Literary quotes are common in every work of art, but it is hard to deny that some of these lines stand a far cut above the others. Quote A may trump B, or vice versa. Who dares forget this legendary one-liner from 1984, George Orwell?
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
Of course, this is simply an example. There have been millions of books over time, some of which have the most powerful literary quotes you’ll ever read. Thus, it is impossible to compile every noteworthy quote in the history of literature. In this article, we’ll shortlist 5 of the most prominent quotes of the 20th century, briefly looking at the books these delightful page-turners were coined from in the process.
Shortlisting The Best 5 Powerful Literary Quotes Of The 20th Century
A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
The Bastille storming through, the doomed human cargo in the death carts, and the guillotine sword dropping rapidly — A Tale Of Two Cities leaves no stone unturned in its description of the London and Paris revolutions. With his unnatural dramatic eloquence, Charles describes the best and worst of the times, an era of terror and treason that sees the people frenzied with hate rising against a decadent government.
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.” — Sydney Carton, waiting for the guillotine, having swapped places with Charles Darnay.
The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkein
Suddenly finding yourself with an evil ring nicknamed “one ring to rule them all” must be greatly exciting for you. Well, the young Frodo Baggins didn’t find it, so when his elder cousin Bilbao gave him this artifact created with dark sorcery. Or maybe he could have found it so if he didn’t have to travel across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom on a perilous journey, bringing death and havoc wherever he stepped foot, so he could destroy the ring before the original owner, the Dark Lord, got it back from him. The Fellowship Of The Ring is the first in a trilogy of novels covering young Frodo’s adventure.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Gandalf to Frodo when the latter was regretting the fact that he was saddled with the responsibility.
The Crucible, Arthur Miller
Playwright Arthur Miller depicted the irony of Puritan society in perhaps his most famous play ever. The play follows a group of girls attempting to conjure dead spirits (a most grievous offense then) who were caught and subjected to trial.
However, they accused everyone else in the city of the same offense, and so the girls were freed at the expense of the trust in the Salem community. The girls’ desperate finger-pointing in the Crucible had led to extreme distrust in the community, and 19 men and women had been tried, convicted, and executed. You most likely have read an essay about the analysis of The Crucible, thanks to the uproar it caused in society.
“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” John Proctor arguing with his conscience if to confess to witchcraft or save himself from the gallows.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
The fourth book in the seven-part series of Harry Potter, the boy who lived, further emphasizes that Harry wasn’t ordinary in any way — even by wizarding standards. In a year when the 14-year-old would have preferred doing other things (like daydreaming of Cho Chang—and perhaps meeting her, and going to the International Quidditch Cup with friends), he is mysteriously picked for a tournament meant for far more seasoned sorcerers.
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” Dumbledore to Fudge when the latter claimed half-blood and muggles were inferior to pure-blood sorcerers.
When We Were Very Young, A. A. Milne
Perhaps not as famous as the book succeeding it (Winnie The Pooh), When We Were Very Young was Milne’s first book of poetry, and it was quite successful in its own right. The book is a celebration of our good childhood in simple poems and verses that have been read for generations. The treasured poems in the book were perfectly brought to life with wonderful illustrations by Ernest Shepard.
“A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.” A self-explanatory excerpt reminding us that, perhaps, we do not have to indulge ourselves at all times.
As you read, you must have noticed that the greatest literary quotes were coined from books of great importance. So, in a sense, you may say the relevance of a book contributes to the influence of the literary quotes found within. The other factor would be how relatable and insightful the quotes are. With this in mind, pray tell, what famous literary quote from the 20th century do you think would make your list apart from these?