Some of the best stories are those of escape. You can’t help but root for the protagonist as they take in their situation and never give up until they are free. This unparalleled moment of triumph leaves you wanting to throw your fist in the air in victory.
Below are 10 stories of great escapes, all with that moment of triumph. Just a warning, this list may contain spoilers as the escapes are sometimes a pivotal moment of the plot.
1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Edmond Dantès has a perfect life. So perfect, three men take offense, and in their jealousy frame Dantès for a crime that gets him thrown in prison for life. While in prison, he learns of a vast treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo. With his escape, he finds the treasure and plans to exact revenge.
2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” In this Dickens novel, set in both Paris and London, we are given the plight of the French people during the time surrounding the French Revolution, along with parallels of the English people. The great escape, is that of a prison switch between Sidney Carton and Charles Darney.
3. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
In this finale to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the ring bearer, Frodo, and his companion, Sam, do the impossible. They simply walk into Mordor, with the task of destroying an evil ring once and for all in the fires of Mount Doom. However, the way out is treacherous. They would have been trapped on Mount Doom forever if it were not for the great eagles coming to their aid.
4. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
The Berlin Wall divided West Berlin from the East and the rest of Germany. The government, at the time, claimed the wall was meant to protect the Eastern people from fascism. It was heavily protected, and crossing it meant death. That did not stop many from trying. In this novel, Alec Leamas and his lover, Liz Gold, attempt to cross though at the top of the wall they are attacked. When Liz falls back into the East, Alec follows.
5. Papillon by Henri Charrière
An autobiographical novel of a man who viewed escaping as a sport. Papillon (or butterfly in French) is named for the butterfly tattoo on his chest. Over a period of 14 years, Papillon escapes prison after prison in the ultimate quest for freedom.
6. Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
Andy Dufresne is accused of killing his wife and her lover. Despite claiming innocence, he is sent to Shawshank State Penitentiary to serve two life sentences. After offering evidence for his case, he learns that he will never be permitted to leave prison, so instead he plans his escape by digging a hole in his cell that by day is covered by a poster.
7. Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington
The stolen generation of Indigenous Australia were children taken from their homes by the government and church missions and placed in foster homes or institutions. In this novel, the stolen children make the daring decision to escape and return home.
8. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Amir is the wealthy son of a merchant. Hassan is his servant, and also his best friend. In The Kite Runner, Amir and Hassan are torn apart when Amir escapes Afghanistan amid a crumbling monarchy. But the bond between the boys is so strong that Amir travels to right his wrongs towards his only true friend.
9. Room by Emma Donoghue
This story of escape is written from the view of five-year-old Jack. Room is his universe, the only place he’s ever known. There he lives with Ma, who does everything in her power to give him a happy childhood. Jack soon comes to learn there is a whole world outside of Room, and that he and Ma have been held captured there for his entire life. This realization leads to a daring escape where Jack has to be the bravest he has ever been.
10. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
This novel was the winner of the National Book Award. The Underground Railroad was traditionally a system of safe houses and allies that helped slaves escape from the southern states to the north where they could live free. In this incredibly moving story, the railroad takes physical form, becoming a true railroad with tracks and trains that run underground.
What other literary escapes have you read about?
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h/t The Guardian