On Rereading “Anne of Green Gables”

Cover: Anne of Green GablesMontgomery, Lucy Maud. Anne of Green Gables
Original publication date: 1908

Like most young girl characters who appear in books written for girls, Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables functions for readers as a model of how to be a successful girl. These books communicate and reinforce to children the beliefs and behaviors that society deems appropriate for them to emulate. These messages may be submerged within a colorful narrative, but they are nonetheless there for youngsters unconsciously learning how to fit in and succeed in their world.

I know that I read Anne of Green Gables as a child, and I’m sure that I saw Anne as someone I should emulate. Also, Anne’s acquisition of a loving family is a theme that intrigued me throughout my own unhappy childhood. (I was fascinated at how all the Mouseketters managed to live with Jimmy and Uncle Roy in such harmony in their house on The Mickey Mouse Club.) Yet I don’t remember at all how I felt at the time about Anne or how I reacted to her story.

But on recently rereading the book, I felt a much greater affinity for Marilla than for Anne. This isn’t unreasonable, since now I resemble Marilla, not the young Anne. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how Montgomery includes in the book the growth of Marilla as much as the growth of Anne.

Early in Anne’s life at the Cuthbert farm (Chapter XI), Anne gives Marilla her opinion on the minister’s Sunday text and sermon:

It was a very long text. If I was a minister I’d pick the short, snappy ones. The sermon was awfully long, too. I suppose the minister had to match it to the text. I didn’t think he was a bit interesting. The trouble with him seems to be that he hasn’t enough imagination.

And here’s how Marilla reacts:

Marilla felt helplessly that all this should be sternly reproved, but she was hampered by the undeniable fact that some of the things Anne had said, especially about the minister’s sermons and Mr. Bell’s prayers, were what she herself had really thought deep down in her heart for years, but had never given expression to. It almost seemed to her that those secret, unuttered, critical thoughts had suddenly taken visible and accusing shape and form in the person of this outspoken morsel of neglected humanity.

Although Marilla secretly agrees with Anne, she has never had the gumption to say so. Marilla herself has been successfully socialized into what society considers proper behavior. However, Marilla at least can recognize the truth of what Anne says, even though she takes seriously her job of teaching Anne how to be polite.

Gradually Marilla softens toward Anne. When Anne hurts her ankle while playing at her friend Diana Barry’s house and Marilla sees Mr. Barry carrying Anne home (Chapter XXIII):

At that moment Marilla had a revelation. In the sudden stab of fear that pierced her very heart she realized what Anne had come to mean to her. She would have admitted that she liked Anne—nay, that she was very fond of Anne. But now she knew as she hurried wildly down the slope that Anne was dearer to her than anything else on earth.

Marilla begins to admit to herself her love for Anne, even though she doesn’t know how to express it:

The lesson of a love that should display itself easily in spoken word and open look was one Marilla could never learn. But she had learned to love this slim, gray-eyed girl with an affection all the deeper and stronger from its very undemonstrativeness. Her love made her afraid of being unduly indulgent, indeed. She had an uneasy feeling that it was rather sinful to set one’s heart so intensely on any human creature as she had set hers on Anne, and perhaps she performed a sort of unconscious penance for this by being stricter and more critical than if the girl had been less dear to her. Certainly Anne herself had no idea how Marilla loved her. (Chapter XXX)

When Anne grows taller and needs new clothes, Marilla laments her growing up:

Marilla felt a queer regret over Anne’s inches. The child she had learned to love had vanished somehow and here was this tall, serious-eyed girl of fifteen… Marilla loved the girl as much as she had loved the child, but she was conscious of a queer sorrowful sense of loss. (Chapter XXXI)

Later, Anne tells Marilla that she will always love her and Matthew:

Marilla would have given much just then to have possessed Anne’s power of putting her feelings into words; but nature and habit had willed it otherwise, and she could only put her arms close about her girl and hold her tenderly to her heart, wishing that she need never let her go. (Chapter XXXIV)

It isn’t until Matthew’s death near the end of the book that Marilla can finally tell Anne:

Oh, Anne, I know I’ve been kind of strict and harsh with you maybe—but you mustn’t think I didn’t love you as well as Matthew did, for all that. I want to tell you now when I can. It’s never been easy for me to say things out of my heart, but at times like this it’s easier. I love you as dear as if you were my own flesh and blood and you’ve been my joy and comfort ever since you came to Green Gables. (Chapter XXXVII)

By the end of the book, then, Marilla has learned not only how to love, but also how to express her love. Marilla and Anne both grow through their interaction with each other throughout the novel.

“Revolutionary Road”: The Film

In an earlier post I reviewed the novel Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, one of the books on my Classics Club list. The book contained some passages that presented Frank Wheeler as a melodramatically theatrical man always concerned about how he appears to others:

He let the fingers of one hand splay out across the pocket of his shirt to show what a simple, physical thing the heart was (p. 4).

all afternoon in the city, stultified at what he liked to call “the dullest job you can possibly imagine,” he had drawn strength from a mental projection of scenes to unfold tonight (p. 16).

Since these are examples of the author telling readers about a character, I wondered if this characteristic would come across in the 2008 film version of the novel, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as Frank and April Wheeler.

The film did not suggest this characteristic of Frank, but the visual nature of film did allow for some dramatic emphases of other themes in the novel. The book describes the Wheelers’ house on Revolutionary Road as on a hill. In the scene of the film in which the real estate agent, Mrs. Givings (played by Kathy Bates), first shows Frank and April the house, a low camera angle makes the house appear high on the hill. This visual effect presents the house as a castle high on a hill and suggests the Wheelers are a royal couple who will live there, an echo of the Wheelers’ feeling of their own superiority or specialness.

Even more dramatic is the visual effects early in the film to suggest the isolation and loneliness of the Wheelers’ current lives. Wide scenes show Frank dressed like all the other men waiting on the platform of the local station to take the train into the city for work. Then a shot of Frank inside the train isolates him among all the other similarly dressed men. The series culminates with another wide shot of a horde of suburban men in their suits and hats, all carrying their briefcases, pouring out of Grand Central Station and marching off to work. Even among such a crowd, Frank is isolated and alone.

Juxtaposed with that sequence is a scene of April, a suburban housewife in her apron, dragging her metal garbage can to the end of the driveway for pickup. She pauses to look around, and the camera reveals a road lined with identical driveways and garbage cans, but no other human being. Just as Frank is isolated among all his fellow workers who commute every day between their homes in the suburbs and their jobs in the city, April is also isolated in the suburbs. Several more scenes showing April peering outside from behind her living room picture window heighten her isolation into a feeling of entrapment.

Yates’s novel presents Mrs. Givings’s mentally ill son, John, as a kind of Greek chorus who comments on the action. Ironically, this disturbed character is the one who speaks the truth. Although the character’s role is clear in the novel, it stands out even more in the film thanks to the dramatic presence of veteran stage and film actor Michael Shannon.

In one of the bonus features on the film DVD, either director Mendes or screenplay writer Justin Haythe (I can’t remember which) calls Revolutionary Road “the grandfather of suburban novels.” The film version explores the layers of meaning that include not just the mundane realities of suburban existence but the tragic interlocking of a couple who use each other to explore their own individual pain and shortcomings. April says, “We thought we would be wonderful in the world.” But finally she has to admit, “We were never special.”

Classics Club Spin #8: “Revolutionary Road”

Related Post:

rev roadYates, Richard. Revolutionary Road
Original publication date: 1961
Rpt. Random House, 2008
eISBN 978–0–307–45627–4

This novel is most often described as an anti-suburban tract, a condemnation of the life of conformity and veiled unhappiness that flourished in the U.S. after World War II. And it is that. But it’s also much more, because that vision is too simplistic. The serpent in the paradise where Frank and April Wheeler buy a house on Revolutionary Road arises from the geography of the human heart as much as from its suburban Connecticut location, where a serpent of cars continually moves along nearby Route 12.

Frank and April met in New York City, where they enjoyed a carefree life together while planning their ideal future. “According to their plan, which called for an eventual family of four, her first pregnancy came seven years too soon” (p. 65). To accommodate their altered lives, they found a starter home in a western Connecticut suburb, but the serpent has already entered their lives: “The gathering disorder of their lives might still be sorted out and made to fit these rooms, among these trees; and what if it did take time? Who could be frightened in as wide and bright, as clean and quiet a house as this?” (p. 41).

The novel begins in 1955, two years after the Wheelers’ move to the house on Revolutionary Road. Frank and April are both about to turn 30. They have the requisite two children: Jennifer, age 6, and Michael, age 4. Frank has a corporate office job that he hates and, like most men in his neighborhood, takes the train into Manhattan every morning while April stays home and cares for the children and the house.

In the novel’s opening vignette, Frank attends a community theater group performance in which April, who attended “one of the leading dramatic schools of New York” (p. 9), stars. When one of the male players becomes so nervous that he can’t go on and the female stage manager has to stand in for him, the performance falls apart. Even April can’t save it. The incident becomes a source of humiliation for April and foreshadows the collapse of their lives.

This theatrical failure is significant because both Frank’s and April’s lives are based on acting. Frank in particular is always posing as someone, assuming a particular persona. He spent his early twenties “wearing the proud mantles of ‘veteran’ and ‘intellectual’ as bravely as he wore his carefully aged tweed jacket and washed-out khakis” (p. 27). His face has “an unusual mobility: it was able to suggest wholly different personalities with each flickering change of expression” (p. 15). He performs life according to his own mental projections of how he should speak and act, as if seeing himself on stage or in a movie. After an afternoon assignation with a woman from the office, he wonders if he should apologize to her: “the very last thing in God’s world he wanted to do was apologize Did the swan apologize to Leda? Did an eagle apologize? Did a lion apologize? Hell, no” (p. 138). And April vacillates between a vague desire for something more satisfying from like than the role of the sensible middle-class housewife that she simultaneously works at projecting.

The serpent eating away at the Wheelers’ suburban lives is unfulfilled desire, the inability to make their everyday lives conform to their grand yet vague dreams of themselves. In his twenties Frank

“hardly ever entertained a doubt of his own exceptional merit. Weren’t the biographies of all great men filled with this same kind of youthful groping, this same kind of rebellion against their fathers and their fathers’ ways? He could even be grateful in a sense that he had no particular area of interest: in avoiding specific goals he had avoided specific limitations. For the time being the world, life itself, could be his chosen field” (p. 29).

After moving to the suburbs Frank continues to locate what’s wrong with the world in others, never in himself: “It’s all the idiots I ride with on the train every day. It’s a disease. Nobody thinks or feels or cares any more; nobody gets excited or believes in anything except their own comfortable little God damn mediocrity” (p. 81). He never loses the sense of his own superiority:

“Intelligent, thinking people could take things like this in their stride, just as they took the larger absurdities of deadly dull jobs in the city and deadly dull homes in the suburbs. Economic circumstance might force you to live in this environment, but the important thing was to keep from being contaminated. The important thing, always, was to remember who you were” (p. 27).

It’s April who comes up with a new plan to allow Frank to discover the as yet unarticulated self he dreams of becoming. They will move to Paris. She will get a secretarial job to support them and leave Frank free to find himself. Ironically, April sees her getting a job as a way both to free herself from her housewifely existence and to allow Frank to escape the drudgery of his job. But, like their earlier grand plans, this one, too, proves impossible.

In the end, suburbia is not the cause of their unhappiness but rather the place where it unfolds. There’s a remarkable ambivalence here, for who of us has not had bigger plans that we’ve been unable to fulfill. Between the imagined vision and its achievement snakes reality. We understand the Wheelers’ dreams at the same time as we foresee the inevitability of their downfall.

“Parnassus on Wheels”

Morley, Christopher.  Parnassus on Wheels (1917)

Christopher Morley (May 5, 1890 – March 28, 1957) was an American essayist, poet, novelist, playwright, and journalist. His first published work, Parnassus on Wheels, features Helen McGill, a 39-year-old woman who buys a horse-drawn wagon equipped as a traveling bookstore, and the people to whom she peddles her wares.

There’s not really much to review here, but the book celebrates the pleasures and benefits of reading. Here are some of the best quotations from the text:

“Lord!” he said, “when you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue—you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humor and ships at sea by night—there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean.

I think reading a good book makes one modest. Whey you see the marvelous insight into human nature which truly great book shows, it is bound to make you feel small—like looking at the Dipper on a clear night, or seeing the winter sunrise when you go out to collect the morning eggs.

A good book ought to have something simple about it. And, like Eve, it ought to come from somewhere near the third rib: there ought to be a heart beating in it. A story that’s all forehead doesn’t amount to much.

Classics Club Spin #8

This will be my first time participating in the Classics Club Spin.

Here are the directions for spin #8:

At your blog, by next Monday, November 10, list your choice of any twenty books you’ve left to read from your Classics Club list – in a separate post.

This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books in November & December. (Details follow.) So, try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, rereads, ancients — whatever you choose.)

Next Monday, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by January 5, 2015.

I can’t see setting myself up for failure by including here any of my list’s huge books like Atlas Shrugged, The Golden Notebook, or Ulysses. I know I need to save those until I have a large chunk of time to devote to doing them right, and I will not have that kind of time between now and January 5.

So here is my list for the spin:

  1. Adams, Richard. Watership Down
  2. Masters, Edgar Lee. Spoon River Anthology (1915)
  3. Agee, James. A Death in the Family
  4. Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men
  5. Cather, Willa. O Pioneers!
  6. Smith, Dodie. I Capture the Castle (1948)
  7. Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment
  8. Williams, Tennessee. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  9. Fowles, John. The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  10. Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea
  11. Styron, William. Darkness Visible (1990)
  12. Hardy, Thomas. Far From the Madding Crowd
  13. Yates, Richard. Revolutionary Road (1961)
  14. O’Neill, Eugene. The Iceman Cometh
  15. James, Henry. The Beast in the Jungle
  16. Pym, Barbara. Excellent Women
  17. Lewis, Sinclair. Babbit
  18. Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway
  19. Wilson, Sloan. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955)
  20. Nabokov, Vladimir. Pnin

Update: We Have a Winner!

It’s lucky #13!

I’m the lucky one. I get to read Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates by January 5.

Gothic Elements in Shirley Jackson’s “We Have Always Lived in the Castle”

The Classics ClubGothic literature features characteristics such as magic, mystery, chivalry, horror, clanking chains, ghosts, and dark castles to create a spooky atmosphere rife with foreboding and possibility. Over time Gothic emphasis changed from reliance on these external trappings for their own sake to a focus on the inner workings of the human psyche that the Gothic atmosphere represents. Shirley Jackson’s deliciously creepy 1962 novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle demonstrates the power of the Gothic in the hands of a master craftsman.

Brief History of Gothic Literature

The first Gothic novel was Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto (1764), set in a medieval castle featuring dark stairways, mysterious rooms, trap doors, and underground passages. Between 1789 and 1797 Anne Radcliffe wrote five romances, the most famous being The Mysteries of Udolpho, that helped make the form popular. Radcliffe emphasized setting and story over character.

As the Gothic novel spread across Europe, it became the backdrop against which authors examined the relationship between humans and the supernatural, with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) perhaps the best known example. Gothicism also influenced other literary forms, particularly poetry of the romantic period in works by Coleridge, Wordsworth, Byron, and Keats. In the United States Charles Brockden Brown took up the form of the Gothic novel with Wieland (1798) and five subsequent romances.

Early Gothic novels focused on creating a spooky setting appropriate for a story of suspense, dread, foreboding, and, finally, terror. As Gothicism developed, it incorporated elements of the psychological that allowed a focus on character as well as on setting, as evident in the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. Still later works such as Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) employ literary devices that developed from the Gothic novel.

The British Library is currently presenting an exhibition entitled Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination:

Beginning with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Gothic literature challenged the moral certainties of the 18th century. By exploring the dark romance of the medieval past with its castles and abbeys, its wild landscapes and fascination with the supernatural, Gothic writers placed imagination firmly at the heart of their work – and our culture.

In a magazine article about the exhibition:

Lead curator of the exhibition, Tim Pye, says: “Gothic is one the most popular and influential modes of literature and I’m delighted that Terror and Wonder is celebrating its rich 250 year history. The exhibition features an amazingly wide range of material, from stunningly beautiful medieval artefacts to vinyl records from the early Goth music scene, so there is truly something for everyone”.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the CastleJackson, Shirley. We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Penguin Books, 1962

Mary Katherine, known as Merricat, Blackwood is the first-person narrator of the story. In the opening paragraph she tells us that she is 18 years old and that she lives with her sister Constance: “I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the deathcup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead” (p. 1).

This final sentence of the opening paragraph signals the story’s Gothic emphasis. Although Richard Plantagenet could be any one of several English noblemen, context suggests that Merricat is referring to England’s King Richard III (1452–1485), who is famously believed to have ordered the murder of his two young nephews in the Tower of London. The themes of murder and a family power struggle emerge from this reference. These themes and Merricat’s admitted fondness for a deadly mushroom sharpen our expectations and foreshadow the rest of the story.

Gradually the backstory emerges: Six years earlier the rest of the Blackwood family had died of arsenic poisoning during a family dinner. The dead included Mr. and Mrs. Blackwood (Constance and Merricat’s parents), the girls’ 10-year-old younger brother, and their aunt, whose husband, Uncle Julian, their father’s brother, became very ill but recovered. Uncle Julian was damaged both physically and mentally by his brush with death. Now wheelchair-bound, he lives with Merricat and Constance and is completely dependent on Constance, who takes care of him while her sister largely watches.

Merricat was not at the dinner table that fateful night because she was being punished by having to spend the night in her room without any dinner. That dinner included berries, on which the diners sprinkled sugar that had been laced with arsenic. Suspicion fell on Constance, who did not eat berries and therefore didn’t get sick. She was tried and acquitted of the murders.

This brief outline of the backstory illustrates Jackson’s use of Gothic elements. In addition to the emphasis on death and the sense of foreboding and further impending doom, there are also Gothic overtones in the characterization of Merricat. She goes into the village twice a week for supplies, mostly food and library books, because Constance is agoraphobic. But Merricat must make a game of the trip, with rules about where she should walk and how she should act: “I forced my hands to be still and made a rule for myself: Whenever I saw a tiny scrap of paper I was to remember to be kinder to Uncle Julian” (p. 16). In addition to all her rules for herself, Merricat also buries things around the family property for good luck and even tacks a book up on a tree as a protective talisman. Such actions are examples of magical thinking, the belief that thinking is the same as doing. Magical thinking is normal in young children, who believe that their thoughts and desires cause events that happen around them. But the persistence of magical thinking in the 18-year-old Merricat suggests a deranged mind, another common Gothic element.

Merricat also continues the belief, apparently learned from her parents, that the Blackwoods are better than the villagers and should maintain their distance to avoid contamination from the less worthy:

All of the village was of a piece, a time, and a style; it was as though the people needed the ugliness of the village, and fed on it… . whatever planned to be colorful lost its heart quickly in the village. The blight on the village never came from the Blackwoods; the villages belonged here and the village was the only proper place for them. (p. 8)

Mr. Blackwood put up a fence all around the property and fastened it with a padlock. Merricat makes a ritual out of unlocking and relocating the gate when she leaves the house and when she returns from the village. The Blackwoods’ geographical isolation reflects their feelings of superiority and their fear of the masses:

I always stood perfectly straight and stiff when the children came close, because I was afraid of them. I was afraid that they might touch me and the mothers would come at me like a flock of taloned hawks; that was always the picture I had in my mind—birds descending, striking, gashing with razor claws. (p. 10)

Merricat’s narration of her family’s isolation from the villages bleeds into another Gothic element of the story, its setting. The isolation of the large Blackwood house, fenced off from the everyday world and fortified by Merricat’s magic, fits right into the Gothic picture. Jackson also uses setting to call up another work of late Gothic literature:

The Rochester house was the loveliest in town and had once had a walnut-panelled library and a second-floor ballroom and a profusion of roses along the veranda; our mother had been born there and by rights it should have belonged to Constance. (p. 4)

The Rochester house alludes to Mr. Rochester’s huge house, with his deranged wife hidden upstairs, in Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel Jane Eyre.

Gothic features continue as the plot of We Have Always Lived in the Castle unfolds. The precipitating crisis of the book occurs when Constance and Merricat’s cousin, Charles Blackwood, their father’s brother’s son, arrives to disturb the status quo of their existence. As the only remaining male heir, he intends to take over the family mansion and the family fortune. Merricat ratchets up her magic to protect her existence. When a fire breaks out at the house, the volunteer firefighters arrive to try to put it out. That is, after all, their job, even if they don’t like the Blackwoods, the fire chief insists. A truly macabre scene, suggestive of a Satanic ritual, develops as the townspeople implore the firefighters to let the house burn, then set to smashing and looting whatever the flames don’t destroy.

The fire obliterates the top floor of the house. Afterwards, Constance and Merricat continue to live in the small kitchen area while vines overgrow the top. Whereas Merricat had earlier spoken of their home as the house, now she describes it this way: “Our house was a castle, turreted and open to the sky” (p. 177). Finally, the story comes full circle as the house turns into the isolated, creepy castle characteristic of Gothic literature and all the foreboding of impending doom foreshadowed at the beginning comes to fruition.

 

© 2014 by Mary Daniels Brown

Addendum

See also Happy 250th, Ann Radcliffe:

It’s 250 years since the publication of The Castle of Otranto, an anniversary prompting both a British Library exhibition (Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination) and a linked BBC Gothic season. It is Horace Walpole’s only novel that you see on entering the exhibition, and with which Andrew Graham-Dixon’s BBC4 series, The Art of Gothic: Britain’s Midnight Hour (which ends on3 November), began.

Another 250th anniversary, of Ann Radcliffe’s birth, goes unmentioned, an omission reflecting her curious marginalisation in both celebrations – “the great enchantress”, as Thomas De Quincey called her, does figure, but mainly as the hapless novelist (vapid and trashy, you infer) sent up in Northanger Abbey. For the British Library display, the problem looks to be the absence of a visual legacy, of Radcliffe manuscripts and film adaptations; for Graham-Dixon, it may be the absence of a penis. His blokeish version of early literary gothic consists of chaps like Walpole, William Bedford, Thomas Chatterton, Blake and De Quincey, with the equally colourful Mary Shelley as token woman, and their manly wrestlings with political and industrial revolution, masculine identity and urbanisation in turn influence the Victorians.

I’m Joining The Classics Club

The Classics ClubHaving reached a certain age, I’ve realized that now is the time to make and start to whittle away at my list of literary classics. Discovering The Classics Club online was the final push I needed to get started. The point of the club is to make up a list of at least 50 titles and commit to a time period for reading them. Fortunately, the club is pretty lenient, so both the list and the reading time will always be in process, which means that there may be periodic changes. But here’s my beginning:

Start date: March 1, 2014
Completion date: March 1, 2019

As I read each work, I’ll post a review, or at least comments, on this blog. I’ll hyperlink the title on this list to the new entry. My working goal is one classic per month. (Hey, I already have a huge TBR [to be read] list, and it grows every day. And yes, I did the math, and there’s no way I’ll get through the 58 works on this original list in a mere 5 years at the rate of one per month. Since some of my choices are long and difficult, while others are short and easy, I hope to have at least a few months when I get through more than one. But it’s the journey, not the destination, that’s important, and all that.)

My list contains three categories of selections:

  1. Books that any well-read person should have read and that I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t yet (think Ulysses)
  2. Books that I’ve read before but want to reread (e.g., Middlemarch)
  3. Books that fill in the gaps of my knowledge of American literature and 19th century English literature (the majority of works on this list)

 

Here’s my classics reading list, arranged alphabetically by author:

Adams, Henry. The Education of Henry Adams
Adams, Richard. Watership Down
Agee, James. A Death in the Family
Anderson, Sherwood. Winesburg, Ohio
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility
Brink, Carol Ryrie. Caddie Woodlawn
Burns, Olive. Cold Sassy Tree
Cather, Willa. O Pioneers!
Cheever, John. Collected Stories
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Notes from the Underground
Eliot, George. Middlemarch
Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom!
Faulkner, William. Light in August
Faulkner, William. Sanctuary
Fowles, John. The French Lieutenant’s Woman
Hardy, Thomas. Far From the Madding Crowd
Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms
Hemingway, Ernest: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Howells, William Dean. The Rise of Silas Lapham
James, Henry. What Maisie Knew
James, Henry. The Beast in the Jungle
Joyce, James. Dubliners
Joyce, James. Ulysses
Koestler, Arthur. Darkness at Noon
Lessing, Doris. The Golden Notebook
Lewis, Sinclair. Babbit
Lewis, Sinclair. Main Street
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. One Hundred Years of Solitude
Masters, Edgar Lee. Spoon River Anthology (1915)
Miller, Walter M., Jr. A Canticle for Leibowitz
Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Green Gables
Morley, Christopher. Parnassus on Wheels (1917)
Morley, Christopher. Kitty Foyle (1939)
Nabokov, Vladimir. Pale Fire
Nabokov, Vladimir. Pnin
O’Connor, Flannery. Everything that Rises must Converge
O’Neill, Eugene. The Iceman Cometh
Pym, Barbara. Excellent Women
Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged
Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea
Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle
Smith, Dodie. I Capture the Castle (1948)
Steinbeck, John. Cannery Row
Steinbeck, John. Tortilla Flat
Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men
Styron, William. Darkness Visible (1990)
Styron, William. Lie Down in Darkness (1951)
Tarkington, Booth. The Magnificent Ambersons (1918)
Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse Five
Wharton, Edith. Ghost Stories
Wilder, Thornton. Our Town
Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire
Williams, Tennessee. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Wilson, Sloan. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955)
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway
Wouk, Herman. Marjorie Morningstar (1955)
Yates, Richard. Revolutionary Road (1961)

Total: 58

Later additions to the list:

Jackson, Shirley. We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)