Literature and Drama Editor Laura Molloy discusses classic books to read in Winter and their relatability to the contemporary reader.
As Winter approaches, the days begin to darken and the fire starts to flare. As such,It is the opportune time to ignore your Christmas assignments and any other responsibilities you may have. Instead, pick up a cosy classic to curl up with and bring yourself back to the 19th century. Snowstorms, love triangles and the complexity of relationships are all featured in the texts below. So if you’re struggling with cuffing season this year, make sure to read the originals for advice.
Emma by Jane Austen
Emma follows beloved and free-spirited protagonist Emma Woodhouse, a young woman with a keen interest in matchmaking, specifically the residents of Highbury.
Bored after her governess Mrs Weston decides to marry, Emma decides it’s time to take on a new project, which results in her befriending local orphan Harriet Smith. A true ally of the ‘I can fix them’ movement, with the purest of intentions and heart, Emma is determined to set Harriet up with Highbury’s hottie Mr Elton, also known as the local vicar. The novel is truly a comfort read as you realise you’re not the only one ignoring flags more red than Rudolph’s nose. Poor Harriet learns that she is not the girl on the vicar’s wishlist and that her financial freedom will not be delivered under her tree. So, as the Instagram stories of Dublin Zoo lights begin to appear more frequently, it seems there is no better time to read a story about doomed love triangles, irrational jealousy and secret love affairs. UCD Crushes may not have existed in the 19th century but it’s clear that the needs of young people during Winter weren’t so different.
UCD Crushes may not have existed in the 19th century but it’s clear that the needs of young people during Winter weren’t so different.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A renowned and beloved classic, Little Women focuses on the four March sisters; Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth. If you dread the holidays due to unwelcome opinions of relatives then this might be the book for you. The four sisters represent distinct archetypes and have their own individual personalities. They may not have distant relatives over the holidays disputing their desires, but their wishes and ambitions often clash with one another. All sisters feel pressure both from the societal expectations placed on them and their internal criticism. The novel explores attitudes towards marriage and a woman’s independence. As your aunt who you haven't seen in years pesters you about your lack of a significant other, feel free to think of Jo March the ‘healing era queen’ who always chose herself. If awkwardness is a common theme at your holiday get togethers then Little Women is a Winter read that will resonate with you. Jo March may be a girl boss focusing on her writing but that doesn’t stop her best friend Laurie from proposing to her. No, there was no mistletoe dangling above. Laurie doesn’t remain sad for too long thankfully, as he finds happiness in Jo’s sister Amy. I’m no Santa Clause but I’m fairly certain marrying your best friend’s sister after proposing to you is not how you get on to the nice list!
The novel explores attitudes towards marriage and a woman’s independence.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights tells the troubled love story of Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. Unfortunately, they do not serve the classic trope of childhood friends to lovers despite having grown up together. Instead, they’re known as the original situationship: no one is doing pining like them. If you think your dinner table feels uncomfortable this holiday season, imagine being Cathy after Heathcliff forces you to marry his son. All because her mother Catherine Earnshaw marries Edgar and not Heathcliff. If you think you’re struggling with no contact this Winter or can’t get over a person from your past, just know Heathcliff has your back. After 18 years of being tormented by his emotions for Catherine, Heathcliff grows tired of the quite literal ghosting and convinces Sexton to dig up Catherine’s grave. If your friend is still discussing their failed love life while reminiscing to Wham’s'Last Chritsmas', perhaps Wuthering Heights would make the perfect gift for them.
Heathcliff grows tired of the quite literal ghosting and convinces Sexton to dig up Catherine’s grave.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray may seem a less obvious choice for a Winter read but Wilde’s protagonist faces the challenge many of us do. Whether you’re trying to get cuffed this winter or sleighing in your single era, no one understands the importance of looks as much as Dorian Gray. His character may not have had the experience of Northface jackets and UGG boots but was obsessed with his appearance nonetheless. His character becomes an exceptionally vain man determined to maintain his youth and beauty for eternity. His determination reaches such an extent that he engages in corrupt behaviour. As you’re cracking open your Revolut vault to fund that extra Christmas present that definitely isn’t for you, just know that Dorian Gray would have approved of your self love. According to the morals portrayed in Wilde’s novel, taking a few cute selfies of yourself this Winter that you can obsess over is definitely the way to go. However, as much as focusing on yourself and being delusional can be fun, OTWO do not encourage you to act so scandalously you murder your friend. It’s safe to say Dorian was at the top of the naughty list!
Whether you’re trying to pair up your friends this winter, excel at your career, survive through awkward family dinners or just simply shop to your heart’s content, know there is a classic for you. What has been often considered as a useless and outdated genre proves to be relatable in ways the modern reader may not expect. We may be centuries apart but these characters are not as distant as we think.