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A Lifetime of Classics

By Megan Powell, Hannah Spruce, Yagmur Dur and Magali Prel

When thinking of picking up a classic read, many of us may hesitate at the thought, contemplating if it is worth exploring this vast world of classic literature. The answer to that is 100%, yes! Adventuring into classics may be daunting at first, but once you do, one realises that classic literature is for everyone. Classic literature exposes readers to a wide variety of themes, ideas and issues that are still very relevant today. They are universal and appeal to all ages, whether it is a children’s, young adult or adult classic novel. Moreover, it is able to teach, connect and make readers gain a better understanding of the modern world that surrounds them, take them through memorable stories and fascinating characters that may have a lifetime of impact on one’s own life.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe written by the British author, C. S. Lewis, and published in 1950, is the first novel in the series of The Chronicles of Narnia and is considered a classic children’s fantasy literature novel. The novel follows the story of four siblings, Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter, during the Second World War, who are evacuated from London to the English countryside to live in a large old house with the eccentric Professor Kirke. Newly arrived at the countryside, first the youngest sibling, Lucy, then the other children, are transported to the fantastical world of Narnia. The magical imagery of Narnia throughout the novel, topped with the courageous and yet dangerous adventures of the siblings, captures the imagination of every child, but also adults. Whilst considered a children’s novel, Lewis’ text focuses on themes such as love and friendship, hope and betrayal, as well as themes with more religious tones like good versus evil and gluttony. Therefore, Lewis’ novel is an ultimate all-rounder classic that all ages will enjoy.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway takes place over the course of one day. However, the characters in the novel are far more focused on the past: Clarissa Dalloway often reminisces about her youth at Bourton, Peter Walsh wallows in the past and Septimus Warren Smith tries to abolish memories of the past due to his post-war trauma. Although this constant lingering on the past adds depth and complexity to the characters’ present interactions, it also highlights the dangers of living in the past. It emphasises the difficulty of dealing with change and hinders the characters’ ability to enjoy the present. Focusing on the past causes them to live a life of regret. Throughout the novel, Big Ben acts as a reminder of the present, while violently interrupting the characters in their thoughts about the past: “Still the last tremors of the great booming voice shook the air around him.” Though the novel takes place over a single day, time feels fragmented and distorted, alternating between past and present, suggesting that the only real indication of time passing by is one’s own memories.

Happy Days by Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett’s short and experimental play, Happy Days, explores the complex themes of death and ageing. The play is entirely character-driven, with a simple set design and the dialogue almost entirely led by the character Winnie. Winnie and her husband, Willie, are trapped in a mound and, despite their situation, Winnie remains optimistic. The absurdity of the setting is contrasted with Winnie’s babbling about their mundane everyday life. She has a bag which she looks into every day as part of her routine, providing a sense of structure and comfort. The items in the bag are worn and battered but they offer anecdotes and Winnie is still able to make conversation about them. Willie has limited interactions with Winnie, instead preferring to engage with his newspaper and literally “bury his head in the sand.” Throughout the play, Winnie is succumbing to the inevitability of the passage of time but she is adamant about remaining dignified. Beckett’s play highlights the importance of finding purpose in the mundane, which ultimately makes Winnie’s enduring optimism so admirable.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

This classic is perhaps one of the best introductory novels and is consistently popular amongst young readers. Kenneth Grahame’s children's story, The Wind in the Willows, was originally published in 1908 and follows many beloved characters such as Mr Toad, Badger, Mole and Ratty. This classic is undeniably one for the ages as the beautiful description and heartwarming messages of love and friendship stay with you. The youthful description is fun and allows you to escape on adventures with the remarkable animal characters. Each animal serves to depict a classic quality, representing philosophy and behaviour through lyrical prose. Whether you are in search of a perfect first classic or nostalgia, this is the perfect read.


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