his neck. Some know the truth that Frankenstein is, in fact, the doctor who made the monster. What those also likely know is how morbid and harrowing a read Mary Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein is. Frankenstein

The big green monster—unnamed and really a translucent yellow—came to life by Dr. Victor Frankenstein. This being is the doctor’s life work, his ambition and grand accomplishment. But Frankenstein is quickly struck with terror by his creation. This terror seizes him for a long time. He falls ill and can’t shake the haunting images of his creature’s first moments of life. His recovery ebbs and flows. You think enough time has passed when another encounter with the beast sets him back. Frankenstein’s realization of what he had done leads to bitter and dismal lives for doctor and monster.  Continue reading

A Christmas Carol

Adapted into plays and movies around the world since its 1843 publication, Charles Dickens'”A Christmas Carol” offers a heartwarming Christmas story and is an easy introduction to reading Dickens.

Dickens is not known for being concise or succinct. What can be said in two sentences, he is loath to say in anything fewer than two pages. This is how he tells stories. The challenge for the reader is to sift through his verbose descriptions and meandering dialogue to get to his purpose, his motif, his message.

“A Christmas Carol” is a beautiful diversion from Dickens’ usual writing style. Noticeably shorter than his other novels, this book also relies more on clear dialogue than lengthy descriptions.

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Dickens’ protagonist, Scrooge, has certainly made his mark on culture. While we freely borrow from Dickens and call anyone who is cranky or miserly a Scrooge, such an assertion reflects an ignorance of the character, the story, and the author.

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Wuthering Heights

For anyone who has read “Wuthering Heights,” by Emily Brontë,  you realize the layers of themes addressed throughout the book, the feelings evoked by injustices, and the depths of the characters explained by one housekeeper ought to preclude anyone from writing a CliffsNotes review or summary.

Brontë’s character development is some of the best I have read. The most astounding part, as mentioned above, is that she writes all of this through the housekeeper’s perspective; thereby, making Ellen Dean the best storyteller ever. This is no easy literary feat. When using one narrator to voice so many characters, you run the risk of them all adopting the same (or a similar) voice, and you have to blend the stories of the past with the narrative of the present. Brontë nails this. At least by halfway through, I would have been able to identify the character based entirely on the dialogue. Additionally, Brontë builds and grows her characters. We learn who they are. We learn how they think. We learn who we don’t want to emulate and how we don’t want to feel.

Brontë writes a difficult story. I don’t mean the writing style, time period, or at-times challenging vocabulary. “Wuthering Heights” hits you in the gut with hatred, heartbreak, destitution, manipulation, infidelity, and  abuse—physical, emotional, verbal. You reel after each incident, wondering how much worse it could get. It does get worse. You think you have steeled yourself for the next occasion only to realize all of your unspoken, worst fears have been realized in this story. Brontë includes it all. Brontë doesn’t mince words, either. There is no doubting what she means to say. By the end you seriously consider how much of her story is taken from her life or what she has been exposed to at one time or another. No one’s imagination is that good without prior experience, I’m sorry to say. This is surprising given her childhood home at Haworth Parsonage.

“Wuthering Heights” illustrates all the depravity akin to what you would find in a book by Dickens, though it is much easier to read, and by the end there are traces of romance and hope you would find in a book by Austen. Truth, however, is sorely lacking.

Although man’s depravity is thoroughly displayed by the characters, there is no solution offered for this corruption. The end brings some cheer to the reader: Heathcliff’s dominance ends; Hareton and Cathy are free and happy. But poor Brontë doesn’t seem to have a clue about the gospel and the hope of eternal life through Jesus’ death and resurrection. There is no literary scene that affords her or her characters hope for eternity.

This is the most heart-clenching realization about Brontë and “Wuthering Heights.” You work your way through the pages, endure the happenings of the story, and reach the end with no promise for something else, something better. So one should ask how this came to be considered a classic. It is worth reading because Brontë writes so well. But the story she tells is a sad one, and not the type I would like to imitate—in real life or in writing.