Category Archives: 19th century literature

Tess of the d’Urbervilles

“This question of a woman telling her story – the heaviest of crosses to herself – seemed but an amusement to others. It was as if people should laugh at martyrdom.” In Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess, a poor country girl in her late teens, is raped by a man she thought was …

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Crime and Punishment

“To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.” In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, former university student Rodion Romanovitch (who also goes by Rodya and Raskolnikov) theorizes that if great people murder for a good reason, then they will not feel guilty. Poor and unemployed, but certain …

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Profiles in Courage

“Democracy means much more than popular government and majority rule, much more than a system of political techniques to flatter or deceive powerful blocs of voters. A democracy that has no George Norris to point to–no monument of individual conscience in a sea of popular rule–is not worthy to bear the name.” In his book …

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The Portrait of a Lady

“The real offence, as she ultimately perceived, was having a mind of her own at all.” In The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, Isabel Archer, a young American woman, is taken by her aunt to explore Europe. Isabel, proud of her independence, eagerly seizes the opportunity to learn and travel. From the moment …

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Treasure Island

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson relates the childhood of Jim Hawkins, the son of an innkeeper. One day, an old pirate captain arrives at his father’s inn, drinks a lot of rum, gets in some scuffles, and dies not long afterwards. Jim and his mother go through the pirate’s possessions to look for the …

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Walden

Henry David Thoreau wrote the majority of this non-fiction piece while he lived in the woods by Walden pond from 1845-1847. He comments on everything from economics and societal values to the rabbits living underneath his house. Thoreau chose to live on the outskirts of his hometown Concord in order to test how simply he …

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The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is about a young woman named Hester Prynne who has committed adultery.  Her community punishes her with an embroidered letter A that she has to wear on her clothes for the rest of her life.  In spite of her shame, Hester boldly wears the symbol. She also refuses to reveal …

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Mill on the Floss

I just finished reading Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.  It tells the story of Maggie Tulliver from childhood to her early twenties.  It is an engaging read with a lovable protagonist and brilliant descriptions.  This book begins optimistically, when Mr. and Mrs. Tulliver decide what to do about an education for Maggie’s brother Tom. …

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