10 Classic novels with themes of resurrection

Moby Dick – Herman Melville

Moby Dick is the tale of a whaling ship captained by the obsessive Ahab, who is willing to take any risk to capture the great white whale, Moby Dick. The murderous hunt doesn't end well and in an ironic turn of events his ship, the Pequod, is sunk. The only survivor is the narrator of the book, Ishmael, who floats to safety by using a coffin as a life-raft. Ishmael is literally given a second chance at life by embracing death.

White Fang – Jack London

White Fang is a tale told from the perspective of a dog, yes, but that dog is invested with human qualities and serves as a metaphor for London's own transformation from teenage troublemaker to successful writer. The events of the story are a continual battle with death until, finally, White Fang makes an act of selfless heroism that almost kills him. He recovers, though, and in the end is named, “Blessed Wolf.”

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

Sydney Carton is a flawed character throughout A Tale of Two Cities, but his redeeming quality is love of a woman. She's married, but when her husband is scheduled to be executed during the French Revolution, Sydney changes places with him for her sake. As he is led to his death, he recalls a scripture verse: “I AM the resurrection and the life, says the Lord; he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall live.” Carton's death is not meaningless; it is so that another might live.

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo is the story of Edmond Dantes, who was betrayed by jealous friends. The result of the betrayal is that he's sent to rot away in prison. He eventually escapes with knowledge of a secret treasure that a fellow prisoner gave him. He then re-creates himself as the Count of Monte Cristo. At first, his new life is directed towards revenge, but in the end Dantes forgives his enemies and finds love and a true second chance at life.

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Dostoevsky often wrote on spiritual themes, and Crime and Punishment is no different. At one level, it's a psychological thriller concerning a man named Raskolnikov who murders an old woman. At another level, it's an analogy of sin, death, and resurrection. At one point, Raskolnikov even contemplates the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Even though he's a murderer, he finds redemption through the patient love of a woman named Sonya and they're both reborn spiritually. Having suffered for his crimes, he is finally released to Sonya. Tolstoy writes that their pale faces are, “full of resurrection into a new life.”

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis

This C.S. Lewis allegory makes a clear reference to resurrection when Aslan the lion chooses to die in the place of Edmund, who has fallen into the clutches of the White Witch. After Aslan is slain, an earthquake splits the altar on which he died, and when his friends arrive to mourn for him, they find that he has been resurrected.

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

Towards the middle of this epic tale, Gandalf the wizard confronts a beast called the Balrog. Their battle sees them both fall off a bridge and into a deep chasm in the heart of the mountain. Eventually Gandalf is triumphant but is mortally wounded. Gandalf later reappears, resurrected, and Tolkien writes, “His hair was white as snow in the sunshine; and gleaming white was his robe; the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; power was in his hand.”

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

Prince Andrei has everything. He is a handsome, rich man -- but he isn't happy. He realizes that he's caught up in distractions and trivialities and so he decides to do something with his life. He joins the Russian army to seek greatness on the field of battle, but when he participates in the Battle of Austerlitz, he is gravely wounded. Lying on the battlefield gazing up at the sky, he has an epiphany. The only thing that will make him happy is love. Tolstoy writes, “Divine love cannot change. Nothing, not even death, can shatter it.” Andrei recovers and lives a new life.

The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

When he meets the Little Prince in his semi-autobiographical fairy tale, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has crashed his plane in the desert. Both of them are stranded, and the Little Prince describes how he lives on a different planet. He longs to get back to it because he has a rose there that he loves very much. In the end, the Little Prince allows a venomous snake to bite his ankle and falls down, seemingly dead. He assures his friend beforehand, though, that appearances deceive and he will in fact be reborn and on his way home.

The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath is a metaphorical exodus, a journey to new life. The Joad family are moving west to seek a new Eden, which they symbolically accomplish when they cross the Colorado River.