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Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010

Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver’s Travels (1726, amended 1735), is a novel by Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift that is both a satire on human nature and a parody of the “travellers’ tales” literary sub-genre. It is Swift’s best known full-length work, and a classic of English literature.

The book became tremendously popular as soon as it was published (John Gay said in a 1726 letter to Swift that “it is universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery”); since then, it has never been out of print.

PLOT SUMMARY

The book presents itself as a simple traveller’s narrative with the disingenuous title Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, its authorship assigned only to “Lemuel Gulliver, first a surgeon, then a captain of several ships”. The text is presented as a first-person narrative by the supposed author, and the name “Gulliver” appears nowhere in the book other than the title page. Different editions contain different versions of the prefatory material which are basically the same as forewords in modern books. The book proper then is divided into four parts, which are as follows. [Read more…]

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert

Posted by admin on November 24, 2010

Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary (1856) is Gustave Flaubert’s first published novel and is considered his masterpiece. The story focuses on a doctor’s wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Though the basic plot is rather simple, even archetypal, the novel’s true art lies in its details and hidden patterns. Flaubert was notoriously a perfectionist about his writing and claimed always to be searching for le mot juste (“the right word”).

The novel was attacked for obscenity by public prosecutors when it was first serialized in La Revue de Paris between October 1, 1856 and December 15, 1856, resulting in a trial in January 1857 that made the story notorious. After the acquittal on February 7, 1857, it became a bestseller when it was published as a book in April 1857, and now stands virtually unchallenged not only as a seminal work of Realism, but as one of the most influential novels ever written.

A 2007 poll of contemporary authors, published in a book entitled The Top Ten, cited Madame Bovary as one of the two greatest novels ever written, second only to Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

PLOT SUMMARY

Madame Bovary takes place in provincial northern France, near the town of Rouen in Normandy. The story begins and ends with Charles Bovary, a stolid, kindhearted man without much ability or ambition. As the novel opens, Charles is a shy, oddly-dressed teenager arriving at a new school amidst the ridicule of his new classmates. Later, Charles struggles his way to a second-rate medical degree and becomes an officier de santé in the Public Health Service. His mother chooses a wife for him, an unpleasant but supposedly rich widow, and Charles sets out to build a practice in the village of Tostes (now Tôtes).

One day, Charles visits a local farm to set the owner’s broken leg, and meets his client’s daughter, Emma Rouault. Emma is a beautiful, daintily-dressed young woman who has received a “good education” in a convent and who has a latent but powerful yearning for luxury and romance imbibed from the popular novels she has read. Charles is immediately attracted to her, and begins checking on his patient far more often than necessary until his wife’s jealousy puts a stop to the visits. When his wife dies, Charles waits a decent interval, then begins courting Emma in earnest. Her father gives his consent, and Emma and Charles are married.

At this point, the novel begins to focus on Emma. Charles means well, but is boring and clumsy, and after he and Emma attend a ball given by the Marquis d’Andervilliers, Emma grows disillusioned with married life and becomes dull and listless. Charles consequently decides that his wife needs a change of scenery, and moves from the village of Tostes into a larger, but equally stultifying market town, Yonville (traditionally based on the town of Ry). Here, Emma gives birth to a daughter, Berthe; however, motherhood, too, proves to be a disappointment to Emma. She then becomes infatuated with one of the first intelligent young men she meets in Yonville, a young law student, Léon Dupuis, who seems to share her appreciation for “the finer things in life”, and who returns her admiration. Out of fear and shame, however, Emma hides her love for Léon and her contempt for Charles, and plays the role of the devoted wife and mother, all the while consoling herself with thoughts and self-congratulations of her own virtue. Finally, in despair of ever gaining Emma’s affection, Léon departs to study in Paris.

One day, a rich and rakish landowner, Rodolphe Boulanger, brings a servant to the doctor’s office to be bled. He casts his eye over Emma and decides she is ripe for seduction. To this end, he invites Emma to go riding with him for the sake of her health; solicitous only for Emma’s health, Charles embraces the plan, suspecting nothing. A three-year affair follows. Swept away by romantic fantasy, Emma risks compromising herself with indiscreet letters and visits to her lover, and finally insists on making a plan to run away with him. Rodolphe, however, has no intention of carrying Emma off, and ends the relationship on the eve of the great elopement with an apologetic, self-excusing letter delivered at the bottom of a basket of apricots. The shock is so great that Emma falls deathly ill, and briefly turns to religion.

When Emma is nearly fully recovered, she and Charles attend the opera, on Charles’ insistence, in nearby Rouen. The opera reawakens Emma’s passions, and she re-encounters Léon who, now educated and working in Rouen, is also attending the opera. They begin an affair. While Charles believes that she is taking piano lessons, Emma travels to the city each week to meet Léon, always in the same room of the same hotel, which the two come to view as their “home.” The love affair is, at first, ecstatic; then, by degrees, Léon grows bored with Emma’s emotional excesses, and Emma grows ambivalent about Léon, who becoming himself more like the mistress in the relationship, compares poorly, at least implicitly, to the rakish and domineering Rodolphe. Meanwhile, Emma, given over to vanity, purchases increasing amounts of luxury items on credit from the crafty merchant, Lheureux, who arranges for her to obtain power of attorney over Charles’ estate, and crushing levels of debts mount quickly.

When Lheureux calls in Bovary’s debt, Emma pleads for money from several people, including Léon and Rodolphe, only to be turned down. In despair, she swallows arsenic and dies an agonizing death; even the romance of suicide fails her. Charles, heartbroken, abandons himself to grief, preserves Emma’s room as if it is a shrine, and in an attempt to keep her memory alive, adopts several of her attitudes and tastes. In his last months, he stops working and lives off the sale of his possessions. When he by chance discovers Rodolphe and Léon’s love letters, he still tries to understand and forgive. Soon after, he becomes reclusive; what has not already been sold of his possessions is seized to pay off Lheureux, and he dies, leaving his young daughter Berthe to live with distant relatives and she is eventually sent to work at a cotton mill.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens

Posted by admin on November 23, 2010

Kindle edition

Oliver Twist is the second novel by English author Charles Dickens, published by Richard Bentley in 1838. The story is about an orphan Oliver Twist, who escapes from a workhouse and travels to London where he meets the Artful Dodger, leader of a gang of juvenile pickpockets. Oliver is led to the lair of their elderly criminal trainer Fagin, naively unaware of their unlawful activities.

Oliver Twist is notable for Dickens’ unromantic portrayal of criminals and their sordid lives. The book exposed the cruel treatment of many a waif-child in London, which increased international concern in what is sometimes known as “The Great London Waif Crisis”: the large number of orphans in London in the Dickens era. The book’s subtitle, The Parish Boy’s Progress alludes to Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and also to a pair of popular 18th-century caricature series by William Hogarth, “A Rake’s Progress” and “A Harlot’s Progress”.

An early example of the social novel, the book calls the public’s attention to various contemporary evils, including the Poor Law, child labour and the recruitment of children as criminals. Dickens mocks the hypocrisies of his time by surrounding the novel’s serious themes with sarcasm and dark humour. The novel may have been inspired by the story of Robert Blincoe, an orphan whose account of hardships as a child labourer in a cotton mill was widely read in the 1830s. It is likely that Dickens’s own early youth as a child labourer contributed to the story’s development.

Oliver Twist has been the subject of numerous film and television adaptations, and is the basis for a highly successful musical play, and the multiple Academy Award winning 1968 motion picture Oliver!.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

Posted by admin on November 22, 2010

Illustration by Theodor von Holst from the frontispiece of the 1831 edition

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is a novel written by Mary Shelley. Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen and the novel was published when she was nineteen. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818. Shelley’s name appears on the second edition, published in France.

Through research it can be determined the many influences the author was under during the creation of the novel. She had traveled the region in which the story takes place, and the topics of galvanism and such other occult ideas were themes of conversation among her companions. Frankenstein is infused with some elements of the Gothic novel and the Romantic movement, and is also considered to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction. It was also a warning against the expansion of modern man in the Industrial Revolution, alluded to in the novel’s subtitle, The Modern Prometheus. The story has had an influence across literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories and films.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain

Posted by admin on November 21, 2010

Frontispiece of 1st edition

SINOPSIS

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is a popular 1876 novel about a young boy growing up in a small town along the Mississippi River. The story is set in the town of “St Petersburg”, inspired by Hannibal, Missouri, where Mark Twain grew up. In the story’s introduction, Twain notes:

Most of the adventures recorded in this book really occurred; one or two were experiences of my own, the rest those of boys who were schoolmates of mine. Huck Finn is drawn from life; Tom Sawyer also, but not from an individual—he is a combination of the characteristics of three boys whom I knew, and therefore belongs to the composite order of architecture.[2]

PLOT SUMMARY

The imaginative and mischievous twelve-year-old boy Thomas Sawyer lives with his Aunt Polly, his half-brother, Sid, also known as Sidney, and cousin Mary, in the Mississippi River town of St. Petersburg, Missouri. After playing hooky in school on Friday and getting his clothes dirty in a fight, Tom was made to whitewash the fence as punishment on Saturday. At first, Tom is disappointed by the loss of his day off. However, he soon cleverly persuades other children in the neighborhood to do the job for him. Later he barters some of his treasures for tickets given out in Sunday school for memorizing Bible verses, and uses the tickets to claim a Bible as a prize. He loses much of his glory, however, when, in response to a question to show off his knowledge, he incorrectly answers that the first two Disciples were David and Goliath.

Tom falls in love with Rebecca “Becky” Thatcher, a new girl in town, and persuades her to get “engaged” to him. Shortly after, Tom accompanies Huckleberry Finn, the son of the town drunk, to the graveyard at night to try out a “cure” for warts. At the graveyard, they witness the murder of young Dr. Robinson by a part-Native American “half-breed,” Injun Joe. Scared, Tom and Huck run away and swear a blood promise not to tell anyone what they have seen. Injun Joe blames his companion, Muff Potter, a hapless drunk, for the crime. Potter is wrongfully arrested, and Tom’s anxiety and guilt begin to grow.

Tom, Huck and their friend Joe Harper run away to an island on the Mississippi, in order to “become pirates.” While frolicking around and enjoying their new-found freedom, the boys become aware that the community is sounding the river for their bodies. Tom sneaks back home one night to observe the commotion. After a brief moment of remorse at the suffering of his loved ones, Tom is struck by the idea of appearing at his funeral and surprising everyone. He persuades Joe and Huck to do the same. Their return is met with great rejoicing, and they become the envy and admiration of all their friends.

Back in school, Tom gets himself back in Becky’s favor after he nobly accepts the blame for a book that she has torn. Soon Muff Potter’s trial begins, and Tom, overcome by guilt, testifies against Injun Joe. Potter is acquitted, but Injun Joe flees the courtroom through a window. Tom and Huck witness him, disguised as a deaf and dumb Spaniard, finding a box of gold with his partner. Huck begins to shadow Injun Joe every night, watching for an opportunity to nab the gold. Meanwhile, Tom goes on a picnic to McDougal’s Cave with Becky and their classmates; the two get separated from the others and soon become lost in the cave, but eventually find a way out. That same night, Huck sees Injun Joe and his partner making off with a box. He follows and overhears their plans to attack the Widow Douglas, a kind resident of St. Petersburg. By running to fetch help, Huck forestalls the violence and becomes an anonymous hero.

A week later, Tom takes Huck to the cave via the new entrance Tom has found and they unearth the box of gold, the proceeds of which are invested for them. Injun Joe is found just inside the main entrance, having died of starvation while trying to break through its door. The Widow Douglas adopts Huck, and, when Huck attempts to escape civilized life, Tom promises him that if he returns to the widow, he can join Tom’s robber band. Reluctantly, Huck agrees.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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