Classics: Easter Special
By Megan Powell, Hannah Spruce, Michael Calder and Dani Basina
With Easter just around the corner, the classic literature team have decided to devote this issue to all things Easter! There may not be so many classic novels that are overtly about Easter, so we have decided to explore examples that are linked to themes surrounding Easter. These themes could include religion, spring, rebirth and nature, to name a few. Here are some of our favourite pieces of classic literature which celebrate Easter through these themes.
Lord of The Flies by William Golding
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies follows a group of British schoolboys who try to adapt to life on an isolated island with disastrous consequences. Although not implicitly religious, the novel can be read as an allegorical discourse of society and civilisation. Questions of morality and power are central to the novel with the two opposing factions, headed by Jack and Ralph. As the order is dismantled, the group begins to adopt cult-like qualities as they are led further from the memories of a civilised society. The character of Simon is presented as the innocent moral pillar amongst this chaos, and his death highlights the extent of the boys’ mania and the complete loss of control and innocence. The novel explores ideas of rebuilding and new beginnings but also signifies the sacrifices which must be made in order to achieve them. Similarly, the relationship between the natural world and humanity is also important, as the island is a paradise when the boys arrive, untouched by the corruptions of civilization, however, when they are rescued the island is consumed by flames and must rebuild itself from nothing.
Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
However negatively Faust can be interpreted as a literary work, there is no question about whether to include it in this feature. Easter appears as a prominent theme in a few ways. We find Faust as a great academic in many disciplines, however, there is sorrow and frustration in his soul. He believes human understanding is limiting his mind and accomplishments. He has set himself a new goal – to master magic. It is Easter eve, and Faust is alone in his study. There is a vial of poison in his hands, and he is uncertain as to what to do. Suddenly, a singing choir and the sound of bells announcing Easter break the tension, stopping Faust from doing the unthinkable. Even though he is sceptical about their meaning, hearing the bells fills him with the hope of rebirth. Easter here can be seen as bringing the idea of eternal life and resurrection. Considering the plot, Easter is also viewed as Faust's chance for something new.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
When thinking of what to read to celebrate Easter, the works of Beatrix Potter came to mind, most notably that of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Published in 1901, this children’s story possesses many qualities that are synonymous with Easter, alongside exquisite illustrations throughout the cautionary tale. Mrs. Rabbit warns her bunnies not to enter Mr McGregor’s vegetable garden as doing so might lead to the same consequences that their father experienced – ending up in Mrs McGregor’s rabbit pie! This admonishment stirs Peter Rabbit to disobey and enter the garden, where he fills up on many vegetables making it difficult to escape when he is spotted by Mr McGregor. During a chase around the garden, Peter loses his clothes and eventually escapes under a gate and makes it back home. Mrs Rabbit is angry at Peter for his mischief and Mr McGregor uses Peter’s clothes as a scarecrow heeding a constant warning. This family-favourite tale includes bright imagery and furry friends to capture the essence of Easter. It is without a doubt that Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter are the vision of spring and perfect to read to children over the Easter holiday, as this story not only includes spectacular illustrations but also contains an imperative message of what could happen if rules are not followed.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Over the centuries, the Easter holiday has become affiliated with an array of cultural connotations: chocolate, rabbits, eggs, parades and celebrations. However, the biblical story of Easter draws on a variety of thematic notions, which are similarly connected with the concept of spring and natural order, such as redemption, new beginnings and rebirth. Similar concepts have been cemented throughout the literary canon. In Herman Melville’s celebrated novel, Moby Dick, the biblical associations and rebirth of Ishmael deliver vital symbolic importance when concluding the novel. However, reincarnation does not come easily, and biblical suffering and sacrifice displace any notion of a happy ending. During the novel’s closing chapters, the whaling vessel, thePequod, comes under siege by its quarry and is completely decimated. The crew are dispersed and greeted by icy, sinking deaths. The only survivor of the Pequod’s voyage, Ishmael, does so by floating on the coffin of his crewmate, Queequeg. He is symbolically perched upon his own death and the death of his peers, before being reborn when rescued.