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All Quiet on the Western Front (1929)
is a novel written by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of WWI, which
tells the story of a group of young men who were encouraged to join the military. The
novel shows how they thought war would be a glorious adventure and how far from the
truth their naïve enthusiasm was once they experienced life in the trenches. The novel
was publicly burned in Nazi Germany during the 1930s due to its antiwar sentiments.
Consider whether war is necessary and if it is always glorious to fight for one’s country.
Pride and Prejudice (1813)
is a novel written by Jane Austen. Marriage is the central concern of the main
characters as they attempt to secure financial stability and social status. The novel
explores the issues of women’s social limitations and the manners specific to different
classes. How does behavior and wealth intersect? How can social barriers be broken
down? You might do a feminist reading of the text and discuss women’s social
limitations in a patriarchal (male-dominated) society.
Madame Bovary (1856)
is a novel written by Gustave Flaubert. The novel is considered a classic of
Realism, which represented a reaction against Romanticism. The novel is critical of the
French bourgeoisie and the main character, Emma Bovary, is caught in the middle-class
culture that Flaubert despised. Look at Emma’s decisions about love and money and what
motivations drive her to make those decisions. You might do a feminist reading of the
text and discuss Emma’s position in a patriarchal (male-dominated) society.
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
is a dystopian novel written by George Orwell, a democratic socialist, which
criticizes totalitarianism. Winston Smith, the main character, is responsible for historical
revisionism that validates the Party’s “official” version of history. Consider the role of
censorship, surveillance, and thought control. How is language used to control people?
Remember: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Power.
Candide (1759)
is a satirical novella written by Voltaire, a French philosopher in the 18th century,
which criticizes philosophical optimism. Candide’s teacher, Dr. Pangloss, insists that
people live in the “best of all possible worlds;” yet, Candide’s humorous journey
gradually indicates otherwise. Candide is both heavy with philosophy and humor.
Consider the many lessons that Candide learns through his experiences and the satire
used by Voltaire.