Nobel Laureates in Literature

Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has celebrated the most distinguished authors from around the world. This collection of study guides features literary works by past and present Nobel prize-winners in literature, including but not limited to Louise Glück, Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro, Alice Munro, and Gabriel García Márquez.

Publication year 1979Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Indian Literature, Asian Literature

A Bend in The River, the 1974 novel by Nobel Prize winner VS Naipaul, takes place in an unnamed postcolonial African town. The main character, Salim, narrates the story, which begins when he moves away from his family to the interior of the country to run a town shop. Salim is of Muslim Indian descent, but his family has lived in coastal Africa for many generations. He is neither fully Muslim Indian nor fully African. Salim... Read A Bend In The River Summary


Publication year 1936Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Identity: Race, Society: Nation, Society: War, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Southern Gothic, American Civil War

William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! (1936) is one of the many texts in Faulkner’s oeuvre that is set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. Faulkner is considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, a designation earned due to his innovative and stylistic modernist techniques, which he uses to investigate the history and identity of the American South. Faulkner, who grew up in Mississippi and spent the majority of his life there, was deeply... Read Absalom, Absalom Summary


Publication year 1970Genre Play, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Play: Drama, Play: Comedy / Satire, Italian Literature

Accidental Death of an Anarchist was first written and produced by playwright and actor Dario Fo in Italy, 1970. The script was directly inspired by the events surrounding the 1969 Piazza Fontana Bombing, and much of Fo’s work revolves around political satire directed at Italy post-World War II and later. Exemplifying Fo’s work as a writer, Accidental Death of an Anarchist combines the humor, irony, and satire of the old Italian tradition of commedia dell’arte... Read Accidental Death Of An Anarchist Summary


Publication year 1926Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Life/Time: Aging, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness

Ernest Hemingway’s short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” was first published in Scribner’s Magazine in March of 1933. It was then anthologized in Hemingway’s 1933 short story collection Winner Takes Nothing. It is regarded as one of his most important and influential short stories and as a clear example of his “Iceberg Theory” and his focus on typical Modernist existential themes. Utilizing the Iceberg Theory, Hemingway allows most of the story to sit below the... Read A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Summary


Publication year 1963Genre Play, FictionThemes Society: ColonialismTags Play: Postcolonial, Allegory / Fable / Parable, History: African , Politics / Government, African Literature, Colonialism / Postcolonialism

Written and first performed in 1960 as part of the national celebrations of Nigeria’s independence from Britain, A Dance of the Forests features a unique combination of classically European dramatic elements and traditional Yoruba masquerade traditions which make the play resistant to both staging and traditional Western criticism. Since 1960, few attempts have been made to perform the play, due to its complexity and ambiguity. A Dance of the Forests presents an allegorical criticism of... Read A Dance of the Forests Summary


Publication year 1933Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Relationships: Fathers, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Identity: Masculinity, Values/Ideas: FateTags Classic Fiction, Health / Medicine

Publication year 1955Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Values/Ideas: Fate, Society: Class, Society: Colonialism, Society: Politics & Government, Society: War, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Allegory / Fable / Parable, Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, WWI / World War I, Military / War

Publication year 1983Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Relationships: SiblingsTags Japanese Literature, Grief / Death, Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, History: Asian

Kazuo Ishiguro is an English and Japanese author who is most well-known for prizewinning novels such as The Remains of the Day (1989) and Never Let Me Go (2005), the latter of which was adapted into a film in 2010. “A Family Supper” is a 1983 short story that was originally published in a volume of Ishiguro’s works, titled Firebird 2: Writing Today. The short story begins when an unnamed narrator returns to his homeland... Read A Family Supper Summary


Publication year 1929Genre Novel, FictionTags The Lost Generation, Modernism, American Literature

A Farewell to Arms, written by Ernest Hemingway and published in 1929, is the story of Frederic Henry, an officer with the Italian army in World War I, and his relationship with Catherine Barkley, a British nurse. Some have noted the similarities between the main character and Hemingway, who also served in the Italian army as an ambulance driver in 1918, and his nurse, Agnes Von Kurowsky, who cared for Hemingway after he was wounded.The... Read A Farewell to Arms Summary


Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Colonialism, Relationships: Marriage, Society: War, Identity: Femininity, Identity: RaceTags Historical Fiction, Military / War, Colonialism / Postcolonialism, Race / Racism, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

Publication year 1971Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: ApathyTags Philosophy, Existentialism

Publication year 1945Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Philosophy, Religion / Spirituality, Politics / Government, History: European

Publication year 1961Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Life/Time: Birth, Identity: Mental Health, Life/Time: Aging, Life/Time: The Past, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Life/Time: Midlife, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Relationships: Fathers, Relationships: Marriage, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Society: Class, Society: Colonialism, Society: Community, Self Discovery, Values/Ideas: Literature, Society: EconomicsTags Historical Fiction, Auto/Biographical Fiction, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Poverty, Finance / Money / Wealth, Depression / Suicide, Class, Colonialism / Postcolonialism, Indian Literature

A House for Mr. Biswas is a 1961 novel by V. S. Naipaul. The story takes a postcolonial perspective of the life of a Hindu Indian man in British-owned and occupied Trinidad. Now regarded as one of Naipaul's most significant novels, A House for Mr. Biswas has won numerous awards and has been adapted as a musical, a radio drama, and a television show. This guide is written using an eBook version of the 2001... Read A House for Mr. Biswas Summary


Publication year 2008Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: SiblingsTags Historical Fiction, Existentialism

Published in 2008, A Mercy is Toni Morrison’s ninth novel. Morrison, both a prolific scholar and author, centers the question of slavery and a pre-racial America in this fictional novel. A Mercy was chosen as one of the best books in the year of its release by the New York Times. Plot SummaryA Mercy endeavors to explore the experiences of slaves in early America. The narrative frequently changes focus between different characters who live or... Read A Mercy Summary


Publication year 1964Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Relationships: FriendshipTags Travel Literature, American Literature

A Moveable Feast was written by Ernest Hemingway and published posthumously in 1964, three years after his death. The title, A Moveable Feast, is a play on the term used for holy days that do not consistently fall on the same date every year. The memoir’s structure mirrors this concept, featuring 20 separate yet related stories that make up Hemingway’s own collection of inconsistent holy days. The memoir blends fact with fiction as Hemingway recalls... Read A Moveable Feast Summary


Publication year 1982Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Identity: Gender, Relationships: MothersTags Historical Fiction, Gender / Feminism, Immigration / Refugee, British Literature, Japanese Literature

A Pale View of Hills (1982) is Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel. Born in Nagasaki in 1954, Ishiguro immigrated with his family to the United Kingdom when he was five years old. Despite his family’s Japanese origins, the author frequently states in interviews that his experience with Japanese culture is very limited, as he spent all his adult life in England. Simultaneously, however, growing up in a Japanese family developed in Ishiguro a different perspective compared... Read A Pale View of Hills Summary


Publication year 1930Genre Short Story, FictionTags Southern Gothic

Published in 1930, “A Rose for Emily” is one of American author William Faulkner’s most popular short stories and was his first to appear in a national magazine. Like many of Faulkner’s other works, “A Rose for Emily” takes place in the fictional town of Jefferson, which is based on Faulkner’s hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. Through the titular character Emily Grierson, Faulkner explores the complex relationships between individuals and society in the American South, and... Read A Rose for Emily Summary


Publication year 1930Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Self Discovery, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags Narrative / Epic Poem, Religion / Spirituality

Publication year 1924Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Society: War, Self DiscoveryTags Classic Fiction, Romance, WWI / World War I, The Lost Generation

“A Very Short Story” is one of Ernest Hemingway’s earliest literary works. It originally appeared as one of 18 vignettes that made up the chapbook in our time, published in 1924. The story was later republished, along with the original vignettes and 14 additional short stories, in a new and expanded edition of In Our Time in 1925. This guide refers to that later edition. “A Very Short Story” is semi-autobiographical, based loosely upon Hemingway’s... Read A Very Short Story Summary


Publication year 1925Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Self Discovery, Values/Ideas: ArtTags Philosophy, Irish Literature

Publication year 1963Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Identity: Sexuality, Identity: Gender, Society: Class, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & AngerTags Gender / Feminism, Post-War Era, British Literature

Originally published in 1963 in the short story collection A Man and Two Women, “A Woman on a Roof” by Doris Lessing emerged during a time of social and political upheaval in the Western world. Like many of Lessing’s other works, the story explores the effects of class inequality and the misunderstandings between men and women that arise in a patriarchal culture. Lessing was born in former Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and moved to London... Read A Woman on a Roof Summary


Publication year 1983Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Society: ClassTags Magical Realism, Classic Fiction, Arts / Culture, Business / Economics, Class, Latin American Literature, Post Modernism

Publication year 1939Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Fathers, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Historical Fiction, American Literature

First published in Harper’s magazine in 1939, William Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning” comments upon inheritance, loyalty, and the heavy bonds that link fathers and sons. Many of Faulkner’s writings, including his short stories and novels, are set in fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, which is based loosely upon Lafayette County. The Snopes family, who are the main characters in “Barn Burning,” appear in many of Faulkner’s other short stories and novels.The story opens in a... Read Barn Burning Summary


Publication year 1943Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Fate, Self Discovery, Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags Philosophy, Existentialism, French Literature, Absurdism

Being and Nothingness: An Essay in Phenomenological Ontology (1943) by Jean-Paul Sartre is a foundational text for the philosophical movement of existentialism. Sartre, a 20th-century writer and philosopher, wrote Being and Nothingness while in a prisoner of war camp during World War II. Being and Nothingness addresses theories of consciousness, nothingness, self-identity, essences, and freedom. Sartre’s work builds upon a legacy of existentialist theories while defining and shaping them into a comprehensive ideology. He challenges... Read Being and Nothingness Summary


Publication year 1987Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Relationships: Daughters & SonsTags Magical Realism, Race / Racism, American Literature, Existentialism, African American Literature

Toni Morrison’s Beloved was published in 1987. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Inspired by the real-life story of a runaway African American enslaved woman named Margaret Garner, who killed her own daughter to prevent her capture and enslavement, Beloved tells the story of Sethe, a runaway enslaved woman who takes her daughter’s life in the same manner. This study guide, which addresses physical... Read Beloved Summary


Publication year 1000Genre Novel/Book in Verse, FictionTags Classic Fiction, British Literature, Medieval Literature / Middle Ages

Beowulf is an epic poem written in Old English by an anonymous author around the year 1000 CE. While most of the poem was discovered intact, some of it had been destroyed, likely burned in a fire. The 1999 translation by the acclaimed Irish poet Seamus Heaney won the Whitbread Award, and was praised for its freshness and accessibility.This summary refers to the 2000 Farrar, Straus, and Giroux edition. Please note that the poem is... Read Beowulf Summary


Publication year 1920Genre Play, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Relationships: Siblings, Values/Ideas: FateTags American Literature, Play: Tragedy

Eugene O’Neill’s Beyond the Horizon is a play that centers on the disaster that befalls two brothers when they choose to fight against their own natures. Realizing that they both love the same woman, each brother ends up pursuing the dream of the other with dire consequences.Written in 1918, Beyond the Horizon was O’Neill’s first full-length work to be produced, although it wasn’t published and first performed until 1920, the same year that it won... Read Beyond the Horizon Summary


Publication year 1925Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Natural World: Nurture v. Nature, Society: War, Natural World: PlaceTags Action / Adventure, Military / War

Publication year 1995Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction

Blindness, the 1995 book by Portuguese author José Saramago, tells the story of a society that’s been struck by a virulent epidemic of blindness. This postmodern, apocalyptic novel was originally written in Portuguese, and was translated into English by Giovanni Pontiero with additional help from Margaret Jull Costa. When Saramago won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, Blindness was listed as one of his qualifying works.Plot SummaryThe plot of Blindness follows the onset—and the... Read Blindness Summary


Publication year 1941Genre Essay / Speech, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags History: European, Politics / Government

Publication year 1962Genre Poem, FictionTags Lyric Poem, Free verse, Social Justice, Civil Rights / Jim Crow, Cold War, American Literature

Publication year 1964Genre Short Story, Fiction

Alice Munro’s “Boys and Girls” was first published as an individual story in 1964 and was also included in Munro’s 1968 collection, Dance of the Happy Shades. The story takes place at one home in rural Canada, and the narrator, a soon to be 11-year-old girl, carefully describes her father’s work as a fox farmer. The work is seasonal, but the narrator begins in the “several weeks before Christmas” when her father would begin the... Read Boys And Girls Summary


Publication year 1901Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Regret, Identity: Masculinity, Identity: Mental Health, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Relationships: Marriage, Society: Economics, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, German literature

Thomas Mann’s novel Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family was first published in 1901 and came to be recognized as a monumental work in the canon of modern literature. Thomas Mann (1875­–1955) was a German novelist and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929 for his novels, Buddenbrooks and The Magic Mountain. Mann draws on his own family history to craft Buddenbrooks’ narrative, demonstrating profound understanding of societal and familial dynamics in the... Read Buddenbrooks Summary


Publication year 1959Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Friendship, Natural World: Nurture v. Nature, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Values/Ideas: Literature

Publication year 1945Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Community, Natural World: Place, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Natural World: Environment, Relationships: FriendshipTags Historical Fiction, Classic Fiction, Arts / Culture, Anthropology, Animals, Class, Education, Philosophy, Poverty, Relationships, Science / Nature

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck was originally published in 1945. A Nobel Prize-winning writer, Steinbeck grew up in Salinas, California, which is near Monterey—the location of Cannery Row. Aside from a few years in Palo Alto, New York, and Los Angeles, Steinbeck spent most of his adult life living in Monterey County, and he drew on his personal experiences to write Cannery Row.Considered literary fiction or classic literature, Cannery Row is realistic and was written... Read Cannery Row Summary


Publication year 1925Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Identity: Femininity, Relationships: MarriageTags Classic Fiction, African American Literature, Animals

“Cat in the Rain,” a short story by American author Ernest Hemingway, was first published in the 1925 collection In Our Time. Hemingway’s story, like much of his work, is semi-autobiographical and based on his experience as an expatriate in Europe after World War I. Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, shared a love of cats, and it’s thought he wrote this story for her while they lived in Italy and France. The short story... Read Cat in the Rain Summary


Publication year 1981Genre Novella, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Identity: Femininity, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: MemoryTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Magical Realism, Latin American Literature

Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a 1981 novella by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez. Told in non-chronological order and in journalistic fashion by an unnamed narrator, it pieces together the events leading up to and after the murder of Santiago Nasar by Pedro and Pablo Vicario. The novella has been adapted several times as a film and also as a Broadway musical.This guide uses the 2014 Penguin Books edition, translated by Gregory Rabassa.Content Warning:... Read Chronicle of a Death Foretold Summary


Publication year 1975Genre Play, FictionThemes Society: Colonialism, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Emotions/Behavior: Regret, Relationships: Fathers, Relationships: Daughters & SonsTags Play: Tragedy, Play: Drama, African Literature, Colonialism / Postcolonialism, WWII / World War II

Premiering in 1975, Death and the King’s Horseman is a play written by Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka. The play is set in Oyo, Nigeria, during World War II and tells the story of Elesin Oba, the titular king’s horseman who must die by ritual suicide after the Yoruba king dies. The colonial government stops Elesin’s suicide, but the text also suggests that Elesin, a robust man full of life, might not have fulfilled his duty even... Read Death and the King's Horseman Summary


Publication year 1919Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Relationships: Friendship, Self Discovery, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Auto/Biographical Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Philosophy, Religion / Spirituality, German literature

Hermann Hesse’s Demian (1919) explores the coming-of-age journey of Emil Sinclair as he develops his sense of self and understanding of the duality of humanity. The novel is set in Germany in the early 20th century between World War I and World War II, and it adheres to the Bildungsroman genre. Hesse also utilizes philosophical thought, including Jungian psychology, Gnostic Christianity, and Nietzsche, to shape Sinclair’s self-discovery journey. The novel explores themes regarding the importance... Read Demian Summary


Publication year 1957Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Society: Class, Society: WarTags Historical Fiction, Classic Fiction, Romance, Russian Literature, Military / War

Introduction Doctor Zhivago is a 1957 novel by Russian author Boris Pasternak. Set during the early 20th century, the story follows the titular Yuri Zhivago as he deals with revolution and social upheaval in his native country. As well as being widely praised following its publication, the novel has been adapted numerous times for the screen, most famously in a 1965 film—for which Pasternak cowrote the screenplay—directed by David Lean and starring Omar Sharif and Julie... Read Doctor Zhivago Summary


Publication year 1970Genre Play, Fiction

Dream on Monkey Mountain, an example of post-colonial literature, is a 1970 play by the Noble Prize-winning poet and playwright, Derek Walcott. The play is an allegory that takes place on an unnamed island in the Caribbean, where a jailed self-hating black man has a dream in which a white goddess convinces him to become an African king with his former jailer as his new enforcer.This guide refers to the 1971 edition of the text... Read Dream on Monkey Mountain Summary


Publication year 2009Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Natural World: Animals, Natural World: Environment, Emotions/Behavior: RevengeTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, Fairy Tale / Folklore, Satire

Olga Tokarczuk is among Poland’s most famous and critically acclaimed contemporary authors. She has received multiple national and international literary awards, including the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature. Her most well-known novels and their translation dates into English are House of Day, House of Night (2003), Primeval and Other Times (2010), Flights (2018), and The Books of Jacob (2021).Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead was published in Poland in 2009 but didn’t... Read Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead Summary


Publication year 1931Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Identity: Femininity, Identity: RaceTags American Literature, Race / Racism

“Dry September,” by American author William Faulkner, is a short story that explores racial tension, violence, and moral decay in a small Southern town when a white woman’s accusation against a Black man leads to violence. The story, which unfolds in five parts, revolves around the rumors that Will Mayes, a Black man, assaulted or frightened a white woman, Miss Minnie Cooper. Without concrete evidence, the men of the town exact their revenge against Mayes... Read Dry September Summary


Publication year 1940Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Aging, Life/Time: The Past, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality

Publication year 1952Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Relationships: FamilyTags American Literature, Classic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Realistic Fiction, Drama / Tragedy, Relationships, Class, Religion / Spirituality

John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is an American classic. A work of contemporary fiction, the novel was a popular success upon its 1952 publication, quickly rising to the top of the fiction bestseller list. It has remained in print ever since and is still a widely read and well-respected book. Steinbeck published 33 books, including nonfiction, and received the Nobel Prize in 1962 for his contribution to American letters. His most famous works are the... Read East of Eden Summary


Publication year 1957Genre Play, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Relationships: Family, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Life/Time: The Future, Emotions/Behavior: RegretTags Play: Tragedy, Play: Comedy / Satire, Irish Literature, Absurdism

Endgame is a one-act, absurdist play by Samuel Beckett, first performed in 1957. The post-apocalyptic play portrays the farcical, tragic existence of four character who are caught in an unfulfilling routine. Beckett regarded the play as one of his greatest achievements. It has been adapted as an opera and as a short film.This guide uses the 2009 Faber and Faber edition. Plot SummaryThe curtain rises on a nearly bare stage: a room in Hamm’s home... Read Endgame Summary


Publication year 1938Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Identity: Masculinity, Natural World: Environment, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Grief / Death

Publication year 2007Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Society: Immigration, Natural World: Place, Values/Ideas: LiteratureTags Travel Literature

Publication year 1986Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Values/Ideas: Literature, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Identity: FemininityTags Gender / Feminism, Historical Fiction

Foe is a 1986 novel by J. M. Coetzee. Foe is a parallel novel, reimagining the story of Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe from the perspective of a shipwrecked woman named Susan Barton, who then tries to convince a fictionalized version of Defoe to write her story. This guide refers to the 2015 Penguin edition. Content Warning: The source material uses outdated, offensive terms for Black people throughout, which is replicated in this guide... Read Foe Summary


Publication year 1940Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Identity: Gender, Identity: Masculinity, Relationships: Marriage, Society: War, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & BetrayalTags American Literature, Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Military / War

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) is a novel by the Modernist American author Ernest Hemingway. The novel tells the story of Robert Jordan, an American volunteer working as a demolition specialist for the Republican army during the Spanish Civil War. Robert, sent to blow up a bridge to aid a Republican offensive, enlists the aid of a band of guerrilla fighters in the mountains. Robert falls in love with a woman in their care... Read For Whom the Bell Tolls Summary


Publication year 1990Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Relationships: Mothers, Relationships: FamilyTags Allegory / Fable / Parable, Grief / Death, Gender / Feminism

“Friend of My Youth” is the title short story from the collection of the same name by Alice Munro, published in 1990. The collection won the 1990 Trillium Book Award, which recognizes writers from Ontario, Canada.Narrated in the first person, the story is told from the perspective of an unnamed female writer in mourning for her mother, who died some years earlier of Parkinson’s disease. The narrator describes a recurrent dream that she used to... Read Friend of My Youth Summary


Publication year 2015Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Relationships: MothersTags Existentialism

God Help the Child, the eleventh novel by critically-acclaimed writer Toni Morrison, was published in 2015. This guide is based on the 2015 Kindle book published by Borzoi Books, an Alfred A. Knopf imprint. One of Morrison’s few works with a contemporary setting and cast of characters, the novel explores themes related to the impact of racism and colorism on children, the prevalence of trauma such as child sexual abuse in the lives of children... Read God Help The Child Summary


Publication year 1975Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Identity: Mental Health, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Relationships: FamilyTags Lyric Poem, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Mental Illness, Gender / Feminism, Arts / Culture, Mythology

Louise Glück is among the most lauded poets in the American canon. Glück’s writing is often surgically precise in terms of formal craft, and reveals a deep emotional complexity. She addresses sadness, mourning, trauma, and individual suffering metaphorically through the natural world, mythology, autobiographical events, or universal truths. She is known for alluding to cultural myths and personas in her work, some of which appear in “Gretel in Darkness” through the perspective of young Gretel... Read Gretel in Darkness Summary


Publication year 1927Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: ApathyTags Relationships, American Literature, The Lost Generation

Ernest Hemingway’s 1927 short story “Hills Like White Elephants” was published first in the periodical transitions and then in his short story collection Men Without Women. One of his most well-known short stories, it utilizes many of the techniques that typify Hemingway’s writing, such as minimalism, direct dialogue, and indirect characterization. The story consists almost entirely of dialogue, with only sparse, sporadic narrative description. Please note that this story concerns discussions of abortion and may... Read Hills Like White Elephants Summary


Publication year 2012Genre Novel, FictionTags Existentialism

First published in 2012, Home, written by Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, tells the story of Frank Money, a 24-year-old black Korean War veteran who is summoned to Atlanta, Georgia, to rescue his sister, Cee. He receives a note that reads “‘Come fast. She be dead if you tarry’” (8) from an unknown woman. The main story of the novel begins with Frank’s escape from a hospital’s mental health ward. He was put in the ward... Read Home Summary


Publication year 1974Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Romance, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Class, Gender / Feminism, Love / Sexuality, Post-War Era

“How I Met My Husband” is a short story by Alice Munro. It appeared in her 1974 collection Something I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You. This guide is based on the Vintage eBook edition of the collection, published in 2014.Fifteen-year-old Edie comes of age in postwar rural Canada. She is from a large, farming family. When she fails high school, she gets a job as the helper of Mrs. Peebles, the leisured wife of a... Read How I Met My Husband Summary


Publication year 1925Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Society: War, Identity: Masculinity, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Relationships: MarriageTags Historical Fiction, WWI / World War I

“In Another Country” is a short story by Ernest Hemingway first published in Scribner’s Magazine in 1927. Hemingway was one of the most celebrated writers of his time and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. His works include short stories and novels as well as journalism and non-fiction studies, such as Death in the Afternoon (1932), about bullfighting. This guide refers to the version of “In Another Country” reprinted in the 1938... Read In Another Country Summary


Publication year 1924Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Fathers, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Society: Colonialism, Identity: Masculinity, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Classic Fiction, American Literature

One of his several short stories set in Northern Michigan, “Indian Camp” by Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was first published in a 1924 issue of the Parisian literary magazine Transatlantic Review. The next year, “Indian Camp” was included in Hemingway’s first story collection, In Our Time. “Indian Camp” has since become one of Hemingway’s most heavily anthologized works. Based partly on Hemingway’s visits to Petoskey, Michigan, during childhood and young adulthood, “Indian Camp” follows young Nick... Read Indian Camp Summary


SuperSummary Logo
STUDY + TEACHING GUIDE
Guide cover image
Publication year 1992Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Relationships: Marriage, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Historical Fiction, African American Literature, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Race / Racism, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

Jazz by Toni Morrison is the second installment of the Beloved trilogy. Morrison outlines the entirety of the plot in the first paragraph of the novel, allowing the rest of the text to explore the histories and emotional landscapes of the characters. Set in Harlem in the 1920s, Joe Trace has an affair with a young woman named Dorcas. When Dorcas later rejects Joe, he relentlessly searches for her. Joe sees Dorcas dancing with another... Read Jazz Summary


Publication year 1927Genre Poem, FictionTags Free verse, Poetry: Dramatic Poem, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Christian literature, Religion / Spirituality, Holidays & Occasions

SuperSummary Logo
STUDY + TEACHING GUIDE
Guide cover image
Publication year 1901Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Colonialism, Identity: Race, Society: Community, Relationships: FriendshipTags Historical Fiction, Classic Fiction, Action / Adventure, British Literature, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman

Kim is a novel by the prolific author and poet Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), who was the first English-language recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The novel was originally released in a serialized version in 1900-1901, after which it was published in book form. It offers a wide-ranging view of the cultural and religious diversity of British India in the late-19th century, as perceived through the experience of an Indian-enculturated Irish boy named Kim. Along... Read Kim Summary


Publication year 1958Genre Play, FictionTags Irish Literature

Krapp’s Last Tape is a one-act, one-man play by Irish avant-garde writer Samuel Beckett. It was first performed in 1958. Krapp is elderly and emotionally depressed. It is his 69th birthday. To mark the occasion, Krapp first listens to a tape he made on his thirty-ninth birthday to record important events and thoughts of the past year. Krapp sits at his desk but is facing away from it. Atop the desk are boxes containing reels... Read Krapp's Last Tape Summary


Publication year 1920Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Emotions/Behavior: Regret, Identity: Gender, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Relationships: Family, Relationships: Marriage, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Historical Fiction, Classic Fiction, Scandinavian Literature

Kristin Lavransdatter is a trilogy of historical novels by Norwegian author and Nobel Prize winner Sigrid Undset. Published between 1920 and 1922, the trilogy consists of The Wreath (see the comprehensive SuperSummary guide to The Wreath here), The Wife, and The Cross. The novels chronicle Scandinavian life during the Middle Ages. They follow the eponymous protagonist, Kristin Lavransdatter, a woman living in 1300s Norway. The trilogy is generally considered Undset’s magnum opus. This guide is... Read Kristin Lavransdatter Summary


Publication year 1932Genre Novel, FictionTags Modernism, Southern Gothic, Drama / Tragedy

Published in 1932, Light in August is William Faulkner’s seventh novel. The novel is set in the American South during prohibition and features an ensemble cast of characters who grapple with alienation, racism, and heartbreak across a nonlinear narrative. Classified as a Southern gothic and modernist novel, Light in August is considered a seminal work in 20th-century American literature. Note: This study guide quotes and obscures Faulkner’s use of the n-word. Plot SummaryLena Grove, a... Read Light in August Summary


Publication year 1942Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Life/Time: The Past, Life/Time: The Future, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Lyric Poem, Religion / Spirituality

Publication year 1971Genre Short Story Collection, FictionThemes Identity: Femininity, Relationships: Family, Relationships: Mothers, Society: Class

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro was published in 1971 and is composed of eight interlinked short stories. Munro examines the everyday life of a young girl, Del Jordan, as she comes of age in a small, Canadian town during the 1940s, against the backdrop of World War II. Inspired by Munro’s childhood, the narrator explores the setting, including local wildlife and the town’s inhabitants, and focuses on themes surrounding coming of age... Read Lives of Girls and Women Summary


Publication year 1956Genre Play, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Society: Community, Relationships: Siblings, Life/Time: MidlifeTags Play: Drama, Play: Tragedy, Auto/Biographical Fiction, Addiction / Substance Abuse

Long Day’s Journey into Night is widely considered Eugene O’Neill’s best play. It was published posthumously under the pseudonym Tyrone and is an autobiographical work about O’Neill’s family. The play was originally published in 1956 with a first showing in Sweden that same year. The play has been adapted into film several times, including productions in 1962 and 1996, as well as television adaptations in 1973, 1982, and 1987. O’Neill was awarded the Nobel Prize... Read Long Day's Journey Into Night Summary


Publication year 1954Genre Novel, FictionTags British Literature, Allegory / Fable / Parable

Lord of the Flies is a 1954 novel by Nobel-prize winning British author William Golding. Golding was knighted in 1988 and was a fellow in the Royal Society of Literature. In 2008, The Times named him third on their list “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.”The title of Golding’s young-adult fiction novel is a reference to Beelzebub, a prince of hell.During a wartime evacuation, an airplane crashes on a remote island. The only survivors... Read Lord of the Flies Summary


Publication year 1976Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Values/Ideas: Trust & DoubtTags Lyric Poem

Publication year 1903Genre Play, FictionThemes Relationships: MarriageTags Satire, Irish Literature

In an epistolary preface to Man and Superman (1903), Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw writes a letter to Arthur Bingham Walkley, his friend and a theatre critic for The Times, who had inspired the play by asking Shaw why he had never written a play based on Don Juan, the legendary fictional Spanish lothario. This presented a particular challenge for Shaw, who had been writing works that challenged the popular romanticism that dominated theatre at... Read Man And Superman Summary


Publication year 1947Genre Novel, FictionThemes Natural World: Place, Society: War, Society: Class, Emotions/Behavior: LoveTags African Literature, Heinemann African Writers, Historical Fiction

Midaq Alley (1947) is a historical realist novel by Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz, the 1988 Nobel Prize laureate in Literature. In this work, Mahfouz addresses the changes taking place in Egyptian society of the 1940s. The book tells the story of a group of neighbors living in Midaq Alley, a bustling market street, in the poor quarter of Cairo’s historic city center. The story is set at the end of World War II, during Britain’s... Read Midaq Alley Summary


Publication year 1984Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Society: Immigration, Society: ColonialismTags Lyric Poem, Science / Nature, Philosophy

Publication year 1966Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Relationships: Family, Life/Time: Childhood & YouthTags Lyric Poem, Grief / Death, Irish Literature

Publication year 2016Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Economics, Society: Community, Society: Politics & Government

Publication year 1998Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Art, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Identity: Gender, Life/Time: The Future, Life/Time: The Past, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Relationships: Teams, Society: Globalization, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Historical Fiction, Middle Eastern Literature, Mystery / Crime Fiction

My Name is Red (originally titled Benim Adim Kirmizi) is a 1998 historical novel by the Nobel Prize winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. Set in late-16th century Istanbul, the novel explores cultural tensions stemming from contemporary philosophical understandings of visual art. Told from the viewpoints of many different animate and inanimate characters—including Muslim and Jewish individuals, a corpse, the color red, and paintings of a horse, a devil, and a dog—the novel integrates elements of... Read My Name is Red Summary


Publication year 1938Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Identity: Mental Health, Self DiscoveryTags Existentialism, Philosophy, French Literature, Classic Fiction

Nausea is a philosophical novel by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Originally published in 1938, the novel was first translated to English in 1949. Nausea takes place in the fictional French city of Bouville (“Mud Town”) and follows the day-to-day life of the reclusive historian Antoine Roquentin. Antoine lives completely alone, without friends or family, as he researches and writes a book on an 18th-century French aristocrat, the Marquis de Rollebon. Antoine’s daily interactions with... Read Nausea Summary


Publication year 2005Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: FateTags British Literature, Japanese Literature, Asian Literature, Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction

Never Let Me Go is a 2005 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro set in an alternative dystopian version of Great Britain in the 1990s in which cloning technology allows for the mass proliferation of organ donation. Medical problems like cancer are cured because organs are harvested from clones through a state-sanctioned program. The cloned “donors” have their organs taken one at a time until they die. The novel is narrated by Kathy, a clone who works... Read Never Let Me Go Summary


Publication year 1944Genre Play, FictionThemes Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Emotions/Behavior: GuiltTags Existentialism, Play: Drama, French Literature, Philosophy, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Relationships

No Exit (1944) is a play by French philosopher, writer, and critic Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre was drafted into the French army during World War II and spent nearly a year as a German prisoner of war. He then wrote and debuted No Exit in Paris while the city was still under German occupation and control. No Exit is comprised of one act which takes place in a single room in the afterlife, which the characters... Read No Exit Summary


Publication year 1997Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: The FutureTags Lyric Poem, Post-War Era, Existentialism

Publication year 1956Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Society: Colonialism, Society: ClassTags Race / Racism, Health / Medicine, African Literature

Publication year 1994Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: MusicTags Magical Realism

Set in the seaport city of Santa María de Antigua, in colonial Spanish Colombia, at the end of the 18th century, Gabriel García Márquez'snovel Of Love and Other Demons tells the tragic story of Sierva María de Todos Los Ángeles. The only daughter of the American-born Marquis de Casalduero, Sierva lives with her father the Marquis, and her mother, Bernarda, in a decaying mansion.Neither parent takes an interest in their daughter, so she's raised by... Read Of Love And Other Demons Summary


Publication year 1937Genre Novella, FictionTags Classic Fiction, American Literature, Disability

American author John Steinbeck published his novella Of Mice and Men in 1937. Despite its place in the classical canon, the novella is one of the most challenged books of the 21st century due to its depiction of violence and use of profane, racist language. The novella’s title is an allusion to Scottish poet Robert Burns’s 1785 poem “To a Mouse,” in which a farmer unwittingly and regrettably kills a mouse while plowing. Of Mice... Read Of Mice and Men Summary


Publication year 1938Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Life/Time: Aging, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Society: War, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Values/Ideas: Safety & DangerTags American Literature

Publication year 1989Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Society: Colonialism, Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Fantasy, Race / Racism

South African author Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014) published the short story “Once Upon a Time” in 1989 while South Africa was still under apartheid, an institutionalized system of racism that from 1948 until 1994 discriminated against all people who were not white. Gordimer was the daughter of Jewish immigrants. Though not an Afrikaner (a South African descended from 17th-century Dutch colonizers), Gordimer was white and therefore part of South Africa’s ruling minority. Gordimer wrote about characters... Read Once Upon a Time Summary


Publication year 1962Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Society: Politics & Government, Society: NationTags Russian Literature, Historical Fiction, Auto/Biographical Fiction, Classic Fiction

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, first published in 1962 in the USSR, is a novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It follows the protagonist, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, during a typical day in the forced labor camp where he is imprisoned. The novel explores the human cost of Stalinism in Soviet Russia. Shukhov and the other prisoners waver between unity and division as they attempt to survive in the labor camp, which is situated far... Read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Summary


Publication year 1967Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Siblings, Relationships: Family, Society: War, Values/Ideas: FateTags Magical Realism, Latin American Literature, Classic Fiction

One Hundred Years of Solitude, first published in Spanish in 1967 as Cien años de soledad, is an internationally renowned work of literature by Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez. The most highly regarded English version of the book is Gregory Rabassa’s translation, which was first published in 1970. This guide uses citations from the HarperPerennial Modern Classics Edition, which was released in 2006. García Márquez became the fourth Latin American winner of the Nobel Prize... Read One Hundred Years of Solitude Summary


Publication year 1956Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Identity: Femininity, Relationships: Fathers, Relationships: Marriage, Society: Colonialism, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Historical Fiction, African Literature, WWI / World War I

Palace Walk is a 1956 novel by Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz. The story takes place in Cairo during World War I and in its immediate aftermath, touching on the political climate of the time as Egypt transitioned from British occupation to nationalism. The novel presents this change through the day-to-day life of the Muslim al-Jawad family. This guide refers to the 1994 Black Swan edition of the novel, which was translated by William Maynard Hutchins... Read Palace Walk Summary


Publication year 1997Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Identity: Gender, Society: Community, Emotions/Behavior: FearTags Historical Fiction, African American Literature, Gender / Feminism, Magical Realism, Race / Racism, Love / Sexuality

Toni Morrison’s novel Paradise was published in 1997, just a few years after she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. According to Morrison, it is the last book of a trilogy that includes Beloved and Jazz. Morrison is an esteemed American novelist, having also received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1998) and the Coretta Scott King Award for Authors (2005), among other awards. She was educated at Howard University and Cornell University, and... Read Paradise Summary


Publication year 1994Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Colonialism, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Self DiscoveryTags Historical Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, African Literature

Publication year 1956Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags Classic Fiction, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Existentialism

Pincher Martin is a novel by British author William Golding, first published in 1956. Set during World War II, it tells the story of a Royal Navy lieutenant named Christopher Hadley Martin who washes up on an inhospitable islet after his ship sinks. Though nominally a survival story, the book primarily concerns Martin’s spiritual and metaphysical journey as he struggles to maintain his sanity while awaiting rescue.This study guide refers to the 2013 edition published... Read Pincher Martin Summary


Publication year 1992Genre Essay / Speech, Nonfiction

Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination is an adaptation of three lectures that Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison delivered at the Massey Lectures at Harvard University in 1990. She turned the three-part series into a 91-page book, published in 1992 by Harvard University Press. The lectures concern issues of race in American literature and the ways that writers actively construct whiteness and blackness within literature.  Morrison examines the claim that works in... Read Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination Summary


Publication year 1915Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Music, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Life/Time: MidlifeTags Poetry: Dramatic Poem, Narrative / Epic Poem, Modernism, British Literature, American Literature, Relationships, Love / Sexuality, Class

Publication year 1975Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: GenderTags Free verse, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Irish Literature

Publication year 1913Genre Play, FictionThemes Society: Class, Identity: Femininity, Identity: LanguageTags British Literature, Play: Drama, Play: Comedy / Satire, Classic Fiction

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw was first published in 1914, with an updated version published in 1941. The play was Shaw’s most popular and most critically acclaimed work. It inspired the heavily romanticized musical and movie adaptation My Fair Lady, which won both a Tony for Best Musical and an Oscar for Best Picture.Shaw began his career as a novelist, but his novels were largely unsuccessful. After he moved from Dublin to London, he shifted... Read Pygmalion Summary


Publication year 1983Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Mothers, Life/Time: Childhood & YouthTags Existentialism

Part 1Twyla and Roberta, the two main characters in Toni Morrison's short story, "Recitatif," meet at the Saint Bonaventure orphanage (St. Bonny's) as 8-year-old girls. When Twyla first arrives at the shelter and sees Roberta, who is another race (the reader is not told which girl is white and which girl is black), Twyla immediately tells the staff, "My mother won't like you putting me in here" (243). Twyla's mother has warned Twyla about people... Read Recitatif Summary


Publication year 1915Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: LonelinessTags Lyric Poem

Publication year 1894Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Natural World: Animals, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: courageTags Classic Fiction, Fantasy, Action / Adventure, Animals

“Rikki-tikki-tavi” is one of Rudyard Kipling’s most famous short stories and was animated into a children’s film in 1975. This children’s story, originally published in 1894, follows a young mongoose named Rikki-tikki-tavi who protects a British family from the snakes in their garden. It is especially known for its themes of Courage as Action and Family Loyalty and Legacy, as well as for its overarching connections to colonialism; Rudyard Kipling, who lived in British colonial... Read Rikki Tikki Tavi Summary


Publication year 1923Genre Play, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Society: Politics & Government, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Identity: Gender, Identity: Mental HealthTags Play: Drama, Play: Tragedy, Play: Historical, Irish Literature, Post-War Era

Saint Joan is a play by playwright George Bernard Shaw that premiered in 1923. The play tells the story of the 15th-century French historical figure Joan of Arc, who was formally canonized as a catholic saint in 1920. The play was a critical success, and, shortly after its premiere, Shaw was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925. Shaw includes a lengthy preface before the script of the play where he compares the medieval... Read Saint Joan Summary


Publication year 1931Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Society: Class, Life/Time: The PastTags Classic Fiction, Mystery / Crime Fiction, Southern Gothic, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

Publication year 1921Genre Play, FictionThemes Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags Play: Drama, Absurdism, Italian Literature, Modernism, Play: Comedy / Satire, Surrealism

Six Characters in Search of an Author by Italian dramatist Luigi Pirandello was published in 1921 in a collection of plays called Naked Masks. The play was first performed in Italian; Edward Storer translated it into English in 1922, and it was first performed in London’s West End and New York City later that year. The play’s avant-garde and meta-theatrical elements make it a precursor to the Theatre of the Absurd, and Pirandello’s work inspired... Read Six Characters in Search of an Author Summary


Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Race / Racism, Relationships, African Literature, Grief / Death

Nadine Gordimer’s “Six Feet of the Country” is one of the seven short stories in her collection of the same name (1956). Gordimer, who was born and lived in South Africa, often explored the country’s racial issues in the context of apartheid. She received numerous literary awards, including the 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature. This short story concerns the death of a native of Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe). When the young man’s family wants to give... Read Six Feet of the Country Summary


Publication year 2002Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Art, Identity: Gender, Values/Ideas: LiteratureTags Historical Fiction, Asian Literature

Snow is a novel of postmodern literary fiction published in Turkish in 2002 and in English in 2004. Snow won the Le Prix Médicis étranger award for the best foreign novel in France. The author, Orhan Pamuk, won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature and was the youngest person ever to receive this award. Pamuk was born in Istanbul in 1952 and grew up in Nişantaşı, Turkey. He studied architecture and journalism, only to decide... Read Snow Summary


Publication year 1937Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Identity: Femininity, Natural World: EnvironmentTags Classic Fiction, Japanese Literature, Romance

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata was originally published episodically in Japanese literary journals between 1935 and 1937. It was finally published as a complete version in 1948. The novel takes place on the snowy northwestern coast of Japan and tells the story of the ill-fated romance between a geisha named Komako and her wealthy client, Shimamura. In the intimate setting of the onsen, Kawabata explores the Commodification of Female Talent and Affection, Landscapes as Metaphors... Read Snow Country Summary


Publication year 1925Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Society: War, Relationships: Family, Identity: MasculinityTags Historical Fiction, American Literature, Modernism, Military / War

“Soldier’s Home” is a short story first published in Ernest Hemingway’s 1925 debut collection In Our Time. The version discussed in this guide is from The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition (Scribner, 2003).The story’s protagonist is Harold Krebs, a young man who returns home to Oklahoma after serving in World War I. It is one of many works by Hemingway, a WWI survivor, to show the impacts of the war... Read Soldier's Home Summary


Publication year 1977Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags Existentialism, American Literature

Toni Morrison’s novel Song of Solomon was published in 1977. Since then, the novel has won many awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction (1978). Morrison later won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel Beloved (1988) and the Nobel Prize in Literature (1993). Song of Solomon, Morrison’s third novel, follows the life of Milkman Dead, who uncovers the truth (the “song”) about his family when he travels south to Virginia... Read Song of Solomon Summary


Publication year 1981Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Identity: Gender, Identity: Race, Relationships: Family, Relationships: Marriage, Society: Class, Society: Colonialism, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & BetrayalTags Race / Racism, Class, African American Literature

Publication year 1963Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & PrideTags Lyric Poem, Play: Comedy / Satire, Race / Racism

Publication year 1927Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Natural World: Place, Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Identity: Gender, Identity: Masculinity, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: EqualityTags American Literature, Race / Racism

“Ten Indians” by American author Ernest Hemingway was first published in his second short story collection, Men Without Women (1927). The story follows Nick Adams, a recurring protagonist in Hemingway’s work who shares traits and backstory with the author. These stories, including “Ten Indians,” were later collected in the anthology The Nick Adams Stories.The title references an 1864 children’s rhyming and counting song, “Ten Little Indians,” composed by Septimus Winner. It was subsequently adapted as... Read Ten Indians Summary


Publication year 1976Genre Novel, FictionTags Fantasy

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights is the final, unfinished work of Pulitzer-Prize winning author John Steinbeck. Steinbeck is most famous for The Grapes of Wrath (1939), East of Eden (1952), and Of Mice and Men (1937). The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights is Steinbeck’s only fantasy novel. He began writing it in 1958 but abandoned the project in late 1959 after completing seven chapters. Steinbeck died nine years... Read The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights Summary


Publication year 1953Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Fate, Society: Class, Self DiscoveryTags Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, American Literature

The Adventures of Augie March is a 1953 novel by Saul Bellow. In the novel, Bellow’s third, the eponymous title character chronicles his eventful life from an underprivileged childhood in Chicago to his waning wanderlust in Paris. The novel is critically acclaimed and won the 1954 National Book Award for Fiction. Bellow was a lauded author in his lifetime, winning prestigious awards like the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution... Read The Adventures of Augie March Summary


Publication year 1975Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Magical Realism, Latin American Literature

The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel García Márquez debuted in Spain in 1975. The English translation published in 1976. Márquez’s most notable work, One Hundred Years of Solitude, earned him a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982 and reflects his distinct magical realist style, an artistic genre first recognized in literature in predominantly Latin American writing during the 1940s. The Autumn of the Patriarch, published seven years later, also features Márquez’s magical style and... Read The Autumn of the Patriarch Summary


Publication year 1999Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Marriage, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Life/Time: AgingTags Canadian Literature

“The Bear Came Over the Mountain” is one of Alice Munro’s most popular works and tackles themes of infidelity, love, and hypocrisy. The short story was first published in The New Yorker in December 1999 and was later included in Munro’s Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage short story collection in 2001, her 10th collection. “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” received a movie adaptation titled Away from Her in 2006. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage... Read The Bear Came over the Mountain Summary


Publication year 1957Genre Play, FictionTags Play: Drama, Absurdism, British Literature

Harold Pinter (1930-2008) had an extensive career as an activist and as one of the most significant English playwrights of the 20th century. The Birthday Party, his first full-length play, was first performed at the Arts Theatre in Cambridge in 1958, under the direction of Pinter himself. The play toured to positive reviews, landing on the West End in London with a different director the following month, where reception was significantly chillier.The Birthday Party closed... Read The Birthday Party Summary


Publication year 1970Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags American Literature, Existentialism

The Bluest Eye is the first novel of Nobel-Prize winning writer Toni Morrison. It was published in 1970. Set in Lorain, Ohio in 1941, the novel traces how Pecola Breedlove, the dark-skinned daughter of a poor African American family, came to be pregnant with her father's child and lost her sanity after the baby died.Morrison prefaces the novel with a Foreword in which she explains several of her choices in writing the novel. The novel... Read The Bluest Eye Summary


Publication year 2014Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Historical Fiction, Auto/Biographical Fiction, Religion / Spirituality

Publication year 2015Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: MemoryTags Japanese Literature, Asian Literature, Fantasy

Set in Arthurian Britain just after King Arthur’s death,The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro’s seventh novel, is told in four parts and focuses on an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, and their journey to find their son. Along the way, they must deal with issues of memory, aging, love, loss and death. While the voice of a narrator frames the novel, much of the story is told from the shifting perspectives of the major characters of... Read The Buried Giant Summary


Publication year 1937Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Marriage, Identity: Femininity, Identity: GenderTags American Literature

“The Chrysanthemums” is a short story by American author John Steinbeck, originally published in 1937 in Harper’s Magazine. It was later added to Steinbeck’s collection of short stories titled The Long Valley, which was published in 1938, and it was adapted into a short film by Steve Rossen in 1990.The story opens with a description of a grey winter day in the Salinas Valley of California, where many of Steinbeck’s writings are set. After describing... Read The Chrysanthemums Summary


Publication year 1920Genre Play, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Identity: Race, Society: ColonialismTags Play: Tragedy, Classic Fiction, Race / Racism, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

Publication year 1942Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Society: Nation, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Society: WarTags Historical Fiction, WWII / World War II

Publication year 1956Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Society: ClassTags Philosophy, Absurdism, French Literature, Post-War Era

The Fall (French: La Chute) is a 1956 novel by French author and philosopher Albert Camus, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature the following year. It is the last novel Camus published before his death in 1960. Camus’s work deals with absurdism, the philosophical stance that life has no higher meaning. The Fall is told in first-person perspective by the protagonist Jean-Baptiste Clamence as he tells his life story over a series of five... Read The Fall Summary


Publication year 2000Genre Novel, FictionTags Historical Fiction, Latin American Literature

The Feast of the Goat, written by Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, is a work of historical fiction originally published in Spanish in 2000 and translated into English by Edith Grossman in 2001. The novel chronicles the final days of Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship over the Dominican Republic from three points of view: through the eyes of his assassins in 1961, from the time they wait to ambush him until their final moments; through Trujillo’s... Read The Feast of the Goat Summary


Publication year 1986Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: GenderTags Romance, Classic Fiction, LGBTQ, American Literature

The Garden of Eden is a novel by American author Ernest Hemingway, who is regarded as one of the most important writers of the 20th century. Hemingway had worked on the novel for 15 years at the time of his death in 1961. It was published posthumously in 1986. Though controversial, the novel has been heralded as an important example of Hemingway’s work and was adapted into a film of the same name in 2008... Read The Garden of Eden Summary


Publication year 1989Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Fate, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Society: Colonialism, Emotions/Behavior: LoveTags Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Politics / Government

Publication year 1962Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Identity: Mental Health, Identity: Sexuality, Self Discovery, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Values/Ideas: LiteratureTags Gender / Feminism, Classic Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Post Modernism, British Literature, Depression / Suicide, Love / Sexuality, Mental Illness, Relationships, Cold War, Colonialism / Postcolonialism

Considered the most influential of Doris Lessing’s many novels, The Golden Notebook explores the development of a young writer. Anna Wulf has published one novel, Frontiers of War, to great acclaim, but she now finds herself uncomfortable with what she sees as its sentimentality and romanticization of war. Thus, she remains mired in a kind of writer’s block. She still writes in her notebooks, but she cannot bring herself to return to writing novels—especially in... Read The Golden Notebook Summary


Publication year 1926Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Beauty, Emotions/Behavior: Joy, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Self Discovery, Values/Ideas: ArtTags Animals, Japanese Literature

Publication year 1950Genre Novel, FictionTags Heinemann African Writers

The Grass is Singing is a powerful novel that explores several poignant topics, including human relationships, power struggles, and the effects of racism. The novel is set in Southern Rhodesia (present-day South Africa) and explores the lives of its inhabitants during white rules in the county. The novel was Lessing’s debut novel and helped to propel her to the literary success. Her treatment of desire, drive, and need regarding individuals, communities and even nations is... Read The Grass is Singing Summary


Publication year 1940Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Life/Time: The Past, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags American Literature, Southern Literature

Publication year 1968Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Society: CommunityTags Magical Realism, Latin American Literature

“The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” is a short story written by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez. Originally published in 1968 and titled “El ahogado más hermoso del mundo,” the story is a work of magical realism, a genre that treats magical or fantastical elements as though they were normal, everyday occurrences.Set on a summer day in a small coastal village in South America, the story concerns the villagers’ reaction to the discovery of... Read The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World Summary


Publication year 1936Genre Essay Collection, NonfictionTags Journalism

In October of 1936, American journalist and novelist John Steinbeck wrote a series of essay-style articles for The San Francisco News on the migration of hundreds of thousands of white farmworkers from the Midwest and the South to work in California’s booming agricultural sector. Known together as The Harvest Gypsies, these seven articles are compiled in the nonfiction book The Harvest Gypsies: On the Road to the Grapes of Wrath, which was first published in... Read The Harvest Gypsies Summary


Publication year 1925Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Free verse, Modernism, Post-War Era, WWI / World War I, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

Publication year 1902Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Society: Colonialism, Identity: Sexuality, Identity: MasculinityTags LGBTQ, Classic Fiction, Travel Literature, Gender / Feminism, Colonialism / Postcolonialism

Publication year 1949Genre Essay / Speech, NonfictionThemes Society: War, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Emotions/Behavior: courageTags Military / War, History: World, WWII / World War II

“Their Finest Hour” is a speech originally given by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on June 18, 1940, in the House of Commons to members of Parliament and his ministerial cabinet. Churchill delivered the speech following the disastrous campaign of the Battle of France and the hasty evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from Dunkirk. In June 1940, Nazi boots marched in Paris, and the surrender of the French government seemed imminent. The speech... Read Their Finest Hour Summary


Publication year 1910Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Natural World: Flora/plantsTags Allegory / Fable / Parable

“The Japanese Quince” is the most widely anthologized short story by British writer John Galsworthy and is considered a miniature masterpiece of early 20th-century naturalism. Only slightly more than 1,000 words, the story presents a character sketch of a man named Mr. Nilson. Though modest in scale, the story is rich in imagery, symbolism, and social commentary.The story is now in the public domain. This guide refers, by paragraph, to the original edition of the... Read The Japanese Quince Summary


Publication year 1927Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Modernism

“The Killers,” by American author Ernest Hemingway, is a short story that tackles the themes Loss of Innocence, Passivity Versus Activity, and Disillusionment With Reality.Originally published in 1927 in Scribner’s magazine, “The Killers” was later included in Hemingway’s short story collections Men Without Women, which came out later the same year, Snows of Kilimanjaro, and The Nick Adams Stories. The story has also been adapted into various film and animation versions over the years.“The Killers”... Read The Killers Summary


Publication year 1999Genre Novella, FictionThemes Natural World: Food, Values/Ideas: Science & Technology, Natural World: AnimalsTags Philosophy, Animals

Publication year 1890Genre Short Story Collection, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Loyalty & BetrayalTags Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction

British author Rudyard Kipling is perhaps best known for his children’s works like The Jungle Book and the Just So Stories and for his adventure writing, like the short story “Gunga Din” and the novel Captains Courageous. Kipling’s short story “The Mark of the Beast” can be classified within the horror genre as well as a representative work of colonial literature. When first published in 1890, critics found “The Mark of the Beast” both fascinating... Read The Mark Of The Beast Summary


Publication year 1991Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Identity: RaceTags Race / Racism, African Literature

Publication year 1942Genre Novel, FictionTags Historical Fiction, Military / War, WWII / World War II, American Literature

Published in March 1942 and inspired by Steinbeck’s work during the World Wars, The Moon is Down explores the psychological, moral, and ethical implications of a town occupied during wartime. The novel focuses on the struggle of an authoritarian occupier, Colonel Lanser, to subdue the democratic revolt of the people in an unnamed northern European town. John Steinbeck is a prominent figure of American contemporary fiction and is the author of 33 completed works, including... Read The Moon Is Down Summary


Publication year 1952Genre Novella, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Identity: Masculinity, Natural World: Animals, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags American Literature, Action / Adventure, Classic Fiction

In The Old Man and the Sea, a 1952 adventure novella by American author Ernest Hemingway, an aging fisherman pits his life and wits against a giant fish as he battles to catch it and then protect its flesh from ravenous sharks. With its themes of endurance, perseverance, and respect for one’s opponent, this simple, straightforward narrative is widely regarded as an American classic and one of the greatest sea stories ever told.The book helped... Read The Old Man and the Sea Summary


Publication year 1947Genre Novella, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Society: Colonialism, Relationships: FamilyTags American Literature, Classic Fiction, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Historical Fiction

The Pearl is a 1947 historical fiction novella by John Steinbeck. It is an expansion of his earlier short story, “The Pearl of the World,” published in the Woman’s Home Companion in 1945. Steinbeck also co-wrote the screenplay for a 1947 film adaption of the novella titled La perla, directed by Emilio Fernández. Citations in this guide correspond to the 1994 Penguin Books edition. The story, which is presented as a parable, follows a poor... Read The Pearl Summary


Publication year 1933Genre Novella, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Identity: Masculinity, Life/Time: Aging, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Natural World: Environment, Natural World: Flora/plants, Natural World: Place, Relationships: FathersTags Classic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Animals, American Literature

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck was published in installments from 1933 to 1936, as a novella in 1937, and in a short story collection, The Long Valley, in 1945. Steinbeck drew upon his experience living in the Salinas Valley. The four stories that make up The Red Pony are considered works of classic literature and bildungsroman, or coming-of-age stories. Steinbeck also wrote the screenplay for the 1949 film adaptation of The Red Pony, and... Read The Red Pony Summary


Publication year 1989Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Society: Class, Self Discovery, Life/Time: Aging, Life/Time: The Past, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Emotions/Behavior: GriefTags Historical Fiction, British Literature

The Remains of the Day is a novel by British writer Kazuo Ishiguro. Released in 1989, the novel tells the story of Stevens, who once worked as a butler at a stately home in England. In his old age, he returns to the house and reminisces about his experiences in the 1920-1930s. Most of the novel is told in flashback. The novel was adapted into a critically-acclaimed film of the same name, released in 1993.Plot... Read The Remains of the Day Summary


Publication year 1936Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Values/Ideas: Fate, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Relationships: MarriageTags Classic Fiction, American Literature

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is a short story by American author Ernest Hemingway that was first published in Cosmopolitan in 1936. It explores themes of power and dominance, courage and cowardice, and the nature of masculinity. The story details a hunting party and love triangle in which a husband, a wife, and their hired huntsman struggle for dominance and power over one another. This guide references the collection The Snows of Kilimanjaro... Read The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber Summary


Publication year 1929Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Fate, Society: Economics, Relationships: Siblings, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Identity: Sexuality, Identity: MasculinityTags Southern Gothic, Classic Fiction, Modernism

William Faulkner’s 1929 novel The Sound and the Fury relays the trials and decline of a once-prominent Southern family, the Compsons. The novel grapples with the challenges of a changing cultural landscape as modernity encroaches on the values—and deep-seated prejudices—of the Old South. Told through the perspectives of the three Compson brothers, Benjy, Quentin, and Jason, the novel visits and revisits key events in the family’s past and present. Much of the concern swirls around... Read The Sound and the Fury Summary


Publication year 1955Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Values/Ideas: Safety & DangerTags Creative Nonfiction, Action / Adventure

Gabriel García Márquez’s The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor was first published in Spain in 1970 under the title Relato de un naufrago (“story of a castaway”). The nonfiction work relates Luis Alejandro Velasco’s 10-day survival adrift on a raft in the Caribbean after being thrown overboard from his Colombian destroyer in rough seas. While there had been a censored, government-backed version of Velasco’s story that was publicized, the uncensored story was first published in... Read The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor Summary


Publication year 1926Genre Novel, FictionTags The Lost Generation, American Literature

Published in 1926, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is a modernist novel regarded as a masterful portrait of the Lost Generation. It is a roman à clef, structured in three acts, that depicts characters based upon Hemingway’s friends and associates. Upon initial publication, it received mixed reviews, but is now considered a classic of 20th-century literature. In 1957, it was adapted into a film starring Ava Gardner (though Hemingway, reportedly, did not like the... Read The Sun Also Rises Summary


Publication year 1961Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Society: Class, Emotions/Behavior: RevengeTags Allegory / Fable / Parable, Class, Existentialism, African Literature

The Thief and the Dogs is a 1961 surrealist, existentialist novel by Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz. Mahfouz won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature and The Thief and the Dogs is considered one of his most celebrated works. The novel has been adapted for Egyptian television, and is the first novel written in Arabic to use the stream-of-consciousness style. Published nearly ten years after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, the novel is also considered an... Read The Thief and the Dogs Summary


Publication year 1959Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Regret, Society: War, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: MemoryTags Magical Realism, Historical Fiction, Military / War, German literature, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

The Tin Drum is a 1959 novel by German author Gunther Grass. In the novel, a man named Oskar tells the story of his life, particularly focusing on his experiences during World War II. The novel employs satire, absurdism, magical realism, and allegory to wrestle with the pain and trauma of life under Nazi rule. The Tin Drum was adapted into an Oscar-winning film in 1979 and has been hailed as a landmark in literary... Read The Tin Drum Summary


Publication year 1952Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Relationships: Marriage, Society: Class, Society: Economics, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Race / Racism, African Literature, Relationships

“The Train from Rhodesia” is a short story by Nadine Gordimer, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. The story originally appeared in The Soft Voice of the Serpent, her first collection of stories, published in 1953 and used as the basis for this study guide.The story takes place in a train station in an unnamed African village. The station is surrounded by beggars and by vendors selling carved wooden animals. A stationmaster... Read The Train From Rhodesia Summary


Publication year 1985Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: GriefTags Lyric Poem, Mythology, Confessional, Love / Sexuality

Publication year 1991Genre Short Story, FictionTags Immigration / Refugee, Race / Racism, African Literature

Nadine Gordimer’s “The Ultimate Safari” is a short story about a family’s journey from their demolished home in war-torn Mozambique to a refugee camp in South Africa. The story is set in 1988 amid the backdrop of a civil war, which neighboring South Africa supported by the funding of rebel forces. Gordimer, a white South African, was deeply critical of her nation’s involvement, and she tells the story of a young, unnamed refugee girl as... Read The Ultimate Safari Summary


Publication year 1981Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: War, Society: Politics & Government, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Society: Class, Society: NationTags Historical Fiction, Latin American Literature

Publication year 1947Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Self Discovery, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Society: CommunityTags Classic Fiction, American Literature

Publication year 1920Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Historical Fiction, Medieval Literature / Middle Ages, Scandinavian Literature

Publication year 1952Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Values/Ideas: Fate, Society: GlobalizationTags Japanese Literature, Love / Sexuality

The novel Thousand Cranes (in Japanese, Senbazuru) was written by Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata. It was originally published in serialized form between 1949 and 1951 and compiled with another of Kawabata’s novels, Snow Country (1948), in book form in 1952. The narrative follows Kikuji, an orphaned young businessman, as he navigates the legacy of his father’s infidelity against the backdrop of traditional Japanese tea culture. It explores themes of Decay of Traditions and Values, Legacy:... Read Thousand Cranes Summary


Publication year 1955Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Relationships: MothersTags Coming of Age / Bildungsroman

Doris Lessing’s short story “Through The Tunnel” was first published in 1955 in The New Yorker. Widely considered a seminal postwar writer, the British Zimbabwean author explored a wide range of topics but is best known for her interest in the political issues of the 20th century, from race to gender to political systems. However, “Through the Tunnel” concerns individual psychology, and the coming-of-age story follows an English boy and his mother as they vacation... Read Through the Tunnel Summary


Publication year 1924Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Grief

Publication year 1958Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Marriage, Natural World: Place, Identity: GenderTags Psychological Fiction, Modern Classic Fiction, Gender / Feminism, Relationships, British Literature

Doris Lessing’s 1963 short story “To Room Nineteen” explores the theme of female independence and autonomy—and of how difficult these are to achieve, especially at the time Lessing wrote it. Any reader familiar with Virginia Woolf’s classic essay “A Room of One’s Own” will find similarities here. Lessing, a Nobel laureate and accomplished writer within multiple genres, investigates boundaries and conventions throughout the canon of her work, frequently breaking down dichotomies and questioning cultural assumptions... Read To Room Nineteen Summary


Publication year 1919Genre Essay / Speech, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Life/Time: The Past, Values/Ideas: ArtTags Philosophy, British Literature

Publication year 1962Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Natural World: Place, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Identity: Masculinity, Life/Time: Aging, Life/Time: The Future, Life/Time: The Past, Self Discovery, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Identity: Language, Society: CommunityTags Travel Literature, Action / Adventure, American Literature, Animals, Civil Rights / Jim Crow

Published in 1962, Travels With Charley: In Search of America is a narrative travelogue by John Steinbeck. The book follows a cross-country road trip the author took with his dog, a brown poodle named Charley. They travel in a camper-style pickup truck named Rosinante, which Steinbeck had custom built for the trip. Steinbeck embarked on the journey because he felt disconnected from the larger picture of American life after years of living in New York... Read Travels With Charley Summary


Publication year 1996Genre Poem, FictionThemes Relationships: MothersTags Lyric Poem, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Military / War, Irish Literature

Publication year 1997Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Science & Technology, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Society: Politics & Government, Society: Economics, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Natural World: EnvironmentTags History: European, Journalism, Natural Disaster, Science / Nature, Agriculture, Business / Economics, Food, Education, Grief / Death, History: World, Military / War, Poverty, Politics / Government, Social Justice

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich is a collection of 35 first-person oral accounts of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union. Originally published in Russian in 1997, the book was translated into English by Keith Gessen in 2005; it has been translated into almost every European language. Alexievich, a Belarusian investigative journalist, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for Voices from Chernobyl in... Read Voices from Chernobyl Summary


Publication year 1952Genre Play, FictionTags Classic Fiction, British Literature, Irish Literature

Waiting for Godot is a two-act play by Samuel Beckett, translated from Beckett’s own French script. First performed in English in 1953, it has been heralded as one of the most important plays of the 20th Century. It is a central work of absurdism, though it was not originally received with much acclaim. In fact, the play’s frank treatment of the body provoked some horror in its initial audiences. The play begins with two friends, Vladimir... Read Waiting for Godot Summary