c-requiredreadingart

“Frankenstein” by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

I have never been as addicted to a classic novel as I was to “Frankenstein.” Sometimes, I dread assigned reading even though I am currently taking two classes that are focused on literature — the irony is not lost on me. But when I picked up Shelley’s classic, I was transported to a world of darkness and science. She found a way to create a “monster” that doesn’t seem to be a monster at all, just a being seeking a family, and she created a novel that was accessible for the common man to read. Shelley was a driving force as a woman writing science fiction, and to think that she wrote “Frankenstein” at 19 years old makes me feel like a 19-year-old loser. I go back to annotate the text monthly, and I continue to find new aspects of Shelley’s writing and themes of the text that I missed previously. If you picked up my copy, you would find ink stains, margin notes and a rainbow of colored tabs.

“Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson

I just finished “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” for my gothic literature class, and I fell in love. In the brief span of a novella, Stevenson constructed a dreary atmosphere following a simple lawyer investigating the duality of good and evil through Dr. Jekyll and his evil inner persona Mr. Hyde. I read “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” in one sitting at Love Library, and I am sure other students were perplexed at my furious scribbling of notes and ideas on Stevenson’s theme of the universality of evil. It has a similar plot to “Frankenstein” where a scientist creates a “monster,” but it takes a different turn as to how the “monster” affects those around him. As I sat in class, discussing the themes and symbols within “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” I kept wanting to go back and reread the creepy tale. I think if you want to read a classic novel on the shorter side, this is a great one to start with.

“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

I can’t even begin to explain the grip “Hamlet” has on me. To dive into a Shakespeare play can be daunting, but I do think that “Hamlet” is a painless, straightforward play to start with. I still go back and read my analysis on Hamlet’s sexualization of his mom because I am still fascinated by the concepts Shakespeare wrote on. I love reading from the perspective of someone who is falling into madness, and Hamlet is the golden boy of characters who descend into madness. His angsty monologues and sassy remarks are sure to keep you entertained. Shakespeare fills “Hamlet” with puns and jokes that were made for those who still listen to My Chemical Romance. It was made for the emo kids, and I will not be elaborating on that.

“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley

I believe “Brave New World” is better than “1984” and “Fahrenheit 451,” and I will proudly admit it. Huxley created a dystopia where everyone appears to be happy but are simply living off of simple pleasures. The meaning of sex has changed to be a means of quick pleasure, and children are created in a lab with personalities based on their social hierarchy. The mind was not meant to be used and satisfaction came from drugs and sex. Huxley constructed a world that feels like it was written yesterday, though it was published in 1932. Even as I write this explanation, I want to go buy a copy of “Brave New World.” I continually cringed at the characters and their inability to see that they were trapped in a world of little meaning, but I kept rooting for them to discover that they needed more in their insignificant lives. After I finished “Brave New World,” I couldn’t help but contemplate how Huxley predicted a culture that is so focused on immediate gratification rather than meaningful relationships. If anyone reads “Brave New World” and needs someone to gush over the details with, I will be around. 

“The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

I am ashamed to admit I only read Oscar Wilde because he is referenced in “The Infernal Devices” by Cassandra Clare, but that does not take away from the fact that I adored reading and annotating “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Wilde calls into question what it means to be young and if innocence can be restored. His use of language is not only luscious, but also filled with wit. Wilde expresses themes of identity and experience through the lens of Dorian Gray, an archetype of male youth and beauty. I believe that as a society we will never outgrow the need for a beautifully and eloquently written novel, and out of all of the books listed, I believe that “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is that novel. This is the dazzling prose that will surely have you questioning what it means to be young and how quickly we can fall into corruption because of our desires.

culture@dailynebraskan.com