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Wuthering Heights is an important contemporary novel for two reasons: Its honest and accurate portrayal of life during an early era provides a glimpse of history, and the literary merit it possesses in and of itself enables the text to rise above entertainment and rank as quality literature. The portrayal of women, society, and class bear witness to a time that’s foreign to contemporary readers. But even though society is different today than it was two centuries ago, people remain the same, and contemporary readers can still relate to the feelings and emotions of the central characters — Heathcliff and Catherine — as well as those of the supporting characters.
Ten years after the fall of Troy, the victorious Greek hero Odysseus has still not returned to his native Ithaka. A band of rowdy suitors, believing Odysseus to be dead, has overrun his palace, courting his faithfulthough weakeningwife, Penelope, and going through his stock of food. With permission from Zeus, the goddess Athena, Odysseus’ greatest immortal ally, appears in disguise and urges Odysseus’ son Telemakhos to seek news of his father at Pylos and Sparta. However, the suitors, led by Antinoos, plan to ambush him upon his return.
The story is told in the first person by Jim Hawkins, whose mother kept the Admiral Benbow Inn, and who shared in the adventures from start to finish. An old sea dog comes to this peaceful inn one day, apparently intending to finish his life there. He hires Jim to keep a watch out for other sailors, but despite all precautions, he is hunted out and served with the black spot that means death. Jim and his mother barely escape death when Blind Pew, Black Dog, and other pirates descend on the inn in search of the sea dog’s papers. Jim snatches up a packet of papers to square the sailor’s debt, when they were forced to retreat from the inn.
As a gifted writer with a strong interest in supernatural phenomena, Charles Dickens produced a string of ghost stories with enduring charm. Three of them are presented here, of which The Signal Manis one of the best known. Though quite different from his most celebrated realistic and humorous critical novels, these ghost stories, Gothic and grotesque as they are, are of good portrayal, and worth a read/listen.
Mr. Utterson is a London lawyer who is a friend of Dr. Jekyll. Jekyll gave up his regular practice to experiment with non-traditional medicine. Utterson is concerned because Jekyll has written a will that leaves all his money to his new partner Mr. Hyde. Utterson has heard bad things of Hyde and disliked him at first sight. The lawyer thinks his friend is being blackmailed.
Richard Hannay’s boredom is soon relieved when the resourceful engineer is caught up in a web of secret codes, spies, and murder on the eve of WWI. This exciting action-adventure story was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1939 classic film of the same name. John Buchan (1875-1940) was Governor General of Canada and a popular novelist. Although condemned by some for anti-Semitic dialog in The Thirty-Nine Steps, his character’s sentiments do not represent the view of the author who was identified in Hitler’s Sonderfahndungsliste (special search list) as a “Jewish sympathiser.”
The story begins with Hester Prynne, who has just given birth to an illegitimate daughter, leaving the prison to serve her sentence of standing in the town scaffolds for an hour with her three-month-old baby. She has also been required to wear a red letter “A,” to stand for Adulteress, on her chest. Hester has embroidered the A with beautiful gold thread and amazing artistry. While Hester is standing on the scaffold, Roger Chillingworth, who appears to recognize her, appears out of the woods. Hester is also asked to name the man with whom she sins, but refuses.