12 classic novels coronavirus lockdown would have absolutely ruined, Moby Dick

Image: Mica Murphy

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself, so she does, on a very speedy flower delivery website. They look very nice in the back of her successful (if glitchy) Zoom party that evening.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

When his monstrous creation awakens, Victor Frankenstein is repulsed but unable to flee his manor – he’s gone for his allotted 45-minute jog already. He stays with the monster and, eventually, they bond. A small row erupts over a sourdough starter, but they otherwise make for fairly sound lockdown roommates.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

‘Call me… disappointed,’ begins a dejected Ishmael, whose whaling voyage is cancelled by Covid-19. He spends his time reading up on whales, which isn’t nearly as exciting, but makes the lockdown version of the novel just as heavy on obscure whale facts as the original.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The irrepressibly reckless Toad is still driving his motorcar wherever he pleases until police visit Toad Hall one day to slap him with a fine for breach of lockdown rules. Toad is certain it was pass-ag, teetotalling Ratty who squealed on him; nobody suspects wise old Badger.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Basil Hallward, bored of painting in lockdown, is learning new skills – he makes a cross-stitch of Dorian Gray instead. It’s cute but no masterpiece; Dorian figures he’ll age better than it anyway. He thanks Basil for the ‘lovely gift,’ but doesn’t hang it up.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The wealthy, enigmatic Jay Gatsby, known to host elaborate soirees on the Houseparty app, rekindles an old spark with Daisy Buchanan via WhatsApp. Daisy’s husband, Tom, finds out when she accidentally sends him a text meant for Gatsby. When Tom’s mistress, Myrtle, is killed by a Deliveroo driver dropping off a Five Guys cheeseburger for Daisy, Myrtle’s husband assumes the burger was for Gatsby. Flouting all lockdown laws, he goes to Gatsby’s luxurious flat, and flouting regular laws, shoots him fatally.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Local government has imposed strict guidelines about leaving one’s hobbit hole, and Frodo’s planned quest to destroy the One Ring for Gandalf is going to take more than his apportioned ‘exercise time’. He sends the ring, via courier, to Mount Doom, paying extra for tracking. He couldn’t be more relieved when the email comes: ‘Your package was successfully delivered to the Cracks of Doom at 14:37 p.m.’

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Charlie Bucket finds a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s legendary chocolate factory, but the day before the big tour, lockdown is effected. As a measure of compensation, one of Wonka’s Oompa-Loompas is sent to each ticketholder’s home, to sing their quirky songs from an appropriate two-metre distance. It’s just excruciating; insult to injury, really. Even the kind, lovely Bucket family find it grating.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Stranded at their homes by school closures, a group of schoolboys turn savage. Young Jack’s room is such a mess he stepped on a pair of glasses, and now he’s setting things aflame with them for his TikTok following.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

After several unsuccessful attempts to find someone who wants to break lockdown rules and wander New York’s Central Park with him, Holden Caulfield mutters resentfully about the ‘bunch of phonies’ doing it without him. The little git doesn’t even clap for key workers.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A young girl, enduring isolation indoors with estranged relatives, stumbles upon a formerly locked bit of garden in late March that, for the next month, brings her inestimable joy. By May, she’s sick of that, too.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters are getting antsy stuck at home, but that’s no reason for her best friend Charlotte to agree to marry – MARRY! ­– the first man to send her a decent DM during lockdown; surely love is more than pragmatism? Meanwhile, Lydia breaks the rules by meeting up with the dashing George Wickham; they quite emphatically do not keep two metres apart. Finally, both Jane, the eldest sister, and Elizabeth accept invitations to marry, though even their early September wedding dates, given the current numbers, seem optimistic.

 

Read some classics lockdown hasn’t changed.

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