Title: The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Publisher: Little, Brown and company
Genre: Social novel
“I mean, how do you know what you´re going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don’t. I think I am, but how do I know? I swear it´s a stupid question.” This is one of the hundreds of thoughts young Holden Caulfield has. Many people feel drown to him because he feels alienated, lonely and responsible for kids who are still innocent and not fake, unlike teenagers and adults. He makes a critique of society from a very identifiable point of view.
Holden Caulfield is a young adult from a rich family. He doesn´t seem to fit in any of the schools he goes to, and at Christmas he decides to go home after he is expelled again. While he wanders around New York many situations happen, which trigger deep critiques about how fake everyone seems to be, or how aloof he is from other people… except for children. He thinks of himself as the one who has to protect children from losing their innocence. He pictures it as a rye field next to a cliff, and he has to catch the kids who get too close to it, making himself become “the catcher in the rye”.
María M. A.
Title: A Clockwork Orange
Author: Anthony Burgess
Publisher: Penguin Essentials
“What´s it going to be then, eh?” One of Alex’s most characteristic sentences. He’s the leader of a young gang who spend their time robbing, fighting or raping until he realizes what his deeds could lead him to.
A Clockwork Orange is a book that deals with themes such as violence, robbery and harassment. The perspective from which the reader perceives the ethical values depends on Alex´s situation. For example, after he´s been brainwashed, you realize people’s unexplainable thirst for revenge towards him, even though he´s defenseless.
A Clockwork Orange is a novel whose characters have different psychological states. Alex’s friends believe that they always need to follow their instincts, while the people affected by them have a need for revenge On the other hand, it would be mentionable that the vocabulary used is complex as well as informal, due to the use of gang slang. Despite that, the book achieves interesting dialogues as well as peculiar descriptions.
The fact that the author suffered many aggressions and his wife was raped would be worth mentioning to understand the story, as those situations are present throughout the plot. Despite that, the book offers an uncommon tale, which I would only recommend to adults and experienced readers, due to the themes treated as well as its slang vocabulary.
Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde
Publisher: Black Cat
Genre: Philosophical novel
Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1854. He received a good education and became a well-known poet. He only wrote one novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. He was sent to jail because of his sexual orientation, and died in 1900 of an illness.
Dorian Gray is a young, wealthy man. His story begins when he meets a man, Lord Henry Wotton. He tells Dorian about his beauty-based ideals and corrupts the young man´s vision of life. He becomes greedy, and asks his friend to paint a portrait of him. He soon discovers that the portrait ages instead of him, and as his soul rots, so does the portrait, revealing a hideous human that should have been Gray´s appearance to the world. With this story, Oscar Wilde expresses his deepest thoughts about good and evil, and the corruption of one´s soul due to sin. He also mentions that immortality can´t cope with the mortal world.
Oscar Wilde´s Dorian Gray is a great reflection about the world and humanity. This alluring philosophy has captured me and I’m impressed, knowing that this book is more than a century old, as it resembles today´s greedy and influencial people, and the deep unnecessary caring for beauty and wealth.
Dorian Gray is a perfect book for those who love moral novels and questioning things. If you don´t, then this book is not for you, because only deep thinkers will appreciate the nihilism of this work.
María M. A.
Author: Mary Shelley
First publication date: 1818
Genre: Gothic fiction
Viktor Frankenstein is a young man who discovers the spark that ignites life. Astonished by this discovery, he creates a human being that turns out to be so horrendous and hideous that he turns his back on him. From Ingolstadt, in Germany, he follows his creator to Switzerland and England, where he decides to hunt him down, due to his unwillingness to create a female companion for the monster. After killing his family, Frankenstein and ‘his’ fiend hunt each other, leading to their deaths. This book carries the message of fight between good and evil, because the monster can be seen as Viktor’s alter ego.
This book is a perfect example of how the human mind works, because on one hand, Viktor is the innocent, good side of it, and on the other hand, the monster is pure evil, but because society made him that way. Both things together build up a person. This concept amused me througout the book -it´s like a fight between good and evil. Despite the complicated vocabulary used in certain chapters, I had no problem following the main plot, and I really enjoyed it.
María M. A.
Book title: For whom the bell tolls
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Publisher: Arrow books
First publication date: 1941
Genre: War novel
“For whom the bell tolls” is a book set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The main character, American citizen Robert Jordan, supports the Republican side and is an expert in explosives, so he is given the task of destroying a bridge, key to the defense of a city. He’s sent to a village where he’s going to receive help from the town leader, who turns out to be an alcoholic and a cowardly person. In that town he meets Maria, the town leader’s daughter, a brave woman with whom he starts a relationship, but the mission he’s assigned makes him realize that, once completed, he wouldn’t be with Maria again because of his death.
The book talks about war, love, duty and responsibility through the situations the main character has to face. It gives an interesting point of view of the war through the eyes of Jordan that makes it a novel to take into account for those who are interested in the Spanish Civil War, but it can be boring and tiring for those who have no interest in this period.
Title: The Scarlet Letter
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
First publication date: 1850
Genre: Historical fiction
The story is set within an Puritan community in the 1640s in the USA. Hester, the main character, has an affair with Reverend Dimmesdale, who gives her a child, Pearl. After Hester hast to undergo a few punishments and refuses to tell her lover’s name to Roger -her husband-, she leaves town with her daughter to a small village outside Boston. When Roger finds out about her and Mr. Dimmesdale, they have to flee because Roger wants to take revenge…
I really like the things about the Scarlet “A” Hester has to wear and how she’s able to change its meaning by helping people. For me, it represents the fact that you can prove to the people around you that you are not the person they assume you are, judging from gossip.
AUTHOR: Charles Dickens
PUBLISHER: Penguin Classics
FIRST PUBLICATION DATE: 1838
GENRE: Realistic novel
The novel immerses us in the 19th century and tells the story of an orphan child called Oliver Twist that lives in Sir Bumbler’s house with more orphans. He is kicked out of the house and starts working for an undertaker. From this episode onwards the author shows us the life of children who had to rob to survive, led by a drifter called Fagin. The author talks about poverty and the social problems with a bit of black humor and he manages to do a very nice social criticism of the period.
In general, I didn’t like the book because it tells a story with a lot of pessimistic themes, typical of realism and naturalism. I think that what I like the most is its social criticism, because I believe it is very important to write about the problems of the lower classes.