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Crib notes for the desperate
All right, here it is all you need to know to pass your upcoming exams. Here are my very own study notes and synopses so you can write about these books on your final exams.
Crusoe gets shipwrecked on deserted island. He whines to the reader about this for 300 pages, finds and enslaves a guy named Friday, then whines to him for another 50 pages. Crusoe returns home. Mercilessly, the novel continues for another 50 pages during which time Friday has much fun with a bear. What this novel teaches us: Endurance in reading.
Heart of Darkness
Marlow wants to go down river to discover something. NOTE: River journeys are always about discovery talk this up a lot. His assignment is to go into the jungle and find the mysterious Kurtz. He concludes his journey with this discovery murder is bad. What this story teaches us: Although murder is bad, boating can be nice.
Old English heroic poem describing some monster killings and a funeral. Beowulf achieves greatness by sailing off to distant lands and killing everything he sees. At only 3,300 lines it's a quick read, if you lived 1,000 years ago and if you could read the English language. What this poem teaches us: Murder is good and boating can be nice.
Gulliver travels to four worlds and zaniness ensues. In each new land he learns valuable information about himself and about the world he lives in. He ends up going nuts. What this teaches us: Too much learnin' rots the brain.
Milton's epic poem describing the fall of mankind. It provides Satan's side of the story. Biblical revision is actually longer than the Bible itself. What this teaches us: Apparently the Bible wasn't good enough for Mr. Milton.
T.S. Eliot's sprawling poem which the author deemed so confusing he supplied notes which are even more confusing than the poem itself. Seems to be about the quest for a holy grail, though it never ever mentions a quest, holy grail or Indiana Jones anywhere in the text. What this teaches us: You can become rich and famous just by recording your own acid trip (see Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland).
Mary Shelley's gothic novel about the follies of science. Dr. Frankenstein creates a nameless monster from the scraps of dead criminals and brings it to life. Mayhem ensues. What this book teaches us: Creating life out of the dead appendages of criminals is a bad idea. Who knew?
Hamlet finds his mother has managed to get over the death of her husband a little to quickly. The ghost of Hamlet's dad tells him that something's rotten in the state of Denmark and that Hamlet must avenge his father's death. Everyone dies. What this play teaches us: Even from beyond the grave, parents give bad advice.
I hope this helps. If you're working towards a non-English degree it probably won't, but I can only help the few, not the many.