English literature is rife with subtle and not-so-subtle commentary on what it means to have and to use power. These include expressions of political, physical, intellectual, and individual power. The following classic novels and plays (in no particular order) would be appropriate for a 15-year-old who wants to learn more about what power is and what it can do:
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This entire novel can be viewed as a struggle among characters with different types of power, including the power of money, class, physical strength, knowledge, and desire.
- 1984 by George Orwell. This dystopian novel is the classic illustration of the power of deception (through control of the media) and, when that doesn't do the trick, the power of fear. In the end, though, it's all about the even greater power of the individual with a free mind.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel pits the power of prejudice against the power of truth and reason.
- Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. This classic French play beautifully illustrates the power of words and of love through a protagonist who fails to acknowledge that power until it's too late.
- Othello by William Shakespeare. Though the title character in this dark play holds great military and diplomatic power, he is powerless to control his jealousy when faced with Iago's deceit, which is spurred on by his jealousy and hatred.
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding. The tribulations of a group of boys stranded alone on an island illustrate the classic political struggles of might versus reason and military strength versus individual freedom.