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Literary Works

With so many literary works in our world, it’s difficult to keep track of all of them. Ultimately, literary works are just works that are usually written and are ascribed authorship to one person or a group of persons. 

Term Definition
A Christmas Carol

In Dickens' novella A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge begins as a heartless miser who refers to Christmas as "humbug" and cares only about money and egotistical profit. However, he is launched on a surreal adventure over the course of which comes to see the errors of his ways. The literary work has been widely recognized as a brilliant representation of the Christmas spirit that can have a genuinely positive moral effect on most readers.

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A Confederacy of Dunces

In A Confederacy of Dunces, Toole develops an eccentric character named Ignatius, who, in a famous foreword by the writer Walker Percy, has been described as a "fat Don Quixote". The novel consists of a picaresque account of this eccentric man's adventures over time. The manuscript of the work was brought to Percy by the deceased author's mother; and Percy, pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work, advocated for its publication.   

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Synonyms - a-confederacy-of-dunces
A Farewell to Arms

In A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway develops a love story between a man and a woman within the broader context of the death and destruction of World War I. The novel gains a good deal of dramatic power from this contrast. This novel was the first work that won Hemingway universal fame as a great writer. It has been subject to some issues of censorship due both to the profanity and the political content that is present within the text. 

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All Quiet on the Western Front

The novel All Quiet on the Western Front is set during World War I. Through its characters, it explores the experience the war had on German soldiers, with an especial focus on the psychological trauma caused by war. The title of the novel is not an exact translation of the German. However, it has become an important phrase in its own right within the English language, signifying a sense of apparent stagnation. 

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Synonyms - all-quiet-on-the-western-front
Animal Farm

As an allegory, Animal Farm was intended primarily as a criticism against the Soviet Union under the rule of Stalin. The plot of the novella consists of animals on a farm staging a revolution against the farmer and then engaging in politicking that strongly parallels the politicking that went on within Soviet Russia. More generally, it is an allegory about how revolutionaries almost always become oppressors in their turn.  

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As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying, by Faulkner, is characterized by its use of multiple narrators: there are a total of 15 narrators that tell the story from their own perspectives over the course of 59 chapters. Moreover, the novel is written with a stream of consciousness style, which means that the reader is immersed into the consciousnesses of the characters. This novel has generally been acclaimed as one of the greatest works of its genre of the twentieth century.  

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Beautiful Losers

Leonard Cohen is known today primarily as a songwriter and poet, and most notably as the writer of the song Hallelujah, which was made famous when it was covered by Jeff Buckley. Before his career in music, though, Cohen tried his hand at novels. Beautiful Losers is the second (and thus far, last) novel he ever wrote, before he turned his attention to his music career and became the songwriter he is today.  

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As the oldest surviving work written in the English language, Beowulf has a special place in the canon of English literature. It is comparable in not only style and genre to the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is the one of the oldest works of literature ever, in any language. Students in high school and early college are generally expected to acquire familiarity with this work due to its importance in the history of literature.

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Brave New World

Huxley's novel Brave New World develops a vision of a dystopian society set in the year 2540. The characters within the novel actually keep time in terms of Before Ford or After Ford—that is, before or after the standardization of production introduced by Henry Ford. The work is generally considered more subtle and astute that Orwell's 1984, insofar as it explores the ways in which people contribute to and even sometimes desire their own oppression.  

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Synonyms - brave-new-world
Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales

Most modern people probably know The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales through the Disney adaptations of these tales into animated films. For example, classics such as Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and The Frog Prince are in fact all originally to be found in this collection. In general, though, The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales are considerably darker in tone and content than their modern adaptations for children may suggest. 

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The novel Cabbagetown provides a relatively distinctive perspective into life in a slum in the city of Toronto, Canada. Cabbagetown was actually the name of the slum itself. The main plot of the novel is set during the Great Depression. As such, the novel has sometimes been recognized as a kind of Canadian equivalent of the more famous novel Grapes of Wrath, by Steinbeck, which portrays America during the Great Depression. 

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Crime and Punishment

In Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky develops the character of Raskolnikov: a man who has convinced himself that he is a "superior" creature (akin to Napoleon) and can thus break the rules of conventional morality in order to pursue his own self-interest. He commits murder toward this end; but this takes a devastating toll on his mind. The novel is somewhat distinctive for Dostoevsky in that it focuses on one character rather than several of them.  

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Synonyms - crime-and-punishment
Dangerous Liaisons

Written in the form of a collection of letters (also known as an epistolary novel), Choderlos de Laclos uses the work Dangerous Liaisons in order to portray a rivalry between two French aristocrats, which largely consists in them using the seduction of women as a means for attempting to humiliate each other. It has often been assumed that the purpose of the author was to reveal the decadence and depravity of the old French aristocracy. 

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Darkness at Noon

In Darkness at Noon, Koestler portrays a character who was originally a member of the Bolshevik Party that instituted the USSR in the first place, but who was later arrested and condemned for treason against the USSR under the rule of Stalin. One of its key themes is the travesty of justice that occurred within the USSR, with accused persons essentially being tortured into confessing to crimes that they never committed. 

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David Copperfield

In David Copperfield, Dickens essentially traces the development of the title character to maturity, beginning with childhood. Much of the material in the novel is based on Dickens' own life, and Dickens has been quoted as saying that it ranks as his favorite of his own many works. The work was initially published through serial magazine format, with three chapters being released for a total of 18 months and the 19th month consisting of a double feature.  

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Synonyms - david-copperfield
Death Comes for the Archbishop

In Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather describes the adventure of two priests who seek to establish their own diocese and supplant the existing Spanish diocese in New Mexico territory after the war that caused the territory to change nationalities. The novel depicts the conflicts between both the old and the new priests, and between Catholic priests in general and the ancient Native American culture that had deep roots in the region.

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Synonyms - death-comes-for-the-archbishop
Don Quixote

In Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes tells of the adventures of the title character, who decides to declare himself a knight and live according to this self-image. The disjunction between Quixote's imagination and the real world have produced common English expressions, such as fighting windmills and the adjective quixotic. In general, the first part of the novel has a comic tone, whereas the second part becomes considerably darker and more tragic. 

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson clearly formulates the psychological possibility that a given person may lack an integrated character, to the point that he may seem like a radically different person from one situation to the next. Narrowly, it could be interpreted as a prescient portrayal of serious mental illness. More broadly, though, it could also be read as a general comment on the fragmentation of the modern personality. 

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In his work Dracula, Bram Stoker develops the character of Count Dracula: this includes putting Dracula in Transylvania and his need for new blood upon which to sustain himself. In fact, several of the elements that modern people tend to associated with Dracula were first introduced in Stoker's work. In an important sense, this work was instrumental in crystallizing the modern popular conception of the mythical creature known as the vampire.  

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The Dubliners consist of stories in which Joyce seeks to explore the nature of Irish identity and the modern condition. It has often been stated that the stories tend to hinge on Joyce's key literary concept of the epiphany. That is, the characters are portrayed in situations in which they are able to access a deeper, quasi-mystical understanding of their own natures as a result of the interactions and situations that develop within the stories. 

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In Emma, Jane Austen apparently sought to portray a character who has no financial concerns but is bored, socially powerless, and often mistaken about both her own powers and the intentions of other people. It has sometimes been said that Emma is also somewhat unusual among Austen's array of female characters in that she seem more interest in the love lives of the people around her than in her own personal love life.

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Ender's Game

In Ender's Game, Card portrays futuristic situation in which children are recruited in order to help fight a war against an alien race known as the buggers. The children's activity is framed as a simulation, and Ender proves to be a genius at this game. Eventually, though, it is revealed that the game may be something more than mere simulation. In any event, this novel has received general critical acclaim and won science fiction awards.  

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Synonyms - enders-game

In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (the wife of the famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelley) creates the now-classic story of a scientist who, out of pride and hubris, decides to create a living being: the Frankenstein Monster. The Monster, however, turns out to be much of a monster. He is in fact a sensitive and refined soul who is continually misunderstood because of his physical appearance. There is thus a sense of tragedy that permeates the whole work. 

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Great Expectations

In Great Expectations, Dickens tells the story of the coming of age of an orphan called Pip. This novel is known for featuring a wide range of characters, some of whom have attained an almost archetypical status within the popular imagination. Attention has also frequently been called to the vivid imagery present within the work. In addition, the work features several of Dickens' classic themes, including wealth versus poverty and good versus evil. 

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Synonyms - great-expectations
Gulliver's Travels

In Gulliver's Travels, Swift sends his hero on adventures to various lands. However, this is not a typical adventure novel: Swift's main purpose in telling the story is to develop a satire of the actual world. The different peoples met by Gulliver, for example, caricature different aspects of human nature. Some scenes in the novel have been regularly interpreted through a psychoanalytical lens, although the appropriateness of this approach is dubious. 

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Hamlet is William Shakespeare’s most popular, and most puzzling, play. It follows the form of a “revenge tragedy,” in which the hero, Hamlet (the main protagonist), seeks vengeance against his father’s murderer, his uncle Claudius, now the king of Denmark. Much of its fascination, however, lies in its uncertainties.

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Hard Times

Hard Times – For These Times is the tenth novel by Charles Dickens, first published in 1854. The book appraises English society and highlights the social and economic pressures of the times, much like A Christmas Carol.

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Harlot's Ghost

Harlot’s Ghost is a imagined chronicle of the Central Intelligence Agency. Written by Norman Mailer, the story contains characters that are a mix of fictional characters and real people. It follows Harry Hubbard in his life with the CIA, the results of the Cuban Revolution, the influence of the mafia in the 1960s, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

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Synonyms - harlots-ghost
Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness is a novella by Polish-British novelist Joseph Conrad, about a voyage up the Congo River into the Congo Free State, in the heart of Africa, by the story's narrator Marlow.

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Huckleberry Finn

Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain, first published in the United Kingdom in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885.

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In Our Time

In Our Time is the first collection of short stories by Ernest Hemingway. Published by New York by Boni & Liveright in 1925, the book contains stories about the times before, during, and after the first World War.

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Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre was written in 1847 by Charlotte Bronte and was originally published as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. The book was published under the name of Currer Bell by Smith, Elder & Co. in London, England. The next year, the book was published in America by Harper & Brothers of New York. In the genre of bildungsroman, or a book that focuses on the moral and psychological growth of the young protagonist, the story follows Jane in her growth into adulthood. Jane is in love with the mysterious Mr. Rochester, and the story focuses on the unfolding of her spiritual and moral sensibility. 

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Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar, known as Julius Caesar, was a Roman statesman, general, and notable author of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. He was also the subject of William Shakespeare's 1599 play about Roman history.

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King Lear

King Lear is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. It depicts the gradual descent into madness of the title character (King Lear), after he disposes of his kingdom giving bequests to two of his three daughters.

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Macbeth is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. Set mainly in Scotland, the play dramatizes the damaging physical and psychological effects of political ambition on those who seek power for its own sake.

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Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary is the French writer Gustave Flaubert's debut novel. The story focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life.

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Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life is a novel by English author George Eliot, first published in eight installments during 1871–2.

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Moby Dick

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is a novel written by American writer Herman Melville, published in 1851 during the period of the American Renaissance.

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a series of 12 books, authored by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This fictional series takes place in London, between the years of 1880 and 1914.

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Synonyms - the-adventures-of-sherlock-holmes
The Armies of the Night

Written about the March on the Pentagon in 1967, one of the unique characteristics of Norman Mailer's work is that it has generally been classified as a nonfiction novel. What this means is that the core of the novel is actually based on real historical events and details, although these are intertwined with fictional elements that serve to develop the main themes and ideas of the work. This was innovative at the time. 

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Since its publication in 1982, the BFG has won several awards. To an extent, this is related to Dahl's broader reputation as a great writer of children's books, including works such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. An especially noteworthy point about the BFG, though, is that it challenges preconceptions: giants are generally portrayed as frightening, whereas the title character here happens to be friendly.

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Synonyms - the-bfg
The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep, by Chandler, is notable for crossing over from the area of merely genre fiction and becoming recognized as a serious work of literature in its own right. For example, it has made Top 100 lists in the publications Time and Le Monde. The title of the work actually refers to death; this implication can be drawn from the way in which the phrase is used by characters within the novel itself.  

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The Bourgeois Gentleman

The title of the play the Bourgeois Gentleman, by Moliere, actually contains a contradiction in terms. That is: a member of a bourgeoisie could by definition not be a gentleman in 17th-century France, because a gentleman was nothing other than a member of the aristocracy. Moliere thus sought to criticize both the pretentiousness of the middle class in wanting to be aristocratic and the snobbery of the aristocracy in holding to their own status. 

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Synonyms - the-bourgeois-gentleman
The Call of the Wild

In The Call of the Wild, London consistently portrays the main character, who is a dog, as having human-like thoughts and feelings. In this sense, the novel is a good example of the use of anthropomorphization in a work of literature. Also, a key theme consists of the difference between instinct on the one hand, and the cultural veneer that is imposed over instinct on the other. It thus prefigured some of the key ideas of modern psychology. 

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The Count of Monte Cristo

In The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas describes the adventures of a man who is put in prison on false grounds, escapes from prison, and then seeks to wreak vengeance on the people who were responsible for putting him there. It generally considered a classic of Western literature. From a modern perspective, though, its authorship may be a matter of some controversy: an uncredited ghostwriter, Auguste Maquet, contributed substantially to the work.   

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The Fabulous Riverboat

In The Fabulous Riverboat, Farmer continues exploring a fictional world that he first created with a previous novel called To Your Scattered Bodies Go. It can be described as a work of soft science fiction. Meaning, it uses science fiction to explore not actual technological possibilities but rather to establish a social context that will be capable of generating radical insights about the nature of the human species and the human condition. 

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Synonyms - the-fabulous-riverboat
The Grapes of Wrath

In the Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck portrays the hardships faced by the Joad family as they migrate west on Route 66 in order to seek a better life for themselves in the midst of the Great Depression. The novel has retained its fame over time as a result of its iconic portrayal of a very important and distinctive time in the history of the United States. Also, the title is a Biblical reference denoting a plea for justice and deliverance from hardship. 

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Synonyms - the-grapes-of-wrath
The Great Gatsby

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald portrays life in the period of American history that has come to be known as the Roaring Twenties. The title character, for example, throws extravagant parties for all the people in the city. However, what truly distinguishes Fitzgerald's novel is the darker themes that are present within it. These include: old money versus new money, greatness versus mediocrity, and the betrayal of the American Dream.

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The Hollow Men

"The Hollow Men" (1925) is a poem by T. S. Eliot. Its themes are, like many of Eliot's poems, overlapping and fragmentary, but it is recognized to be concerned most with post-World War I Europe under the Treaty of Versailles.

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The Iliad

The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles.

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The Innocence of Father Brown

This first collection of Father Brown mysteries, widely considered the author’s best, includes "The Blue Cross" "The Hammer of God," "The Eye of Apollo" and more. Father Brown is the opposite of Sherlock Holmes—the quiet, nondescript little priest whom nobody notices.

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Synonyms - the-innocence-of-father-brown
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is a short story of speculative fiction by American author Washington Irving, contained in his collection of 34 essays and short stories entitled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.

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Synonyms - the-legend-of-sleepy-hollow
The Little Foxes

The Little Foxes is a 1939 play by Lillian Hellman, considered a classic of 20th century drama. Its title comes from Chapter 2, Verse 15 of the Song of Solomon in the King James version of the Bible.

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The Little Prince

The Little Prince is a novella written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 1943 and features the story of a pilot stranded in the desert with a young prince.

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The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye was written by Raymond Chandler in 1953. The story centers on Marlowe, whose friend Terry Lennox has been accused of murdering his wife.

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The Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies is a 1954 novel by Nobel Prize-winning English author William Golding about a group of British boys stuck on an uninhabited island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results.

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Synonyms - the-lord-of-the-flies
The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle is an alternative history novel by American writer Philip K. Dick. Set in 1962, fifteen years after an alternative ending to World War II, the novel concerns intrigues between.

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Synonyms - the-man-in-the-high-castle
The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge, subtitled "The Life and Death of a Man of Character", is a novel by British author Thomas Hardy. It is set in the fictional town of Casterbridge.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice is a play by William Shakespeare in which a merchant in 16th-century Venice must default on a large loan provided by an abusive Jewish moneylender. It is believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598.

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Synonyms - the-merchant-of-venice
The Murders in the Rue Morgue

"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe published in Graham's Magazine in 1841. It has been recognized as the first modern detective story; Poe referred to it as one of his "tales of ratiocination". 

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Synonyms - the-murders-in-the-rue-morgue

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