If You Need to Understand English Literature, You Will Need the Bible

‘Oh miss, Shakespeare is so difficult to understand! I don’t understand The hobbit!, can we read Persuasion again?’ –those were the comments of my students during the year, in some of the many books-authors we read in class.

See, most of English literature is bible-Christian based, meaning that you will know the author’s point of view only after knowing the bible’s principles… -King James Version.

The thing is that since a couple of years, the bible reading has been taken out from the schools and therefore their principles. Hold on, I’m not getting religious… I just want to explain to you why this specific book is important to understand the English speaking culture.

Over 50% of the English and American people don’t read the bible (and probably never will), but when you see the culture, either in the movies or books; you can see where it all comes from.

In primary we had to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and I remember this chapters where Tom Sawyer had to memorize his bible verses… during the ceremony on Sunday’s class, the teacher asked him the names of the two apostles and Tom said ‘David and Goliath’… now, would you understand such joke if you didn’t know David’ story? –probably not.

I remember reading Frankenstein in 7th grade, and it kind of broke my heart, because the author is somehow complaining upon his creator for being such monster himself. See, the creator didn’t mean to make him ugly and unlikeable, and in fact he loved him as a son; but the creation became sad since he was being pushed out for his appearances… If you don’t know where the author is coming from with this idea, you might just think is kind of cool such story. But, if you visit the book of Isaiah 14 you will understand that Wollstonecraftis trying to excuse Satan from getting greedy and is giving a contrary point of view of the verses in the bible.

I could spend all the night speaking about all English literature and the related-symbolic biblical messages, but the point is that knowing the source as matter of culture will give you an advantage in literature.

Novels such as

  • Macbeth: you can find half of the Sacrifice of Jesus in the dialogues.
  • The hobbit: from A-Z … desolation, dragon, greed, power of little people defended by a greater power, glory.
  • Pride and Prejudice: The obvious transforming power of love and self-sacrifice.
  • Hamlet: Cain and Abel.
  • Dante’s Divine Comedy: This is obvious

Now, even in the new literature and so famous comics, we find every time more and more.

You already know Superman and its references, right? Kal-El comes to save the earth and his father sends in ‘spirit’ with him…

-What about captain America? The righteous captain, who will put others before him and will fight for liberty and justice, who is very respectful above all, towards his authorities.

-Hulk? The doctor who tries to control the evil in him, but feels ashamed and filled with repentant every time he loses control.

Now that we are touching scripts, you might want to check on so many other books and stories. You’ll be surprised!

Ring any bells? Maybe is time to get into it, if you are interested in English literature, stories and legends. Missing the point of view of the author is like missing the whole story. And then again, I don’t mean it in a religious way, but in a general cultural one. And the more you go into it, the more it’ll make sense for a complete story.

If you are a heavy reader or writer, I’m sure you already know this… but most of the people don’t know that the language itself has been based on that. Not to mention some laws and traditions. Knowledge never hurts!

After so many complaints from my students about the different authors, I explained to them this basic tip. They all (most of them) went home that weekend and read (audio-read) half of the bible… I was surprised how they started enjoying and absorbing the books that fast. All of them graduated with honors in my class (in case you wonder, there was an independent examiner-which I personally didn’t know). First things first, right?

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