The Stakes of Literature

The Stakes of Literature

In good writing, instructors seek to impress upon writers the need to take the stakes in the story to the highest point possible. In his great book about writing, Robert McKee also talks about the Negation of the Negation, the end of the line, where the story can’t go beyond a certain point in the human experience.

As I have been going through my journey of reading 101 literary works, I’ve tried to list out what the stakes were in these stories. These are there to help me become a better writer, but they also may help you, too. If you disagree or see something more obvious, please, let me know.

The Awakening, Kate Chopin

The Egypt Game, Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Go Set a Watchman, by Nell Harper Lee

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Wintering, Peter Geye

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

The Heaven of Mercury, Brad Watson

The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Nell Harper Lee

Twelve Days of Christmas, Debbie Macomber

The Grid, by Harry Hunsicker

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

Twain’s End, by Lynn Cullen

Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

War and Turpentine, by Stefan Hertmans

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Moonglow, Michael Chabon

The Storied Life of A J Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin

A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles

Rules of Civility, Amor Towles

A Separate Peace, John Knowles

The Travelers, Chris Pavone

History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund

The Human Comedy, William Saroyan

The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden

Caraval, Stephanie Garber

The Wolf in the Attic, Paul Kearney

The Barrowfields, Phillip Lewis

The Call of the Wild, Jack London

Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome

A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick

Elmet, Fiona Mozley

The Hazel Wood, Melissa Albert

Uncommon Type, Tom Hanks

The Lodger, Marie Belloc Lowndes

On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain

To Have and Have Not, Ernest Hemingway

The Waters and the Wild, DeSales Harrison

Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate

A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway

The Torrents of Spring, Ernest Hemingway

The Figure in the Carpet Henry James

The Last Tycoon, F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway 

EileenOttessa Moshfegh

Animal Farm, George Orwell

The OverstoryRichard Powers

The Captives, Debra Jo Immergut 

Scoop, Evelyn Waugh

Warlight, Michael Ondaatje–how far do you go in search of secrets about your past?

The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin–following the advice of a seer or living the life you control on your own.

Your Destination is on the Left, Lauren Spieller–how far can one go before having to stand on his own?

The President is MissingBill Clinton and James Patterson–whom to trust, himself or aides to save America.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, Therese Anne Fowler

The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah–living with the secret of Leni’s past with her mother and father and whether to come clean.

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, Oscar Wilde–following the seer’s advice or being rationale.

A Long Way From Home, Peter Carey–staying in the camp after learning his true identity or fleeing from himself once again.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh–risking death via overdose to free herself of her past. 

The Pearl, John Steinbeck–whether to keep the mighty pearl and the fortune it might bring, or throw it back into the sea and be free of its evil.

The Human Stain, Philip Roth–Coleman’s big secret, whether to keep it hidden or to finally share it with his children.

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