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A Walk in Classic Literature

By Megan Powell and Magali Prel

One of the most beloved features in fiction can be found in following some remarkable characters on a quest or journey. Whether they be fantastical, emotional or physical, these adventures offer creative tropes and inspire through extensive description. Classic literature includes some of the most beautiful landscapes and sceneries while following the characters on their journey. This feature will explore some of our favourites that will hopefully motivate you to get out and about and embark on your own journey, either physically or metaphorically through being transported to the many wonderful locations in the novels. As summer gets closer and the sun starts to make more of a regular appearance, these classics are perfect companions for pre-summer reading.

The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

The Innocents Abroad is a travelogue depicting Twain’s own experience as part of the “Quaker City” excursion, a pleasure cruise to Europe that took place in 1867. The book starts with the passengers' expectations of the trip, where the reader is introduced to a diverse group of American tourists, each with their own peculiarities and eccentricities. The travellers make their way through various destinations in Europe, such as France, Italy, Switzerland and Spain.

Throughout the novel, Twain provides an insight into what he observed on the trip and offers commentary on various landmarks, cultures and populations he has encountered. He uses humour to mock the stereotypes associated with some of these European countries and frequently contrasts American values to those of the Europeans, often describing them as absurd and eccentric.

This travelogue is both a humorous travel narrative and a social commentary on the American character and European society and culture. Twain’s observations provide the reader with new-found perspectives on cultural clashes and misunderstandings that we experience when visiting new places.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist tells the story of a young Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago, who embarks on a journey to discover his true purpose in life. His journey begins when he experiences a recurring dream about finding treasures at the Egyptian pyramids. Intrigued by this recurrent dream, he decides to consult a fortune-teller, who interprets it as a sign for him to pursue his dream, causing Santiago to leave his familiar life behind and embark on a quest to find his treasure.

Throughout the novel, Santiago encounters a range of characters who each teach him something about himself, thus undergoing a spiritual journey. Through a series of tests and challenges, Santiago learns to trust his intuition and experiences a process of self-discovery. This spiritual awakening allows him to embrace the present moment, overcome his fears and have faith in the journey of life.

As a result of this journey, he discovers that the treasure he seeks is no longer material, but rather the wisdom and fulfilment that comes from following one’s dreams.

The History of Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

As the recent TV adaptation of Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones airs, it is apt to explore the original classic novel in context of a great walk in classic literature. In this example, however, it is more metaphorical. Like the introduction depicts, there are a variety of walks and adventures that characters take and, in Fielding’s case, it is a purposeful one.

The story follows titular character Tom Jones, who was adopted by Squire Allworthy as he begins to fall in love with Sophia Western. This bildungsroman, filled with a comedic romance trope, is considered to be one of Fielding’s most influential novels and was published in 1749. While Tom tries to win over Sophia, he embarks on an emotional journey of seeking a sense of identity and a purpose to earn her love. The picaresque novel details Tom’s journey during the Jacobite rebellion and is a lengthy yet fantastic read; it is a precursor to many other novels of its kind and so it is easy to understand why the novel remains influential.

Akenfield by Ronald Blythe

Ronald Blythe’s classic Akenfield was published in 1969 and vividly depicts a village in East Suffolk, where Blythe grew up and spent his childhood. The title of the novel is a pseudonym for the village and, as much as the title of the novel and name of the characters are fictional, the detail and description perfectly depicts Blythe’s Suffolk.

In this sociologically-convincing novel with data and statistics, the author emulates the living experience in Akenfield and was produced in combination with his neighbours. This authentic experience of the Suffolk village will transport readers through Blythe’s recollection and convincing historical description. The novel is organised into categories that ensure all aspects of the village are covered, from religion to rural adventures. Blythe forces the reader to travel to Akenfield and experience all that the characters do. This novel will surely take readers on a bold and authentic walk to Suffolk.

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