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Classic Novels With Ultimate Sacrifice?

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I am woefully under-read when it comes to the classics and could use some help. I have a character in a junior/senior level English class and I need the class to be reading a classic novel in which a main character makes, if not the ultimate sacrifice (giving up their life), a huge sacrifice out of love for another character. Romantic love is good, but devoted family/friendship love would work too. I would love any and all suggestions!

Right now all I can think of is Romeo and Juliet and it's not really what I'm looking for, plus we read that in 7th grade so I don't think it fits with the grade level. Thanks so much in advance!

ETA: I could use some insight into the nature of the sacrifice as well. (Like, "ultimate sacrifice for true love" or something) I will read the book I use and probably a couple other to decide but I can't read them all!
#1 - August 14, 2011, 06:25 AM
« Last Edit: August 14, 2011, 06:55 AM by valeriek »
DEFY THE DARK - HarperTeen June 2013
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A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens
#2 - August 14, 2011, 06:31 AM
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Thanks Marissa! I will look this one up. Could you maybe briefly paraphrase the nature of the sacrifice? ("ultimate sacrifice for love" or whatever?) I think I should've put in my original post that I could use some insight into the nature of the sacrifice as well. I will read the book I use and probably a couple other to decide but I can't read them all! Thanks again!
#3 - August 14, 2011, 06:53 AM
DEFY THE DARK - HarperTeen June 2013
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Yes, ultimate sacrifice for love, set during the Terror period of the French Revolution--two men are in love with one woman, but one of them takes the place of the other in prison (and eventually is guillotined) because he knows the woman loves the other and wants her to be happy.  I'm blanking out on names--Charles, and...er...
#4 - August 14, 2011, 07:01 AM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
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Ooh, this sounds much more interesting than the blurb I read for the book when Oprah picked it! Thanks!
#5 - August 14, 2011, 07:26 AM
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Just what I was going to say! Sidney Carton is the name. And Madame DeFarge, knitting and knitting as the guillotine chops....

You might also try The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo. Ultimate sacrifice for true love, I think, but I think both end up dead...

The original Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. Eventually ultimate sacrifice for true love. Maybe a high school class could analyze the evolution of the fairy tale from a rather grim story of sacrifice to its romantic Disney version!
#6 - August 14, 2011, 07:58 AM

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I second A Tale of Two Cities. That's what I thought just from seeing the title of this post, before I even read the thread!
#7 - August 14, 2011, 08:19 AM

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Hmm... looks like I'm going to have to read A Tale of Two Cities, huh?

I like that idea about the fairy tale studies, I think that might work with what I'm doing. I actually have a collection Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, I'll dig that one up. Thanks!
#8 - August 14, 2011, 08:22 AM
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To pair with A TALE OF TWO CITIES, try Jennifer Donnelly's REVOLUTION.  But yes, I second (third/fourth/fifth) ATOTC. 
#9 - August 14, 2011, 08:30 AM
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On a different kind of sacrificial note, how about The Yearling, in which Jody has to shoot his pet fawn when it grows up and starts eating the family's food? (I think I'm remembering that correctly; it's been many years since it was read to me!)
#10 - August 14, 2011, 08:55 AM

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We read THE SCARLET LETTER as juniors. It's a shorter read than TOTC, but perhaps a little harder to read. Hester Prynne accepts the total burden of guilt for her "sin," and becomes an outcast, refusing to dump any of the blame on Dimmesdale (who is equally guilty).   
#11 - August 14, 2011, 09:05 AM

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Steinbeck's great novel Of Mice and Men. SPOILER:



















The protagonist fatally shoots his best friend so that a mob of angry men won't kill the friend in a more savage way and also so that the friend won't cause harm to people. The friend is mentally disabled. Without understanding what he was doing, he acted dangerously around a women, which angered a group of men.
#12 - August 14, 2011, 09:13 AM
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THE SCARLET LETTER is the only other one that came to mind for me and I wasn't sure if I was remembering it right. So glad that I was.

I've always meant to read OF MICE AND MEN too. Thanks for these great ideas!
#13 - August 14, 2011, 10:18 AM
DEFY THE DARK - HarperTeen June 2013
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First thing I thought of was A Tale of Two Cities, too.
#14 - August 14, 2011, 02:51 PM

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Great ideas!  I have to say the first thing I thought of was R&J, because where I'm from, it is in the state-wide 9th grade curriculum (every year it was a standard Shakespeare).  I taught it in private school, but R&J was never taught to kids younger than 8th grade -- actually, the idea of it being taught in 7th grade was a little surprising to me. (Having been a 7th grade English teacher for most of my teaching years).  Of M&M, yes, that also sprung to mind (that was in our 10th grade English curriculum). 
#15 - August 14, 2011, 06:10 PM

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How about Les Miserables, where the main character, Jean Valjean, does everything possible to give his adopted daughter a better life (lives in hiding, joins a battle in order to rescue the girl's lover, goes to live far away from the girl when he is afraid his own past will ruin her chances at a happy future)?
#16 - August 14, 2011, 06:45 PM
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Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy comes to mind, and I remember reading it for the first time my senior year in high school. Also, Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell.
#17 - August 14, 2011, 09:34 PM

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
#18 - August 14, 2011, 10:30 PM
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I taught it in private school, but R&J was never taught to kids younger than 8th grade -- actually, the idea of it being taught in 7th grade was a little surprising to me. (Having been a 7th grade English teacher for most of my teaching years). 

I have heard others say this too and I'm always surprised. We read Romeo & Juliet and West Side Story back to back and compared the two in 7th grade, and then in 8th grade we read As You Like It and had to memorize the "All the world's a stage" speech and that was all the Shakespeare I had in school. They may have read some others in 12th grade but I wasn't required to take that class as I already had more than enough credits and I took Creative Writing for fun instead.

These are all great suggestions, I can't wait to check them all out. Thanks so much!
#19 - August 15, 2011, 02:04 AM
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How about Les Miserables, where the main character, Jean Valjean, does everything possible to give his adopted daughter a better life (lives in hiding, joins a battle in order to rescue the girl's lover, goes to live far away from the girl when he is afraid his own past will ruin her chances at a happy future)?

LES MISERABLES is a good example of the theme, but it's a long, long book, and I fear that the kids are apt to bog down in the huge chunk that describes the battles with the English.

How about JANE EYRE, where Jane renounces her love after she learns that her bridegroom is already married? (Or is this too girly a book for teen guys to get into?)



#20 - August 15, 2011, 04:38 AM

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Fortunately, the only person that will be really reading this book is me. I'm going to use the book in my novel and it will be the main character (a girl) who is reading it for class and examining the themes, so no worries about whether or not it's too long or girly. I have been meaning to read Jane Eyre for years! I was really hoping someone might say it fit the theme. Thanks!
#21 - August 15, 2011, 05:09 AM
DEFY THE DARK - HarperTeen June 2013
http://valeriekwrites.blogspot.com

It's a play, not a novel, but THE CRUCIBLE might fit as well.  It's about the Salem witch trials.  Several characters in this book are accused of (and executed for) witchcraft or being in league with the devil, but they refuse to confess due to the strength of their convictions, because they are NOT GUILTY.

One character in particular, John Proctor [he cheated on his wife, who is now pregnant, and he spends much of the play trying to right his mistakes] makes some moral and physical sacrifices in this way.  Several people in town try to convince him to confess so that others who are accused of witchcraft will follow his example and confess as well, hence saving their souls, but he believes in the righteousness of those who have been accused and doesn't want to "make light" of them.  He, along with several others, are led to the gallows as the story ends.

He also confesses to the love affair in court to try and reduce the credibility of his former lover, who is accusing his wife of witchcraft.  Not an easy thing for a man with such a sterling reputation to do, but he's trying to prove he loves his wife still.

(I hope these explanations make sense - it's been a little while since I've read it, but it's a very powerful story and stayed with me for a long time.)
#22 - September 14, 2011, 09:36 PM
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Oh I second 'Of Mice and Men' - its a fabulous book that I loved every bit as much when I was 12-13 as I do now x
#23 - September 15, 2011, 12:17 PM
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I first thought of OF MICE AND MEN when I saw the post title. Not the ultimate sacrifice, but about as close as you can get. How about OLD YELLER? There's also, THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. Aslan offers himself up as sacrifice (although he ultimately returns).
#24 - September 15, 2011, 01:02 PM

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Jerry, in THE CHOCOLATE WAR, nearly gets killed for refusing to sell the chocolates. He spends most of the novel paying for his decision to "disturb the universe." Still popular in high schools, I think.
#25 - September 15, 2011, 01:21 PM

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Speaking of The Crucible, I thought of an historical example--Giles Corey, who was also accused and executed in the witch hysteria of 1692.  He declared himself not guilty, but then refused to let himself be tried by the court, declaring they had already made their decision...and was horribly executed by being slowly crushed to death.  However, part of his refusal to be tried meant that the court could not seize his property away from his family, and so it was preserved for them.
#26 - September 15, 2011, 01:23 PM
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Wow Marissa, that's a great story! Thanks for the suggestions. I'd forgotten about THE CHOCOLATE WAR, I loved that book.
#27 - September 15, 2011, 03:40 PM
DEFY THE DARK - HarperTeen June 2013
http://valeriekwrites.blogspot.com

CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY is a book I read in H.S. and moved me in a way no other required book had. It takes place in apartheid South Africa. When his son is murdered by a black man, James Jarvis learns about his son's racial activism and decides to devote his life to helping blacks, including the family of the murderer. (The novel focuses a lot on the father of the murderer, who is a pastor.)

As for OF MICE AND MEN, be forewarned that a number of people hate the ending and what George does to Lennie (including my husband who has a developmentally delayed sister who's always been naive, trusting, etc. and my son who had to read the book in gr. 9 last year).   
#28 - September 15, 2011, 05:44 PM

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