The Criteria for Good Literature

Categories: George Orwell

Keishera Aldonza August 30, 2011 English Honors The Criteria for Good Literature A good book us just that, a book. Yes, it may be enjoyable. Yes, it may have an intriguing plot. However, it still stands separate from the works titled as “good literature. ” In order to be considered good literature, the piece of writing must meet specific criteria. First, it must have strong characterization and they must fully develop throughout the plot. It is important for the characters to explore themselves, as we humans often seek to find ourselves.

Characters should have motivation, passion, and values, all qualities that makes us relate to them more. They should feel very real alive and not just words on paper. A good piece of literature should have the capability to make us connect to our own world and ponder the cogency of our morals, and even our existence. It should have the reader searching inside oneself for answers to mysteries and questions brought by the author’s craftsmanship, and searching for means of understanding it.

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A work of good literature should also have neither time nor place.

Themes portrayed in the piece can be conveyed no matter what era or place the reader is in. The ideas should be universal and can be applied to any circumstance. The piece of writing should also be fluid and vivid. It should mimic the liking of a Picasso, in the field writing. Its plot should be distinctive, captivating the minds of its reader. It should have articulate, elaborate details that paint lively, picturesque scenes in the reader’s mind.

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Lastly, the level of enjoyment determines the quality of the piece in question. A good book can be read, enjoyed but later forgotten about.

A good piece of literature is read and enthralls both the mind and heart. It makes the reader yearn for it and once more read it. Only then is it considered an excellent piece of literature. Based on the above definition of good literature, 1984 by George Orwell meets several of the criteria and can be classified as good literature. First, Orwell develops his characters in a strong powerful way, that as a reader I am able to fully understand them and at time connect to them, but still ponder their varying personalities, values, and ideals.

O’Brien, for example is characterized so well he seems to un-develop as the story goes on. At first, both the reader and Winston are convinced in believing that O’Brien is a member of the opposition, the Brotherhood, while being in part of the Inner Party. It seemed liked betrayal to the Party at its best but as the plot later reveals, we are the ones who seemed to get betrayed by O’Brien after he abuses and brainwashes Winston. The more the plot unfolds, the more questions are raised about O’Brien than are answered.

The reader is constantly left questioning him and trying to dissect his character. It also leaves one wondering whether or not O’Brien was previously rebellious as he implied when he stated “They got me long ago” (238) and if the Brotherhood truly exists or is merely another tactic the Party utilizes to find and trap people that have gone astray and to give the people a common enemy and someone to hate. Orwell succeeds in writing a novel that has truly questioning the thought of our very existence.

Winston brings up the thought, “The belief that nothing exists outside your own mind,” (266) solipsism, and immediately the reader’s racing and pondering this very truth, or fallacy. The mind is now confused as it tries to both reason out this theory and disprove it all at once. There is no way of demonstrating neither its falsehood nor its validity, which does nothing but keep Orwell a step ahead of us and locked into his novel.

What is absolutely lovely about 1984 is even though it was written in 1949 depicting a terrifying futuristic world; it can be connected and portrayed in any time period or place. For example, the theme of the dangers of totalitarian can be connected to the regimes in Spain and Russia, to which Orwell acknowledged when writing the book and can be sent as a message to future generations for the horrors that come with it. Among these are universal concepts that have come and gone throughout the history of mankind. These include propaganda, manipulation, technology, control.

No better is that shown when O’Brien tells Winston, “We control life, Winston, at all its levels. You are imagining that there is something called human nature which will be outraged by what we do and will turn against us. But we created human nature. Men are infinitely malleable…. Humanity is the Party. The others are outside – irrelevant. ” (269) Orwell triumphs in creating and depicting an almost frightening totalitarian world. He wrote an enigmatic portrayal of the world most of us never dream to exist and described it with such eloquent detail.

In a way, he terrifies us with nightmarish visions of the future and keeps our minds alert at times like these. He wrote, “'If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever'" (267). He also writes vivid displays of emotion as on page 14, “A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seem to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. Lastly, the novel was enjoyed very much. The characters I felt have grown close to me, the plot captivated me at every twist and turn. However, I did feel betrayed by Winston when he wrote, “He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother. ” After journeying so far with Winston and resisting the party to finally give in was inconceivable, yet expected. Upon finishing the novel, I knew immediately that I would want to read this novel again to relive the adventure and to further understand the novel’s underlying themes and messages.

According to the given definition, 1984 can be classified as an excellent piece of literature. After reading After the First Death, it has been concluded that it can be considered a good piece of literature. Cormier has no trouble in creating well-crafted characters from various walks of life and fully exploring each of them while still keeping them at a perplexing state, in line with the suspense the novel brings. Ben Marchand is one of those characters. From his self-description we learned he’s not macho muscled at five eleven and 118 pounds.

But from his essay written on his typewriter to his last and final pilgrimage to Brimmler’s Bridge, we learned of his hysterical, slightly psychotic mind. He told us of his torment, his “emotional amnesia”, his betrayal to both his country and father. He wrote, "And keeping my lips sealed, my mouth clenched tight so that the scream I keep inside does not escape and fill the room with its anguish" (80). Kate, of all the characters was the most relatable. She was not the son of a general or an angry extremist devoted to his homeland.

Like the rest of us, she was an ordinary person with an average life. In her character, she represented hope and courage, the fighting force we would have looked for if caught in her situation. When she was murdered, as disheartening as it was the reality struck that it is not enough to simply be hopeful and brave. It is merely a distraction, sugar coating the inevitable. Cormier does a fantastic job illustrating his scenes with such elaborate detail. “Across the ravine, the windows of the pavilion were squares of yellow light.

A bluish light flickered inside. The woods were quite, suspended in the dark. No moon, no stars. A stand of birds gleamed like pale bones…(167). His detailing is articulate and intense, as if the reader were there on that fatal night on the bridge. At no time has his detailing ever faltered, it keeps sharp and distinctive. Yet, it is complexly cryptic. Finally, this is a novel that will never be forgotten. Its psychological games and suspense has you wanting and waiting for more as the book ends. The ending is rather ambiguous and unsatisfactory.

I want to know Miro’s next move, his next decision. It would have been fulfilling to see him journey into his manhood, alone without Artkin, and applying with training and experience to continue his duty and finish what he started. However, if Cormier chose to include this it would derive from the suspenseful tone of the novel, and was a wise decision not to. In conclusion, in writing After the First Death, Cormier is successful in creating a literary gem and can be classified as a good work of literature.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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The Criteria for Good Literature. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

The Criteria for Good Literature essay
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