ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Seven Reasons Why We Love English Literature

Updated on February 19, 2015
The Bard
The Bard | Source

As a passionate reader of English literature, I have often pondered on the reasons why certain literary works have a more impressive impact on the reader than others. From Shakespeare to J. K. Rowling, English literature has fascinated readers from all over the world. If you ask anyone to name five major movie adaptations of famous books, they will most likely mention a movie inspired by an English novel. After fumbling through the pockets of my mind, I have come up with what I believe to be seven distinguishing traits of English literature, which, in my humble opinion, contribute significantly to its everlasting charm.


1. The great opening lines

Luring the reader into your story right from the beginning is not always an easy task. These English writers surely knew how to do the trick.

  • "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
  • "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty Four
  • "Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress." George Eliot: Middlemarch

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York." - The Bell Jar

— Sylvia Plath

The most wonderful speech

2. The tragic love stories

A love story without a drop of sadness in it is utterly dull. We don’t want to read about annoyingly happy couples going about their annoyingly happy lives. We wish to immerse ourselves in drama, to find an emotional connection with the main characters, to discover a kindred spirit who has experienced the same heartaches as us.

  • That is why we adore Romeo and Juliet. If Shakespeare had made them elope instead of taking their own lives, the play would have almost undoubtedly lost a great deal of its admirers.
  • Remember Heathcliff, the gypsy boy who sweeps spoiled and rich Cathy off her feet? What could be more exciting than a forbidden love affair that ends up in death and despair? (To say nothing of the ghosts). Wuthering Heights must be one of the most bloodcurdling, hauntingly beautiful Gothic novels of the 19th century.
  • And, my favorite, the cherry on the cake... uhm, I mean on top – the tragic story of Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. Even if the old spinster is a bitter woman with a fervent wish to take revenge on the male species, it’s simply heartbreaking to envision her wearing the same wedding dress from the day her lover jilted her at the altar, and sitting at the same table, filled with rotten what-used-to-be food. After all, she only wanted to love and be loved in return.

Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy
Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy | Source

Ladies and gents, a question for you

Who is your favorite male character?

See results

3. The dashing men

They seem indifferent, even cold-hearted. But this is exactly what makes them so charming and sexy. Women often fancy a difficult conquest.

  • Mr. Darcy is the typical Jane Austen male character: extremely high on the social ladder, lots of money, a good name, handsome and arrogant, but not without strong moral values. At first, he makes Elizabeth Bennet loathe him because of his interference with her sister Jane’s relationship with Mr. Bingley. Plus, he is cynical and is a fan of tongue-lashing, so not exactly the romantic type. In time, however, Elizabeth realizes her true feelings for him.
  • Edward Rochester, the Byronic hero from Jane Eyre, hasn’t had much luck in love, having been forced into an unwanted marriage with Bertha Mason, an insane and violent woman. When Jane Eyre meets him for the first time, Rochester accuses her of bewitching his horse to make him fall. He is an austere man who doesn’t talk much and when he does, his words are usually harsh. Jane is intreagued by his mystery and falls madly in love with him. Women are caring by nature, they have this healing quality. What better way to melt a frozen heart than by enwrapping it with warm love?
  • Last but not least, I will name Henry Tilney, the enigmatic clergyman from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, who draws the attention of seventeen year old Catherine Morland, who is fascinated by Gothic novels. Unlike the other two aforementioned heroes, Tilney is a somewhat mellow man, but also sarcastic and with a penchant for light flirtations. He always means more than he says and seems to enjoy arousing Catherine’s curiosity, which, of course, is the ideal recipe for making a girl fall in love with you.

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth
Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth | Source

Ladies and gents, if you would be so kind as to...

Who is your favorite female character?

See results

4. The powerful women

Powerful women have always made a great entrance on the literary stage. Their prestige is not uncommonly associated with witchcraft, but hey, witches can also be good-natured and perform benevolent deeds.

  • Lady Macbeth is one of the first notorious female characters whose actions and thoughts have been linked to witchcraft. She is an antagonist, yet her role in the play is notable nonetheless. She is the evil force behind Macbeth’s decision to murder King Duncan, orchestrating the crime with an undeniable cleverness and a vixenish persuasiveness. She is highly intuitive, possessing a sharp knowledge of her husband’s mind and weaknesses, which she eventually poisons with cogent arguments. Lady Macbeth has little to be admired for, but the psychological intricacies of her gloomy personality have always incited interest in the minds of both the literary critics and the Shakespeare aficionados.
  • Éowyn, one of the few female heroines from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, is a beautiful, tall, golden-haired, grey-eyed woman. Idealistic and noble, she sacrifices her own happiness to care for her uncle. At the same time, she honors her responsibilities as a shield-maiden. She proves her bravery by disguising herself as a man and taking on a new identity as Dernhelm. During the battle of the Pelennor Fields, she confronts Witch-king of Angmar, Lord of the Nazgûl. Angmar has a 1,000-year-old prophecy on his side. It foretells that the Witch-king would not fall "by the hand of man". Tough luck – Éowyn reveals herself as a woman and then kills the Witch-king. (You can also watch the scene from the movie) But this is not the only instance in which she proves her bravery. She has the courage to serenely accept the fact that Aragorn cannot return her feelings. Instead of crying rivers of tears, she toughens up and embraces her duty towards her people.
  • Hermione is one of the twinkling stars of the Harry Potter saga. She is not only the best student in Harry's year, but she owns ten O.W.L.s – nine Outstandings and one Exceeds Expectations. The intellect and skills of sagacious Hermione overshadow those of almost all of the other students. She is a very talented witch and the first one to be able to cast non-verbal spells. Levelheaded and sort of a bookworm, Hermione doesn’t have a lot of friends. She tends to be bossy and a bit overbearing, but with time, Harry and Ron, her best friends, discover her loyalty and compassionate heart, as she saves their lives numerous times.

 Orc getting ready for battle
Orc getting ready for battle | Source

5. The monsters

Monsters and magical creatures inspire us to dream of far-away realms where the impossible becomes possible and where our imagination takes us on mesmerizing journeys. No matter if they’re really nasty or simply misunderstood, we love monsters in the way we love horror movies. It’s all about the thrill. The outstanding English fantasy novels of the 20th century would not have been the same without their monsters. They are the necessary darkness that the heroes must overcome in order to enjoy the sweet taste of glory. Dragons, centaurs ghouls, dementors, trolls, orcs, goblins, gothmogs, wargs and fire-drakes – these are only a few of the monsters which populate the fabulous worlds where wars are waged against forces beyond our wildest nightmares.

Perhaps the best-known monster of the English literature is the hideous, yellow-skinned giant who is mistakingly thought to be called Frankenstein. Actually, that was his creator’s name. Mary Shelley did not endow her monster with a name. However, if we regard the giant as a twisted alter-ego of Victor, the name confusion is somewhat justifiable. Frankenstein’s creation is a masterpiece – it not only articulates words, but has genuine human emotions. Yet Victor rejects it, forcing the pitiful monster to find refuge beside a remote cottage. Its encounter with the real world brings it (or should I rather say him?) countless disappointments and inflicts pain on its originally pure heart. Its anguish makes you wonder... who is the real monster?

6. The witty humor

There is hardly anyone who hasn’t read Alice in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass. In a strange universe where absurdity represents the governing reality, Lewis Carroll juggles with chaos and order in a unique manner. The innocent humor is accompanied by a subtle irony pointing to the rigidity of social conventions. Carroll’s humorous treat includes play upon words, poems, nonsensical phrases, eccentric characters and quirky twists in the story.

In the famous poem "Jabberwocky" from Through the Looking Glass, the words seem to have gone completely bananas. Here’s an example: "Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;/All mimsy were the borogoves,/And the mome raths outgrabe."

Here you can listen to Kate Burton reciting the Jabberwocky:

  • Alice’s conversation with Humpty Dumpty is hilarious for both children and adults. Humpty misconstrues everything Alice says, which makes the dialogue resemble the disrupted speech of a loony.

"How old did you say you were?"

Alice made a short calculation, and said 'Seven years and six months.'

"Wrong!' Humpty Dumpty exclaimed triumphantly. 'You never said a word like it!"

"I thought you meant 'How old are you?"' Alice explained.

"If I'd meant that, I'd have said it," said Humpty Dumpty.

Oscar Wilde not giving a flying fig
Oscar Wilde not giving a flying fig | Source

Oscar Wilde didn’t give a flying fig about many things. He was flamboyant and his humor was often regarded as sexist, which triggered controversies on a social level, making many of his contemporaries regard him as a bothersome fellow. However, his brilliant writings and remarkable wit have gained him an indisputable recognition worldwide. There is something about Oscar Wilde that absolves him of any possible guilt.

Some Oscar Wilde quotes:

"If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life."

"Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same."

"I can resist everything except temptation. "

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."

an old drawing of Oliver Twist
an old drawing of Oliver Twist | Source

7. The heroes with a poor social background

Charles Dickens hit the literary jackpot with his social novels Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. His satire shows London in a whole new light, a bleak one I might add, a place haunted by the an all-consuming injustice. The world of the rich lacks morality and exploits the working class in the cruelest ways. The orphan, despised and bullied, is thrown into life’s maelstrom and forced to make a living by begging, stealing or associating himself with characters bearing a dingy reputation.

However, he overcomes all obstacles, grace to his noble heart and endurance, which makes him a true hero and an example of how to succeed even in the direst of circumstances. Oliver Twists escapes from the claws of bandleader Fagin and eventually ends up in the care of Mr. Brownlow, Oliver’s paternal half-brother. David Cooperfield is also rewarded for his suffering (his stepfather’s punishments, the horrors of Salem House boarding school and having to move from place to place) and marries the woman who had always loved him and, well, lives happily ever after.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      This was a great article and extremely useful guide to some of the infamous characters of English literature:-))

    • Teodora Gheorghe profile imageAUTHOR

      Teodora Gheorghe 

      3 years ago

      Thanks, Chef-de-jour for your wonderful words! I'm glad you liked my little "journey into literature" :)

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 

      3 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      What a wonderful introduction to the characters of some classic English novels and stories - from the enchanting and disturbing nonsense of Alice, to the serious business of Lady Macbeth. Such a wide and rich spectrum! So glad you mentioned George Orwell - Animal Farm one of my all time favourites - and Dickens of course, the great popular narrator and champion of the oppressed.

      Must end here. Like the White Rabbit, I'm late for an appointment!

      Votes up and a share.

    • Teodora Gheorghe profile imageAUTHOR

      Teodora Gheorghe 

      3 years ago

      Yes, he is. I loved the story of Arwen and Aragorn.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Aragorn is both the King and the one for whom Arwen gives up eternal life!

    • Teodora Gheorghe profile imageAUTHOR

      Teodora Gheorghe 

      3 years ago

      They all have a special charm, but I guess if I were to pick one, it would be Mr. Darcy. At least he doesn't go to war or indulge in epicurean delights. :))

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I'm one for Aragorn anytime!

    • BessieBooks profile image


      3 years ago

      Glad to see Dorian Grey is beating Mr. Darcy in the poll :) Great hub!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' is probably one of my favorite first lines. Dickens is a great read, I really enjoyed this hub. Voted up


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)