How to Cite Classic Literature in MLA
  • 4-minute read
  • 17th July 2023

How to Cite Classic Literature in MLA

If you’re writing an essay or a research paper and need to cite classic literature in MLA format, then you’ve come to the right place! In this post, we’ll show you how to cite the timeless and popular classics Of Mice and Men, Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, A Raisin in the Sun, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Frankenstein, and The Canterbury Tales, both in the text and on a Works Cited page.

So if you’re using these works (or any classic literature) as source material, keep reading to learn how to properly cite them in MLA format. Remember to check out our MLA Referencing Guide for more information.

Citing Classic Literature in MLA Format

To cite classic literature in MLA format on the Works Cited page, include the following basic information:

●  The author’s last name

●  The author’s first name

●  The title of the work

●  The container volume if applicable

●  The volume or edition number if applicable

●  The year of publication

●  The publication information

●  The page range

Here’s what the entry will look like for a book:

Author Last Name, Author First Name. Book Title. Publisher, Year of Publication.

To cite a direct quotation, create an in-text citation that includes the author’s last name and the page number. Here’s an example of an MLA citation from the The Catcher in the Rye:

In J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye, the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, embarks on a journey of self-discovery as he navigates the complexities of adolescence and struggles with the notion of growing up (Salinger 25).

When citing classic literature, keep in mind that the publication details (publisher and year) may vary depending on the specific edition of the book you’re using. Always verify the information using the book’s title page or the copyright page to ensure accuracy in your citation.

Next, let’s take a look at how to cite the original publications of nine prominent classic works.

Of Mice and Men

On a Works Cited page, use the following format to cite Of Mice and Men, a book by John Steinbeck:

Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. Covici Friede, 1937.

And a parenthetical citation would look like this:

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“The best-laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry” (Steinbeck 15).

The Catcher in the Rye

You would use the following format to cite J.D. Salinger’s book The Catcher in the Rye on a Works Cited page:

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. Little, Brown and Company, 1951.

A parenthetical citation would look like this:

Holden Caulfield admits, “I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot” (Salinger 58).

The Great Gatsby

Use the following format to cite F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby on a Works Cited page:

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925.

The parenthetical citation would appear as follows:

Jay Gatsby’s mansion is described as “a colossal affair by any standard” (Fitzgerald 5).

Fahrenheit 451

The following format is used on a Works Cited page to cite the book Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury:

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Ballantine Books, 1953.

Here’s what a parenthetical citation looks like:

The famous opening line of Fahrenheit 451 immediately grabs the reader’s attention: “It was a pleasure to burn” (Bradbury 3).

Animal Farm

On a Works Cited page, use the following format to cite George Orwell’s book Animal Farm:

Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Secker and Warburg, 1945.

Here’s a parenthetical citation:

Napoleon is the antagonist of Animal Farm and states, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” (Orwell 134).

A Raisin in the Sun

Use the following format to cite Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun on a Works Cited page:

Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. Random House, 1959.

A parenthetical citation follows:

The play A Raisin in the Sun explores the challenges faced by the Younger family as they strive for a better life (Hansberry 14).

“The Yellow Wallpaper”

On a Works Cited page, use the following format to cite the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, originally published in The New England Magazine:

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The New England Magazine, vol. 5, no. 5, 1892, pp. 647–657.

And the parenthetical citation would look like this:

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a haunting tale of a woman’s descent into madness (Gilman 647).


Use the following format to cite Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein (full title Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus) on a Works Cited page:

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818.

Here’s a parenthetical citation:

The novel Frankenstein explores the consequences of playing with the forces of life and death (Shelley 55).

The Canterbury Tales

On a Works Cited page, use the following basic format to cite a tale from the collection The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer:

Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Wife of Bath’s Tale.” The Canterbury Tales. Edited by Larry D. Benson, Harvard University Press, 1987, pp. 10–20.

A parenthetical citation, using a direct quote from “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” would look like this:

The character states, “Experience, though noon auctoritee / Were in this world, is right ynogh for me” (“The Wife of Bath’s Tale” lines 15–16).

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