You’re almost at the end of the line, figseniors! You’ve completed freshman, sophomore, and junior year English class and now you’re on to your final year of forced reading (Psych! Ever heard of collegiate core curriculum?) Now that you’re big, bad seniors, you may think that you can slack off. And you can! But not until second semester, when those college acceptance letters start rolling in. So to get you through the first half of your last year of high school, here’s our final, mostly useless “literary analysis” post!
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The best part about this book is that it centers around characters who like to eat as much as I do, which means that I can snack my way through 300+ pages without feeling awkward. Also, and I know this sounds like sacrilege, I’m of the personal opinion that Gandalf is the most badass wizard in all of literature. Feel free to disagree, but in a fight between Gandalf and a certain headmaster of Hogwarts, I think Gandy would stand more than half a chance. Just sayin’.
“Somehow the killing of this giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark . . . made a great difference to Mr. Baggins. He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach.”
The SparkNotes are really helpful for keeping track of all the characters – there are tons, and some show up only sporadically, so it’s helpful to have a list.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This is one of my top ten favorite books of all time, mostly because my favorite sort of love stories are those in which dislike blooms into affection. This also explains my love of the movie When Harry Met Sally. I like the way Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet both realize they’ve been kind of obnoxious and quick to judge, and I think the line about forever ruining the happiness of a most beloved sister is so perfect. What a zinger, Liz!
“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.” – Oh my god, Darcy, you are SUCH AN ARROGANT PRICK. Until you turn sexy and awesome.
Use the SparkNotes – their analysis of the first line in the book is awesome.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Ok, I know this book explores the pitfalls of living a life dedicated entirely to hedonistic pursuits. But you have to admit, Dorian’s life of sin and corruption seems pretty fun. I’ve never really understood what Dorian’s so emo and tormented about in this book. It seems to me that he got a pretty sweet deal: stay young and hot forever, do whatever you want, and never face the consequences, except in the form of a miserable painting you can hide in your attic. Sign me up.
“Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities.” Can’t argue with that logic.
Use the SparkNotes. I still don’t think I get the point of this book – I should probably read them too.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
This book is spooky. It’s similar to Dorian Gray in that it speaks to a human desire to act free from moral constraints without consequences. Dr. Jekyll thinks he’s found the solution – he can take the dark parts of himself and morph them into the despicable Mr. Hyde. But then Hyde starts taking over, and it becomes increasingly difficult for Jekyll to return to his better self. That’s why you don’t mess with magical potions and viciously murder innocents, Jekyll/Hyde!
“I began to be aware of a change in the temper of my thoughts, a greater boldness, a contempt of danger, a solution of the bonds of obligation. I looked down; my clothes hung formlessly on my shrunken limbs; the hand that lay on my knee was corded and hairy. I was once more Edward Hyde.”
SparkNotes are helpful!
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
In Lord of the Flies, William Golding takes a bunch of school boys, puts them on a deserted island, and lets them have at it. If you want to see what happens, go visit the Lamda Chi house at your state’s university. Just kidding! Kind of. But seriously, they do a number of messed up things to one another, all hell breaks loose, people die, and when an air trooper eventually finds them he’s pretty appalled by the state of things. When you’re done reading, try not to wallow in depression about the disintegration of humanity and what happens to poor Piggy.
“We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are best at everything.” Well, they’re certainly the best at wizards. Love you, HP!
There’s some interesting symbolism here. The SparkNotes will find it for you.