The Ten Greatest Novels of the 20th Century
Orwell’s dystopian novel of a world controlled by Big Brother has become the quintessential cautionary tale for the far-reaching arm of government and the dangers of totalitarianism. Orwell has designed every corner of this futuristic world and transports us to a place where we may not want to be, yet cannot tear ourselves away from. It is a strong message about uniformity vs. individualism and makes us question what freedom really means while at the same time frightening us by showing that freedom may be slipping away from us as we speak.
9. To Kill A Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird is a tale of racism and bigotry seen through the eyes of a child. At first, the novel works as a story of what it is to be young and free. Then the novel moves into issues of social justice as Scout and Jem have their eyes open to the larger world. Atticus Finch is a hero of morals and values who fights to do what is right even when he knows he will lose. The novel is rich with themes and characters which are almost impossible to forget once you have read it.
8. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
James Joyce is one of the greatest writers of this century, and this semi-autobiography led Joyce’s movement into modernist literature. This novel outlines the main characters journey to grow in his intellect, philosophy and spirituality. Joyce’s style here is inventive and thought-provoking and has made this one of the best novels of the last one hundred years.
7. The Sound and the Fury
A tale told from the viewpoint of multiple characters, The Sound and the Fury is a masterpiece at describing the thought processes of humans. Faulkner damn-near perfected the stream-of-consciousness thinking. Faulkner moves us with his tale of the decline of a southern family and their struggle to maintain honour.
6. The Catcher in the Rye
Teen angst has never been so literary. Catcher in the Rye is one of the most popular books in the world. Its biting satire and well-constructed anti-hero have made this an exceptionally brilliant novel, definitely worthy in its inclusion as one of the greatest ever written.
5. The Grapes of Wrath
There may be no better written recording of the Great Depression than Steinbeck’s classic The Grapes of Wrath. It tells the tale of the Joad family on a quest for a better life in California and it is a tale of adversity and perseverance on a scale which sets the bar for all other American novels.
4. The Lord of the Rings
J. R. R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings has become a cultural phenomenon in the latter half of the twentieth century, a masterpiece of high fantasy on an epic scale in both scope and depth. Lord of the Rings is not a simple fantasy tale but is in fact a story rich in themes; loyalty, friendship, fate, duty, corruption, etc. Tolkien has created a world so full and complex you are immediately transported into it and become engrossed with every detail. Literary critics often dismiss The Lord of the Rings because of its genre, not able to look further to see that it is the masterpiece of its genre and is a work of genius.
3. Gravity’s Rainbow
Perhaps the greatest piece of post-modern literature, Pynchon’s masterpiece is a story about post-war Europe and the production of the V2 rocket. Pynchon’s novel is complex in its plot and structure. Gravity’s Rainbow also uses a lot of science and mathematics in its story, adding a level of sophistication and even greater complexity. Many critics argue that this may be the greatest literary work on the last one hundred years, while other claim it is far too difficult to be read. Nonetheless it is a massive achievement in writing and storytelling.
2. The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is often called “the great American novel”. Jay Gatsby is living the dream; riches, women, high society lifestyle. Everything seems to be going his way. Fitzgerald uses this character and situation to explore they areas of morality, materialism, and what it means to have wealth and worth. It is a true classic that was never recognized in its time, but grew into one of the most acclaimed novels of the modern era.
As almost any literary scholar what the work of the century is and you will almost get a unanimous decision: Ulysses. It seems to almost be a given that Ulysses is the best novel of the 20th century. Ulysses has strong characters, humour, technique, style; it is perhaps the most important piece of modernist literature. James Joyce is one of the greatest writers of the modern age and he has given us the greatest novel of the century.