Rip Van Winkle is the story of a henpecked man who travels one day into the Catskill Mountains where he happens upon a stranger struggling to lug a barrel of liquor up the slope. Assisting, Rip happens upon an amphitheater of strange men playing billiards. He drinks from the barrel and falls asleep, then wakes up many decades later after the end of the American Revolutionary War. The story is a parable for isolation from war and for forgetting the painful memories it causes.
The Death of Ivan Ilych is a late novella by Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, about a wealthy judge named Ivan Ilych who is dying from an accidental injury. The story presents Ivan Ilych's vexed mental state as he approaches death and has strong moral and religious themes, presenting a dichotomy between, on the one hand, his own life full of self-interest, superficiality and a fear of death, and, on the other hand, the life of a peasant, Gerasim, who is compassionate and does not fear death.
Uncle Vanya is the story of a wealthy professor who has remarried to a young and beautiful woman and returns to his country estate with the aim of selling it. Several people connected to his first wife, though, depend on the estate for their livings and for their senses of purpose. Among these people are the professor's daughter from a previous marriage and his first wife's brother, the title character Vanya.
Vanity Fair is the story of Becky Sharp, a clever and ambitious young woman, and her friend Amelia Sedley who is more pliable and likable. The two women go through their lives in the climate of England during the Napoleonic Wars, enduring difficult marriages, relationships, the perils of motherhood, and the trials of womanhood during the oppressive period. The novel presents the passive Amelia as an admirable figure while the acid-tongued and manipulative Becky is derided.
The Unvanquished is a Civil War drama set in Mississippi and centered on the Sartoris family. Originally published as seven short stories, the novel deals variously with the war itself, black market smuggling, small town life, and ideas of honor and legacy. It is a quintessentially Southern narrative with a broad perspective on Mississippi life in the second half of the nineteenth century. At the novel's conclusion the various stories resolve their interconnected threads.