During my career as a high school teacher, I directed more than fifty plays. Finding suitable scripts was not always easy – not only did we need plays with a reasonable number of characters and doable male/female balance, but we also wanted quality stories that were worthwhile and clean (I often had to alter scripts to get rid of language problems and other issues). While explicitly Christian plays are available, they tended too often to be sappy, sentimental, and overly didactic. I thus found that doing secular classics and equipping the audience to view them from a Christian perspective when I introduced them was the most helpful approach. I also wrote two scripts myself, both of which were adaptations of nineteenth-century classics. In writing these scripts, I tried to preserve as much as possible the beauty of the language of the authors rather than “dumbing it down” for a modern audience. These two plays are now available through Planters Press. Royalties are $50 per performance and are payable to the playwright.
Sense and Sensibility, like all Jane Austen novels, is a love story. She tells the tale of two sisters who are in many ways polar opposites, both of whom find true love where they never expected to find it. In the process, they learn much about not judging by appearances and the importance of communicating with those we care about. Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are delightful creations, and their eventual romantic partners, Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon, are upright men of great integrity.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins was the first of the so-called Sensation Novels. It is a melodrama filled with mystery and romance, heroes and heroines who demonstrate integrity and overcome adversity, and despicable villains who seek to destroy others for their own benefit. It was published at the same time and in the same magazine as Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” and the two novels share some remarkable traits, including lookalike characters and contrasting settings.
The study guides on this website are designed for high school students, their teachers, and other adults, so thus far I have chosen not to include any children’s books on the list. In the case of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, however, I have decided to make an exception because, while the book was written for children, young people and adults can enjoy it as well. Not only is the book a delightful fantasy, but it also contains a presentation of the Gospel in a fresh format that speaks to those of all ages, and the depth of the symbolism enables even Bible scholars to appreciate the saving work of Christ in a new way. The book is neither an allegory nor a theological treatise, but rather what Lewis called a “supposal” in which he sought to answer the question, “What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?” I would encourage you both to enjoy the book as a simple story and think deeply about it as a way of seeing anew the work of Christ on behalf of sinners.
Anthony Trollope, a contemporary of Charles Dickens, wove tales that brought fascinating characters to life while incorporating critiques of the political, social, and religious environment of nineteenth-century England. The Eustace Diamonds, the latest addition to the literature page, was influenced by Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, but is not a mystery in the normal sense as much as it is a narrative that sheds light on the variety of characters (and their flaws) that inhabited the English upper class or wished to do so. The central character, Lady Elizabeth Eustace, will do anything she can to maintain her wealth and status, even to the point of keeping a diamond necklace she despises simply because the family of her late husband wants to take it away from her. The humorous tactics she pursues enliven the novel while also giving insight into the consequences of greed and deceit in human relationships.