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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 20, 2012 at 2:37 PM via web

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Which is the best English novel?

Literature Which is the best English novel? Posted by amit97 on May 20, 2012 at 5:51 AM. Be the first to answer.

This question was posted under Literature by amit97. Since it is a matter of opinion, I am offering the question for general discussion. My personal opinion is that the best English novel--that is, the best novel written by an English author--is Great Expectations--by Charles Dickens. But I am sure there must be a wide range of opinions. I am also wondering whether amit97 means the best English novel or the best novel in English, which would include James Joyce's Ulysses  and a lot of American novels. I might vote for The Ambassadors  by Henry James if he were in the running.

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 20, 2012 at 2:51 PM (Answer #2)

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I agree with post #1, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, is phenomenal in so many ways, and a classic example of English literature.

But... I would counter this with my all-time favorite English novel, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  With all of its social commentary on social class, love, marriage, and women's roles, Pride and Prejudice is a stand-out contribution to English literature.  It is brilliantly written and enjoyable to read (and re-read!).

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loraaa | Student | Valedictorian

Posted May 20, 2012 at 4:52 PM (Answer #3)

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For me,,,,I love,,,,,,,,"Pride and Prejudice" is a novel by Jane Austen,This is story "deals with issues of manners,morality, education, upbringing...etc"  ^_^

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speamerfam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted May 20, 2012 at 7:45 PM (Answer #4)

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My vote would be for Great Expectations as well, if we are speaking about novels written by people who are English.  However, if we are speaking of novels written in English, my vote would be tied for The Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn.  What a difficult decision! 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 20, 2012 at 10:01 PM (Answer #5)

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This is such a difficult choice as it is unfair to evaluate novels against one another when they are from different social periods since authors are so much a part of their era. 

Indeed, Charles Dickens is at the top of my list of profoundly influential and artistic English authors. But, Thomas Hardy's Tess of d'Ubervilles is an absolutely wonderful and darkly pensive narrative that certainly challenged his era.  His originality of thought and poignant perspective is amazing. And, his style of writing is superior to the didacticism of Dickens.  For, Hardy is ever the poet even when he writes prose. ( It is a shame that he was so criticized that he retreated from prose.)  

Writer and critic Albert Guerard writes of Tess of the d'Ubervilles,

Hardy the novelist is a major transitional figure between the popular moralists and popular entertainer of Victorian fiction and the serious, visionary, often symbolizing novelists of today.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 20, 2012 at 10:30 PM (Answer #6)

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Personally, I'd give my vote to Heart of Darknessbecause I find it to be enigmatic, engaging, re-readable, poetic, and timeless. The social trappings of the work of Dickens, Austen, and even Woolf are not part of Conrad's masterpiece. This stark little work is a testament to man's most profoundly individual impulses.

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted May 20, 2012 at 10:31 PM (Answer #7)

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I too would have to say Pride and Prejudice but my mind also went to Wuthering Heights for its darker themes and characterizations -- it is arguably a more "sophisticated" work and more clearly a novel reflective of its Romantic time period.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 20, 2012 at 10:50 PM (Answer #8)

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I agree with the choice of Heart of Darkness. Few authors have ever crammed so much meanings into such a relatively short novel. Also, few authors have been so successful at creating and maintaining a mood, while simultaneously loading it with so much meaning. It is a brilliant novel. For best English language, I would go with The Sound and the Fury. 

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sanukriti59 | Student , Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 21, 2012 at 3:35 PM (Answer #9)

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Mrs. Dalloway by Woolf for the writing technique. D.H. Lawrence's 'Sons and Lovers' is also a good one. 'Heart of Darkness' can also be counted though I am a bit not in favor of the way women are represented by Conrad.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 21, 2012 at 6:22 PM (Answer #10)

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I'd have to go with Dickens' Great Expectations and Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Great Expectations will always be able to stand on its own because of the great story line, characters and Dickens' way with words. Conrad's story is also one that defies time, evidenced by its adaptation to film in Apocalypse Now.

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volleyball96 | Student , Grade 10 | Honors

Posted May 31, 2012 at 8:44 PM (Answer #11)

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Becasue of it's writting style, Pride and Prejudice!

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ognesperanza | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted June 11, 2012 at 2:54 PM (Answer #12)

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For my money I would say that Sherlock Holmes consitutes one of the greatest characters of all time and as such his first appearance - A Study in Scarlet, constitutes the greatest novel.  I wont say that it is perfect, nor will I content that the plot was particuarly original but the mode of exploration and character are so engaging. 

The impact of A.C.D's beloved character of Holmes, the man in the ubiquitous deerstalker cap has been vast! He arguably birthed the modern detective novel and half of the TV shows, movies and novels since its creation owe their construction to it.  Even now the love of the person of Holmes and his brand of mystery still captivates audiences - From Patricia Cornwall, to Castle, House, CSI and Robert Downey Jr and Benedict Cumberbatch the character and plots of Sherlock Holmes are as effective now as they were at the time of publication. 

As a fan of Holmes I am jealous of those who have never read any of the texts before, it means that you are approaching a reading of Holmes for the first time.  While the stories can be read over and over for their characterisation and dialogue only once will you get to truly experience the case as it unfurls, notice as Holmes notices, be fascinated when Watson is fascinated, or as was my experience, stand with Lestrad and be utterly confused until Holmes deigns to enlighten you!  

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florine | Student , Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:16 PM (Answer #13)

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     I find it difficult to opt for only one single novel. I'd rather select thecomplete works of one single writer, a major writer like Dickens as regards 19th century literature. But together with Virginia Woolf, the most influential 20 th century writer with "best English language" is probably Irish: I mean Joyce's Ulysses or Finnegans Wake as a literary experiment on language.

   

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becca1457 | Student , Grade 10 | eNoter

Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:04 PM (Answer #14)

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Pride & prejudice !!!

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overworked | Student , Grade 11 | Salutatorian

Posted June 12, 2012 at 8:38 AM (Answer #15)

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I really loved Mark Twain's "The adventures of Huckleberry Finn", it was the first novel I read that contained colloquial language. It was a lot of fun for me when i was eleven years old.

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renoa | Elementary School Teacher | Salutatorian

Posted June 12, 2012 at 2:57 PM (Answer #16)

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I lovePride & prejudice

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manjusree | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 12, 2012 at 6:35 PM (Answer #17)

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The best English Novel so far is Wuthering Heights... with a intense depiction of characters and an equally brooding, fierce moorish setting, it is indeed a book to cherish.. As the setting is, so is the love of the protogonist Heathcliff.

Havent found any book  that can beat that... I would also vouch for another of my favourite writer, Thomas Hardy.... absolutely brilliant in his portrayal of troubled characters, his stories tell us that Man has nothing to do but merely act according to his Fate.

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 13, 2012 at 11:22 AM (Answer #18)

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According to William S. Burt's The Novel 100: A Ranking of the Greatest Novels of All-Time, the greatest English novel is Joyce's Ulysses (#3).  (see http://www.adherents.com/people/100_novel.html)

The Observer listed its greatest as Pilgrims Progress (#2) and Robinson Crusoe (#3), "the first English novel."

A composite list of Authors' Favorite Works ranks Middlemarch (#11) and Great Expectations (#13)

Modern Library lists Ulysses (#1) and Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (#3) as their modern classics.  

For me, it's got to be 1984.  One professor I've heard say that the 20th Century will be remembered for its cruelty and inhumanity, and no other novel captures that better than 1984.  It's beautifully and painfully written, translates so well to the 21st Century, appeals to mass audiences, and plays as comedy and tragedy.  

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msnewbooklover | Student , Grade 9 | Honors

Posted June 14, 2012 at 3:38 PM (Answer #19)

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i will say Wuthering Height as the best novel for its plot,good vs evil,power of love,strong characters and all...and great expectation too for its best narrative style and a moving story...

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mian-j | Student , Undergraduate | Honors

Posted June 16, 2012 at 10:26 AM (Answer #20)

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Trully all the above mentioned are one of a kind, especially Great Expectations, but don't you think Frankenstein by Mary Shelly should also be considered as it has such effect on the mind to make people wonder about their conscience?

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fkiani | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 20, 2012 at 12:43 AM (Answer #21)

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I love Hemingway's style of writing.

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bulbanandi | Student , Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 21, 2012 at 2:01 PM (Answer #22)

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twilight 

 

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rhettbutler | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 26, 2012 at 2:35 PM (Answer #23)

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Though it has never been an easy thing to give one novel the label of being best....i think all the novels have their own charm and sensibility around them. some have their classic touch that is making them a class apart. 

still if i have to make my choice about one best novel then i would like to go for July's People written by Nadine Gordimer. The novel delineates the imagined future of South Africa liberated from the clutches of dehumanizing and segregationist polcy called Apartheid. 

How the characteras are developing alongwith the plot and it has always been amazing for me to see them struggling with their past positions determined by their colour.

Although the novel is most of the times has been labelled as the work that is not easy to follow because of the hazardous narrative technique of Gordimer...but i think her way of writing is quite appropriate for the handling of sch themes.

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mimerajver | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted June 27, 2012 at 5:09 PM (Answer #24)

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Sometimes we feel bound to answer a question in the very terms it has been formulated without deciding first whether the question itself poses a formulation problem. This is what I would call "a poorly defined question."

I find that any direct answer to "the best English novel" implies a subjective choice that automatically strikes off a very large number of outstanding works. The English novel has a long tradition and evolution. We cannot compare 19th century English novels to experimental, early 20th century works, mid-20th century postmodernism, or late 20th century political thrillers. I find it as irrational as comparing oranges and chairs.

Following the changes to the canon of the novel, shouldn't we first reduce the scope of the question and then answer accordingly, justifying our choice?

I agree that Great Expectations is probably the best 19th century novel, but find no valid standards to compare it to, for example, Mrs. Dalloway, nor can I compare either of them to John Fowles's The Magus

I'd love some feedback on the above.

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btlit13 | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 29, 2012 at 9:45 PM (Answer #25)

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Taking this from the perspective of a book that is typically read in a Middle or High school level English (ELA) class, I would have to pick either The Crucible or To Kill a Mockingbird. I feel like both of those books are accessable to students at different levels of instruction and both can be applied to modern themes, which means that students can connect to them. I find that it's hard for students to connect to most of the books in the 'cannon.' Also, they are just really good reads :)

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angel-girl | Student , Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted June 30, 2012 at 7:34 AM (Answer #26)

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"The Chrysalids" by John Wyndham is great! It shows how the earth will die in the future and the fatal consequences of nuclear radioactivity. A must read!!

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted July 7, 2012 at 9:30 PM (Answer #28)

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Sometimes we feel bound to answer a question in the very terms it has been formulated without deciding first whether the question itself poses a formulation problem. This is what I would call "a poorly defined question."

I find that any direct answer to "the best English novel" implies a subjective choice that automatically strikes off a very large number of outstanding works. The English novel has a long tradition and evolution. We cannot compare 19th century English novels to experimental, early 20th century works, mid-20th century postmodernism, or late 20th century political thrillers. I find it as irrational as comparing oranges and chairs.

Following the changes to the canon of the novel, shouldn't we first reduce the scope of the question and then answer accordingly, justifying our choice?

I agree that Great Expectations is probably the best 19th century novel, but find no valid standards to compare it to, for example, Mrs. Dalloway, nor can I compare either of them to John Fowles's The Magus

I'd love some feedback on the above.

Well, then, and "best" is further complicated by the question of the literary definition of "best": story? crafting? mastery of English? enjoyment, moral quality, psychological effect, social value, all of the above, some of the above, definitely notsome of the above? Defining what is good in literature is very complicated and, it seems to me, the current definition(s) is vague, ambiguous, and perhaps too all-inclusive. For instance, the more I analyze Hemingway's works, the more I recognize him as a great writer, though I still decline to read anymore of his books because I don't like the psychological effect they produce. The end result is that the only answer that can be given to "the best English novel" must be derived from "in your opinion" and "based on your criterion." For instance, I say Spenser's Epithalamion is the best English poetry, ever, based on all of the above; and I say Austen's Pride and Prejudice is the best English novel based on all of the above and because I can read it year after year without being bored stiff by the language. But, who agrees with me? Not too many, I think. [That was fun.]

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kellyleastmead | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted July 10, 2012 at 9:36 AM (Answer #30)

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I agree that Dickens' works framed the Vistorian Era. Yet, Frankenstein stands out in my top three, along with Jane Erye. The romantic, gothic, and alleghorical richnesses still are as fresh and fascinating as they were when the book came out (from what I've read:-) I wasn't around then;-)

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salimj | College Teacher | Salutatorian

Posted July 11, 2012 at 9:16 AM (Answer #31)

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I would say Pride and Prejudice is the best at least my best.

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zeynep12345 | Student , Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 12, 2012 at 10:23 PM (Answer #32)

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the 39 clues is an interesting book, i used to read it all the time when i was young! Yes and i agree with the first post , I am truly a charles Dickens fan

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shehzaadi | Student , Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted July 13, 2012 at 7:06 PM (Answer #33)

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My personal opinion is that this is quite unfair to judge novels or any literary composition against one another because each and every writer belonge to a different era and has a different state of mind... I can add my three most favourite novels here;Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, Jazz.

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cheerfulgal | Student , Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 15, 2012 at 6:34 AM (Answer #34)

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according to me, novels by ravinder singh and chetan bhagat are jst superb.....howevr, u cn also try sudha murthy's novels.........they r also gud.... for eg: gently falls the bakula, mahasweta, etc are soms of her novels which are worth reading....

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georgiegirl10 | Student , Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:42 PM (Answer #35)

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Although Great Expectations is undoubtably one of the best novels in the English canon, I'm surprised that some of Dickens' other works don't get a mention. A Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist for example. Jane Eyre, Pride and Predjudice, Middlemarch and Vanity Fair have also been very influential in the development of the English novel as well as being superbly written novels with really strong and memorable characters. I wish I could include some of the great Irish writers like Swift and Wilde.

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amitsingh11582 | College Teacher | Honors

Posted July 19, 2012 at 12:14 PM (Answer #36)

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The question is really very difficult to answer at once because it depends upon the mood, nature, personality and taste of person. So it differs from person to person.

one who likes light things cant love tough and vice versa. "Best English Novel" undoubtedly gives a platform for discussion but no one can give an universal and general name. It is like which is the best place in the world..... answer will sure differ.

But individually I being Indian like indian novels written in english like "Guide" of R. K. Narayanan. Well, I am not denying the sublimity of "Pride and Prejudice" and other english novels.

 

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aimal | Student , Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted July 19, 2012 at 2:24 PM (Answer #37)

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typical discussion but i do rate to wuthering height and sond and fury because of its narrative techniques .

 

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