Classics, classics everywhere! It seems no matter where you look at the moment there is a classic title being made into a film, a stage play, a musical or enjoying a brand new cover to give it a fresh new look. We know that teachers and librarians are well versed in their classics, but we wondered if sharing with you (in a series of blog posts) our Penguin Classics as thematic lists, might be of some use for you all. Lets begin with our most studied as school texts classics titles…
‘The Seven Commandments
Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.
All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.’
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby brilliantly captures the disillusion of a society obsessed with wealth and status. Young, handsome and fabulously rich, Jay Gatsby appears to have it all, yet he yearns for the one thing that will always be out of his reach, the absence of which renders his life of glittering parties and bright young things ultimately hollow. Gatsby’s tragic pursuit of his dream is often cited as the Great American Novel.
Drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie, have nothing in the world except each other and a dream – a dream that one day they will have some land of their own.
Eventually they find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy, becomes a victim of his own strength.
Tackling universal themes; friendship and a shared vision, and giving voice to America’s lonely and dispossessed, Of Mice and Men has proved one of Steinbeck’s most popular works, achieving success as a novel, a Broadway play and three acclaimed films.
Berlin, 1940. The city is paralysed by fear.
But one man refuses to be scared.
Otto, an ordinary German living in a shabby apartment block, tries to stay out of trouble under Nazi rule. But when he discovers his only son has been killed fighting at the front he’s shocked into an extraordinary act of resistance, and starts to drop anonymous postcards attacking Hitler across the city. If caught, he will be executed.
Soon this silent campaign comes to the attention of ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich, and a murderous game of cat-and-mouse begins. Whoever loses, pays with their life.
The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
Shocking and controversial when it was first published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer prize-winning epic, The Grapes of Wrath, remains his undisputed masterpiece. Set against the background of Dust Bowl Oklahoma and Californian migrant life, it tells of the Joad family, who, like thousands of others, are forced to travel west in search of the promised land. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and broken dreams, yet out of their suffering Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human, yet majestic in its scale and moral vision; an eloquent tribute to the endurance and dignity of the human spirit.
Obsessed with creating life itself, Victor Frankenstein plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, which he shocks into life with electricity. But his botched creature, rejected by Frankenstein and denied human companionship, sets out to destroy his maker and all that he holds dear. Mary Shelley’s chilling gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley near Byron’s villa on Lake Geneva. It would become the world’s most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity.
Based on the third edition of 1831, this text contains all the revisions Mary Shelley made to her story, as well as her 1831 introduction and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s preface to the first edition. It also includes as appendices a select collation of the texts of 1818 and 1831 together with ‘A Fragment’ by Lord Byron and Dr John Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre: A Tale’.
Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë
Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter one night at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before: of the intense passion between the foundling Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and her betrayal of him. As Heathcliff’s bitterness and vengeance is now visited upon the next generation, their innocent heirs must struggle to escape the legacy of the past.
In this edition, a new preface by Lucasta Miller, author of The Bronte Myth, looks at the ways in which the novel has been interpreted, from Charlotte Bronte onwards. This compliments Pauline Nestor’s introduction, which discusses changing critical receptions of the novel, as well as Emily Bronte’s influences and background.
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
When Elizabeth first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; while he struggles to remain indifferent to her good looks and lovely mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle class life.
This edition includes a new chronology, additional suggestions for further reading and the original Penguin Classics introduction by Tony Tanner.
Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
‘Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past’
Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.
Orphaned Jane Eyre grows up in the home of her heartless aunt, where she endures loneliness and cruelty, and at a charity school with a harsh regime. This troubled childhood strengthens Jane’s natural independence and spirit – which prove necessary when she finds a position as governess at Thornfield Hall. But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice. Should she stay with him and live with the consequences, or follow her convictions, even if it means leaving the man she loves? A novel of intense power and intrigue, Jane Eyre (1847) dazzled and shocked readers with its passionate depiction of a woman’s search for equality and freedom.
A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings Charles Dickens
After reading Christmas Carol, the notoriously reculsive Thomas Carlyle was ‘seized with a perfect convulsion of hospitality’ and threw not one but two Christmas dinner parties. The impact of the story may not always have been so dramatic but, along with Dickens other Christmas writings, it has had a lasting and significant influence upon our ideas about the Christmas spirit, and about the season as a time for celebration, charity, and memory.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass Lewis Carroll
‘I had sent my heroine straight down a rabbit-hole . . . without the least idea what was to happen afterwards,’ wrote Charles Dodgson, describing how Alice was conjured up one ‘golden afternoon’ in 1862 to entertain his child-friend Alice Liddell. His dream worlds of nonsensical Wonderland and the back-to-front Looking-Glass kingdom depict order turned upside-down: a baby turns into a pig, time is abandoned at a disordered tea-party and a chaotic game of chess makes a seven-year-old girl a Queen. But amongst the anarchic humour and sparkling word play, puzzles, paradoxes and riddles, are poignant moments of elegiac nostalgia for lost childhood. Startlingly original and experimental, the Alice books provide readers with a double window on both child and adult worlds.
This is the most comprehensively annotated edition available and includes the manuscript version of Alice’s Adventures Underground and Carroll’s essay ‘”Alice” on the Stage’ written for the under Ground Theatre in 1887.
When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries about his client and his castle. Soon afterwards, disturbing incidents unfold in England: an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby; strange puncture marks appear on a young woman’s neck; and a lunatic asylum inmate raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘Master’. In the ensuing battle of wits between the sinister Count and a determined group of adversaries, Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing deeply into human identity, sanity, and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.
For this completely updated edition, Maurice Hindle has revised his introduction, list of further reading and textual notes, and added two new appendices: Stoker’s essay on censorship and his interview with Winston Churchill, both published in 1908. Christopher Frayling’s preface discusses Stoker’s significance and the influences that contributed to his creation of the Dracula myth.
Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life; indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The novel was a succès de scandale and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895. It has lost none of its power to fascinate and disturb.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle
This collection includes many of the famous cases – and great strokes of brilliance – that made the legendary Sherlock Holmes one of fiction’s most popular creations. With his devoted amanuensis, Dr Watson, Holmes emerges from his smoke filled rooms in Baker Street to grapple with the forces of treachery, intrigue and evil in such cases as ‘The Speckled Band’, in which a terrified woman begs their help in solving the mystery surrounding her sister’s death, or ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’, which portrays a European king blackmailed by his mistress. In ‘Silver Blaze’ the pair investigate the disappearance of a racehorse and the violent murder of its trainer, while in ‘The Final Problem’ Holmes at last comes face to face with his nemesis, the diabolical Professor Moriarty – ‘the Napoleon of crime’.
A terrifying encounter with an escaped convict in a graveyard on the wild Kent marshes; a summons to meet the bitter, decaying Miss Havisham and her beautiful, cold-hearted ward Estella; the sudden generosity of a mysterious benefactor – these form a series of events that change the orphaned Pip’s life forever, and he eagerly abandons his humble origins to begin a new life as a gentleman. Dickens’s haunting late novel depicts Pip’s education and development through adversity as he discovers the true nature of his ‘great expectations’.
This definitive edition uses the text from the first published edition of 1861. It includes a map of Kent in the early nineteenth century, and appendices on Dickens’s original ending and his working notes, giving readers an illuminating glimpse into the mind of a great novelist at work.
Joyce’s first major work, written when he was only twenty-five, brought his city to the world for the first time. His stories are rooted in the rich detail of Dublin life, portraying ordinary, often defeated lives with unflinching realism. He writes of social decline, sexual desire and exploitation, corruption and personal failure, yet creates a brilliantly compelling, unique vision of the world and of human experience.