Курсовая: Modern English literature
The interest, raised recently towards English language, the development of
international relations on different levels has reasoned the desire to learn
as much as possible about the country where this language originated as well
as about its culture.
The literature is that magic key that opens the door of cognition of many
sphere of human knowledge. It helps us to learn some interesting facts about
t history, to know more about people's life in other countries. Sometimes,
while reading a book, we can analyse actions of its' characters and it helps
us to draw some certain conclusion. That’s why I find studying foreign
literature is not only interesting, but also very useful.
Literature of the 20th Century
The period between 1917 and 1930 was a time when the crisis of the bourgeois
world reached its highest point and revolutions took place in several
countries: in Russia, in Germany and in Hungary. The writers of this
period tried to show how a new society might be built up. But many bourgeois
writers who were opposed to revolutions saw nothing but chaos and anarchy
before them. They explained this crisis as a failure of civilisation.
A symbolic method of writing had already started early in the 20th
century. It was in the twenties, that there appeared writers who refused to
acknowledge reality as such. They thought reality to be superficial – it was
only a world of appearances. The cause of everything that happened,– that is
what led to events – was the irrational, the unconscious and the mystical in
man. These writers called the inner psychological process "the stream of
consciousness" and based a new literary technique upon it.
The most important to use this new literary technique was James Joyce (1882-
1941). He influenced many writers on both sides of Atlantic.
James Joyce, a native of Ireland, spent nearly all his life in voluntary
exile. He could not live in his own country for it was enslaved by England.
This fact may partly explain his pessimistic view on life, which is reflected
in his work.
The portrayal of the steam of consciousness as a literary technique is
particularly evident in his major novel Ulysses (1922).
The task he set before himself was to present a day in ordinary
life, as a miniature picture of the whole of human history.
Among the writers of short stories who used the realistic method were
Katherine Mansfield and Somerset Maugham. Though the works of these writers
differ very much in their artistic approach, their authors had one feature in
common. To them the stability of the existing social and political order
The second period in the development of English literature of the 20th
century was the decade between 1930 and World War II.
The world economic crisis spread over the whole capitalist world in the
beginning of the thirties. The Hunger March of the employed in 1933 was the
most memorable event in Britain. The employed marched from Glasgow to London
holding meetings in every town they passed.
In Germany Hitler came to power in 1933.
In 1936 the fascist mutiny of general Franco led to the Civil War in Spain.
The struggle of the Spain people was supported by the democratic and anti-
fascist forces all over the world. An International Brigade was formed, which
fought side by side with the Spanish People's Army against the common enemy –
Many British intellectuals and workers joined the ranks of the International
Brigade. Every one of them clearly realised that the struggle against fascism
in Spain was at the same time a struggle for the freedom of their own
The Second World War broke out in 1939.
A new generation of realist writers, among them Richard Aldington, J.B.
Priestley, A.J. Cronin and others appear on the literary scene.
An important event in the literary life of the thirties was the formation of
a group of Marxist writers, poets and critics. Their leader was Ralph Fox
(1900-1937). He came from a bourgeois family, was educated in Oxford
University, but later broke away from his class. His ideas were formed by the
Great October Socialist Revolution. In 1925 he joined the Communist Party.
Being a journalist, historian and literary critic, Ralph Fox devoted all his
activity to spreading Marxism and fighting the enemies of the British working
class. When the Civil War in Spain broke out, Ralph Fox was one of the first
to join the International Brigade. He was killed in action in January 1937.
Ralph Fox's main work is his book The novel and the people, published
posthumously in 1937. The aim of the author was to show the decline of
bourgeois art, and the novel in particular, together with the decline of the
bourgeois in general. At the same time Ralph Fox sought to point out the way
literature should develop in the future.
Ralph Fox considers that the novel reached its highest point in England in the
18th century. This was a time when the bourgeoisie was a progressive
class, therefore Fox concludes that the optimistic view of the world expressed
in the novels by Fielding is the best manifestation of the epic quality of the
novel. Man in the novels of the Enlightenment is treated as a person who acts,
who faces up to life.
Contrary to the active hero of the 18th century novel, the hero in
the modern novel is an active figure, a passive creature. Fox speaks about
'death of hero'. He means that contemporary literature is not occupied with
heroic characters. Psychological subjectivity, typical of Joyce and other
authors, has nothing to do with the wide epic scene of social life described by
great classics. Socialist Realism must put an end to this crisis of bourgeois
literature, Fox says. It should bring forward a new man, a man who knows the
laws of history and can become the master of his own life. Fox speaks of Georgi
Dimitrov at the Leipzig trial as an example of such a new hero. The future
belongs to the heroic element in life.
This feeling of important change and the heroic spirit of the anti-fascist
struggle found its outlet in the first place in the development of poetry. The
trio of poets, Auden, Spender and Day Lewis, had in many ways inaugurated the
new movement which sought to fuse poetry and politics. They stood out as
representative figures, and on the whole they held this position till the year
1938. Then began the rapidly extending crisis of the movement. This group,
usually known as the Oxford Poets, was very popular in its time. But
the movement did not last long. A Marxist critic, Christopher Caudwell, in his
book Illusion or Reality explains why the movement lost its popularity.
"They often glorify the revolution as a kind of giant explosion which will blow
up everything they feel to be hampering them. But they have no constructive
theory – I mean as artists: they may as economists accept the economic
categories of Socialism, but as artists they can not see the new forms and
contents of an art which will replace bourgeois art."
After World War II there appeared young writers, who are ready to keep up the
standard of wholesome optimism, and mature writers, who have passed through a
certain creative crisis.
In the fifties there appears a very interesting trend in literature, the
followers of which were called "The Angry Young Man". The post-war changes
had given a chance to a large number of young from the more democratic layers
of society to receive higher education at universities. But on graduating,
these students found they had no prospects in life; unemployment had
increased after the war.
There appeared works dealing with such characters, angry young men who were
angry with everything and everybody, as no one was interested to learn what
their ideas on life and society were. Outstanding writers of this trend were
John Wain, Kingsley Amis and the dramatist John Osborne.
The sixties saw a new type of literature. The criticism was revealed in the
"working-class novel" as it was called. These novels deal with characters
coming from the working class. The best known writer of this trend is Alan
Sillitoe. Much of post-war English literature is in the form of novels, and
up to the present the novel remains the most popular literature genre in
Britain. Contemporary English novelists are represented by several different
Since sixties the literary life in Great Britain has developed greatly. The
new time brings new heroes, new experience in theatrical life and poetry, new
forms and standards in prosaic works. The specific feature of nowadays
literature is the variety of genres and styles, which inrich the world's
literature. Alongside with the realistic method the symbolic one takes place
and develops further. On the one hand, the themes in the modern literary
works concern more global problems: the Peace and the War, the environmental
protection, the relations between the mankind and Universe. But on the other
hand, the duties and the obligations of the individual man, the psychology of
the human nature, the life's situations and the ways of solving the problems,
the power and money have always been in the centre of public attention, that
found its reflection in the newest English literature, too.
The Angry Young Men
Who are these widely discussed group known as the Angry Young Men? Although
their name is not quite correct – they are not angry in the strict sense of
the word, they are not all young and not all men – the members of this group
have much in common. Most of these were of lower middle- class backgrounds.
The four best known are novelists Kingsley Amis, John Wain, John Braine and
playwright John Osborne. Although not all personally known to one another,
they had in common an outspoken irreverence for the British class system and
the pretensions of the aristocracy. Their heroes are usually young men from
the so- called lower or lower middle class structure of English society. They
strongly disapprove of the elitist universities, the Church of England, and
the darkness of the working class life. Though in most cases they criticise
not the essential class distinctions but the outwards signs of the
Establishment such as the privileges that the top of society has retained
from the times of feudalism.
Outside England the influence of the Angry Young Men has been felt mainly in
plays by John Osborne. As Osborne has said of himself, "I want to make people
feel, to give them a lesson of feeling, They can think afterwards".
As regards literary techniques, the Angry Young Men are conservatives. They look
upon Kafka, Joyce and other modernist writers of the twenties as museum pieces.
Their style is close to the straightforward narrative of most of 19th
- century fiction. The Angry Young Men are not especially interested in the
philosophical problems of men's existence. "The great questions I ask to
myself", Kingsley Amis says, "are those like 'How am I going to pay the
electric bill?' "
Modern English Writers
During the 1970's and early 1980's, such writers as Greene, Lessing and Le
Carre continued to produce important novels. New writers also appeared. D. M.
Thomas blended fiction with actual events and famous people in The White
John Fowles combined adventure and mystery in such novels as The French
Lieutenant's Woman (1969), Muriel Spark's novels, such as The Prime of
Miss Jean Brodie (1961) and The Only Problem (1984), are often
comic but with disturbing undertones.
Perhaps the three leading English writers are graham Greene, Iris Murdoch and
Agatha Christie, that is read and loved not only in her native country.
Graham Greene is one of the most outstanding novelists of modern English
literature. He is talented and sincere, but at the same time his world
outlook is characterised by sharp contradictions.
Greene's novels deal with real life burning problems. His observations are
concentrated on the actual details of poverty and misery. The author
penetrates into weak spots in the capitalist world, does not try to find out
the reasons for the evil he sees. Social conditions are shown only as a
background to his novels. Neither does he try to comprehend the causes of
spiritual crises experienced by his contemporaries. Decadent motives are to
be found in his novels, though he does not lead the reader away from reality
into the world of dreams and fantasy, and in most of novels he reveals the
truth of life.
Life of Graham Greene
Graham Greene was born in 1904. He was educated at an English
School, the head-master of which was his father. His childhood was not at all
happy; he describes this period of his life as ".something associated with
violence, cruelty, evil across the way".
In 1922 Greene became a student of Balliol College, Oxford. At the age of
twenty-two he became sub-editor on the staff of a newspaper The Nottingham
Guardian. It was during this period that his first novel, The Man
Within, was written. From 1930 onwards his work as a novelist has been
steady and continuos. In 1940 he became literary editor of the spectator and
the year following entered the Foreign Office. During World War II Greene spent
some years in Africa. It had been his cherished desire from childhood to see
In 1944 he wrote for an anti-fascist journal which was illegally published in
Some bourgeois critics class Greene among the 'modernists'. They substantiate
their classification by the fact that Greene's works, like those of
modernists, are marked by disillusion, scepticism and despair, and that the
themes employed by Greene and the modernists are much the same. These critics
fail to understand the real nature of Greene's pessimism, which rests upon a
deeply-rooted sympathy for mankind, a sympathy not to be found in the
Though Greene, like the modernists, deals with the problem of crime, his
approach to it is quite different. Unlike the modernists, who are mostly
interested in the description of the crime itself, Greene investigates the
motives behind the crime. He gives a deep psychological analysis of his
criminals by investigating the causes that led to murder.
According to his own words, Greene wants to make the reader sympathise with
people who don't seem to deserve sympathy. The author tries to prove that a
criminal may possess more human qualities, that is to say, may sometimes be
better at the core, than many a respectable gentleman. He doesn't, however,
always succeed in giving a truthful interpretation of the motives of the
crime he deals with, though in his later works his approach to the subject
becomes more realistic. He shows the corrupting influence of capitalist
civilisation on human nature, and tries to prove that many of the bad
qualities in a person are the natural result of cruel, inhuman conditions of
Though crime and murder, the problem of 'the dark man', motivate many of
Greene' s works, the main theme of his novels is pity for man struggling in
vain against all the evils of life; his longing for sympathy, love and
friendship; his striving for happiness, which is inevitably doomed to
In the thirties Greene's protest against human suffering brought him to
Catholicism, but he did not become a true Catholic. His novels The Heart of
the Matter, A Burn-Out Case, The Comedians and many others reject the
dogmas of Catholicism, and his talented realistic descriptions are more
convincing than his ideology and Philosophy.
In The Heart of the Matter, a true Catholic, Scobie, commits suicide when he
becomes aware of the fact that the church cannot free people from suffering.
For this idea the novel was condemned by the Vatican.
Greene is known as the author of two genres – psychological detective novels
or 'entertainments', and ' serious novels', as he called them. The main theme
of both genres is much the same (the problem of 'the dark man', deep concern
for the fate of the common people. But in the 'serious novels' the inner
world of the characters is more complex and the psychological analysis
Iris Murdoc has written novels, drama,
phylosophical criticism, critical theory, poetry, a
short story, a pamphlet, and a libretto or an opera
based on her play The Servants and the Snow,
but she is best knkown and the most successful
as a philosopher and a novelist. Although she
claimes not to be a phylosophical novelist and
does not want to philosophy to intrude to openly into her novels, she is a
Platonist whose aesthetics and view of man and iextricable, and moral
phylosophy, arsthetics, and characterization are clearlyiterrelated in her
Murdoch began to write prose in 1953. She soon became very popular with the
English resders. All her novels Under the Net, The Flight from the
Enchanter, The Sandcastle, The Unicorn, The Red and the Green, The Time of
Angels, An Accidental Man, The Black Prince, and many others are
characterized by the deep interest im phylosophycal problems and in the inner
world of man. Iris Murdoch shows the loneliness and sufferings of the human
being in the hostile world.
The complicity of Murdoch's style.
Iris Murdoch, was born in Dublin in 1919. She attended school in Bristol and
studied philosophy at Cambridge, the two oldest universities in England. The
for many years Murdoch was teaching philosophy at Oxford.
Early influences on her work include French writers and philosophers including
Simone de Beauvoir, Simone Well, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Raymond Queneau, as well
as Samuel Beckett. Her first novel Under the Net, a picaresque tale set
in London and Paris, has extensive existential derivations, including the
title, and she has said that this work was influenced by Beckett's Murthy
and Queneau's Pierrot. However the novels soon move away from
existentialism, for she does not believe that existentialism it regards man's
Although honest, intelligent, and well written, the novels of Iris Murdoch
nevertheless lack clear definition. Hers seems to be a talent for humour, but
she appears unable to sustain it for more than a scene or a temporary
interchange. Her first novel, Under the Net (1954), fits into the
humorous pattern set by Kingsley Amis in Lucky Jim (1954) and John Wain
in Hurry on Down (1953). Her Jack Donaghue of this novel is akin to
Amis's Jim Dixon and Wain's Charles Lumley, in that he maintains his own kind
of somewhat dubious integrity and tries to make his way without forsaking his
dignity, and increasingly difficult accomplishment in a world which offers
devilish rewards for loss of integrity and dignity.
Jake is angry middle-aged man who mocks society and its respectability. He
moves playfully around law and order; he does small things on the sly- swims
in the Thames at night, steals the performing dog, sneaks in and out of
locked apartments, steals food. He is a puerile existence in which he remains
"pure" even while carrying on his adolescent activities.
The dangers of this type of hero, indeed of this kind of novel, are apparent,
for when the humour begins to run low, the entire piece becomes childish. In
Lucky Jim, we saw that as the humorous invention lost vigor, the novel became
enfeebled because it had nothing else to draw upon. In her first novel as well
as in The Flight from the Enchanter (1956) and The Bell (1958),
Miss Murdoch unfortunately was enable to sustain the humour, and the novels
frequently decline into triviality.
Another danger that Miss Murdoch has not avoided is that of creating characters
who are suitable only for the comic situations but for little else. When they
must rise to a more serious response, their triteness precludes real change.
This fault is especially true of the characters in The Flight from the
Enchanter, a curious mixture of the frivolous and serious. The characters
are keyed low for the comic passages but too low to permit any rise when the
situation evidently demands it. The comic novel usually is receptive to a
certain scattering of the seed, while a serious novel calls for intensity of
characterisation and almost an entirely different tone. In her four novels Miss
Murdoch falls between both camps; the result is that her novels fail to
coalesce as either one or the other.
The woman who has become one of the most popular and prolific of all English
detective novelists, Agatha Christie (1891-1976), largely, it would seem, by
virtue of the skilfully engineered complexity of her plots.
Once, after reading in a magazine that she was
that she was 'the world's most mysterious
woman' , Agatha Christie complained to her agent: " What do they suggest I am! A
Bank Robber or a Bank Robber's wife? I am an ordinary successful hard-working
author – like any other author." Her success was not exactly ordinary. She
produced nearly 90 novels and collections of stories in a lifetime that spanned
85 years. One of her plays, The Mousetrap, opened in London in 1952 and
is still running.
The Life and Creative Activity
She refined and left a lasting imprint on the detective formula. An "Agatha
Christie" became a shorthand description for an unadomed display of crime
unmasked by perceptive and relentless logic. She dared readers to outwit her,
and few resisted the challenge. Shortly after her death in 1976, one estimate
put the world-wide sale of her books at 40 million copies. Given such
glittering evidence and the clues provided by her fiction, a mystique was
bound to develop around the one whodunit: Agatha the enchantress, the proper
Englishman with a power to murder and create. When she insisted that the
truth was far less exotic, armchair sleuths who had been trained by her books
recognised a false lead when they saw one.
She was right, of course, as this biography, Agatha Christie, the first
written with the blessings of Christie's heirs and estate, conclusively proves.
Author Janet Morgan does a through job of getting the facts in the Christie
case straight and on the record. But the story, even when demystified, seems
almost as unbelievable as the guessing games it prompted.
Her childhood could have been written by Jane Austen. Agatha miller, beloved
by her parents and an older sister and brother, grew up in an English seaside
village surrounded by Edwardian privileges and leisure. Her American father
lived off a trust fund that dwindled steadily, and his death when Agatha was
eleven left family finances more unsteady. Still, breeding and manners meant
as much as money, and the young woman, largely educated at home, moved in a
circle of eligible bachelors. She turned down three proposals and took a
flier instead. After a stormy courtship, she married Archie Christie, a
dashing aviator with few expectations of living through World War I.
While he fought, his new bride stayed at home working in a hospital. Her sister
suggested that Agatha who was both exhausted and bored during her free time,
try to write the sort of detective novel they both enjoyed reading. She did,
but by the time The Mysterious Affair at Styles appeared in print, the
war was over and Agatha had a daughter and a husband, grounded at last, who
seemed chiefly interested in making money and playing golf.
The year 1926 changed her prospects and her life. For one thing, she published
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which caused a stir because it broke the rules
of detective fiction: the narrator did it. Something more shocking followed. In
December Agatha left her husband and child and disappeared for ten days,
setting off a nation-wide search and a carnival of speculation. Morgan's
recreation of this drama is meticulous, but it lacks, perhaps unavoidably, the
tight resolution that Christie gave her invented plots.
Grieving over the death of her mother and staggering under the burden of
sorting out the state, the heroine learns from her husband that he is in love
with another woman. She drives off one night, her abandoned car is discovered
the next morning. Questions multiply. Is he seeking publicity, has she joined
her lover, is she embarrassing her husband, or has she been murdered?
When she is discovered at a Yorkshire hotel, registered under the last name
of the woman, Archie now wants to marry, Agatha Christie has nothing to say.
Her biographer gives all the available details but suspends judgement: "
There are moments in people's lives on which it is unwise, as well as
impertinent, for an outsider to speculate, since it is impossible to be
certain about what actually took place or how the participants felt about
Neither Miss Marple nor Hercule Poirot would accept such an alibi, but truth
is messier than the fiction. Whatever may have happened to Christie in 1926,
she recovered admirably. Two years after the divorce, while visiting friends
on expedition in Iraq, she met Max Mallowan, an archaeologist nearly 14 years
her junior. Eventually he proposed, fretting at the same time that she might
find his line of work boring. She reassured him: " I adore corpses and
stiffs." They lived happily ever after.
Morgan is candut about the weakness in her subject's work. Chrisries stories
were ingenious but her writing is pedestrian. She intentionally offered
stereotypes instead of rounded characters and grew annoyed when Poirot, her
Belgian detective, began to assume a life of his own in the popular
imagination. She once privately described him as 'an egocentric creep'. She
constructed puzzles, not literature; she devoted what energies she could
spare from a busy life to craft rather than art. To list real liabilities in
this manner is, ultimately, to beg a question: why among so talented
competitors in a small field, did Agatha triumph? Responsible biography can
suggest but never prave the probable verdict: she was the best at what she
chose to do.
Agatha Christie is one of the best known and most widely-read writers of all
times. Her books have delighted readers over for more than half a century. She
is the most widely-translated British author in the world in addition to her
great success as a best-selling novelist, Agatha Christie also wrote the
longest-running play in the history of modern theatre. The mousetrap
and originally written as a radio play, It opened in London in 1952 and is still
running today. She is also well-known for a number of other plays and
dramatisation of her novels and short stories, and has written two books of
poetry, six novels of romance under the pseudonym Marry Westmacott.
Agatha Christie's best-known works are: The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The
ABC Murders, Crooked House, Murder in the Calais Coach, The Seven Dials Mystery
Agatha Christie's novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is considered to be
one of her best works. This novel brought the author success and fame thanks to
its most original concept, non-traditional for detective novels. Roger Ackroyd,
a rich and respected man, was going to marry Mrs. Ferrars, a widow. But a short
time before their marriage Mrs. Ferrars committed suicide living a letter with
Dr. Sheppard, the local doctor, but the conversation did not take place. Soon
after coming back home Dr. Sheppard was informed by a telephone call that
Roger Ackroyd had been found murdered. The whole story is narrated by Dr.
Joanne Kathleen Rowling
One of the most successful modern
English writers is J.K. Rowling. She is
known all over the world. Her books
about Harry Potter, which are read by
children of different countries and of
different ages, have become the best-
“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s
Stone” is my favourite modern book. But
most of my friends dislike it and the whole
series. I wondered why? Then I noticed:
those, who read the Russian version of
the book, dislike it; those, who read it in English, like it very much. So,
what’s the difference? I read the English version and decided to look through
the Russian one. I discovered in it that there is only a paraphrase of
events, The charm of the original book is missing. So the Russian version is
only a ghost of the original.
J.K. Rowling has written a good book for children. I don’t think she expected
it to become something great or important. She simply collected together all
the attributes of a good book for kids, all the features, which modern
children like. The characters are taken from the real life. These are people
whom the writer remembers from her childhood.
Joanne was born in Chipping Sodbury General Hospital, which she thought was
appropriate for someone, who collects funny names. Her sister, Di, was born
just under two years later, and she was the person, whom Joanne told her
first stories. The very first one was about a rabbit called Rabbit (Joanne
was only six than). Rabbit got the measles and was visited by his friends,
including a giant bee called Miss Bee. And ever since Rabbit and Miss Bee,
Joanne has wanted to become a writer, though she rarely told anyone so. She
was afraid people would tell her she didn’t have a hope. The family changed
their place of living twice, while Joanne was growing up. The first move was
from Yate (just outside Bristol). A gang of children including Joanne and her
sister used to play together up and down their street in Winterbourne. Two of
the gang members were a brother and a sister whose surname was Potter. Joanne
always liked this name.
When she was nine, the family moved to Tutshill near Chepstow in the Forest
of Dean. Living in a place like this, in the countryside, has always been her
parents’ dream, both being Londoners. Joanne and her sister spent most of the
time watching unsupervised across fields and along the river Wye. The only
fly in the ointment was the fact that the girl hated her new school. It was a
very small, very old-fashioned place where the roll-top desks still had ink-
wells. Joanne was quiet, freckly, short-sighted and rubbish at sports (once
she broke her arm playing netball). Her favourite subject by far was English,
but she quite liked languages too. Joanne used to tell her equally quiet and
studious friends long serial stories at lunch- times. They usually involved
them as all doing heroic and daring deeds they certainly wouldn’t have done
in real life they were all too swotty.
Joanne K. Rowling wrote a lot in her teens, but she never showed any of it to
her friends, except for funny stories that again featured them all in thinly
disguised characters. After the school Joanne went straight to Exeter
University, where she studied French. This was a big mistake, as she had
listened too hard to her parents, who thought languages would lead to a great
career as a bilingual secretary. But the one thing Joanne liked about her job
is that she was able to type up stories on the computer when no-one was
looking. She was never paying much attention in meetings because she was
usually scribbling bits of her latest stories in the margins of the pad, or
choosing excellent names for characters.
When Joanne was twenty six she gave up on offices completely and went abroad
to teach English as a Foreign Language. “My students used to make jokes about
my name; it was like being back to Winterbourne, except that the Poruguese
children said ‘Rolling Stone’ instead of rolling pin”, - says Joanne. She
loved teaching English and as she worked afternoons and evenings, she had
mornings free for writing. This was particularly good news as Miss Rowling
started her third novel. The new book was about a boy who found out he was a
wizard and was sent off to Wizard school. When Joanne came back from Portugal
half a suitcase was full of papers covered with stories about Harry Potter.
She came to live in Edinburgh with a very small daughter a set herself a
headline: “I would finish the Harry Potter novel before starting work as a
French teacher, and try to get it published”. It was finished the year after
finishing a book before a publisher bought it. ”The moment when I found out
that Harry would be published was one of the best in my life”, - says the
author. By this time she was working as a French teacher. A few months later
‘Harry’ was taken for publication in Britain, an American publisher bought
the rights for enough money to unable Joanne to give up teaching and write
full time – her life’s ambition.
A single mother living in Edinburgh, Scotland, Rowling became an
international literary sensation in 1999, when the first three instalments of
her Harry Potter children’s book series took over the top three slots in the
New York Times best-seller list after achieving similar success in her native
United Kingdom. The phenomenal response to Rowling’s books culminated in July
2000, when the fourth volume in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of
Fire, became the fastest-selling book in history. Rowling now one of
Britain’s richest women, plans a total of seven books, each chronicling a
year in the life of Harry Potter, a young wizard, and this motley band of
cohorts at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy.
J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels begin when the orphaned British
10-year-old discovers he has a magical heritage and enters Hogwarts School to
learn how to be a wizard. With each book, Harry and his classmates age a year,
and with each year the record-breaking success of the series grows. In
September 1999, Harry Potter even made the cover of Time magazine,
which called the phenomenon "one of the most bizarre and surreal in the annals
of publishing." When the movie of Rowling's first book opened in the fall of
2001, it took in a then record-shattering $90.3 million in its first weekend.
As Richard Bernstein said in The New York Times, the Harry Potter
stories are fairly conventional, and "not nearly as brilliant or literary as,
say, The Hobbit or the Alice in Wonderland books." The
explanation for their popularity, he suggests, can be found in Bruno
Bettelheim's classic study of children's literature, The Uses of
Enchantment. The essence of Bettelheim's theory is that children live with
greater terrors than most adults can understand, and that the classic fairy
tales help express that terror while showing a way to a better future. In
effect, J. K. Rowling's novels fill a basic need for children everywhere and
for the child in every adult.
That seems quite sound. But there is also the fact that Rowling has a degree of
whimsicality not to be found in Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, or her other antecedents.
She is much closer to L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz series in that
regard. And she has a sense of humor tuned to her era. Thus, Harry's school
supplies include "one plain pointed hat (black) for day wear." Mail at the
school is delivered by owls of different sizes, including "tiny scops owls
(‘Local Deliveries Only')." And exams at Hogwarts include practical tests, like
making a pineapple tap-dance across a desk and turning a mouse into a snuffbox,
"with points given for how pretty the snuffbox was, but taken away if it had
As if the books weren't enough, the success of the first two Harry Potter
movies has created an instant and undoubtedly quite durable "franchise." One can
only hope that the sly wit, the charm, and the childlike wonder of Rowling's
books won't get lost to the evils of commercialism. On the other hand, with
Coca-Cola alone paying $150 million for the exclusive global marketing rights
to the first movie, one might as well go wish upon a star. As Business Week
put it, it's "Harry Potter and the Tower of Profits."
PEOPLE’S ATTITUDE TO HARRY POTTER NOVELS
Almost as soon as Barry Cunningham met J. K. Rowling in 1996, the first-time
author was talking about what she wanted to do next. And next and next.
Cunningham, editorial director at Bloomsbury Children's Books in London, had
recently agreed to publish Rowling's initial effort, an overlong children's
novel about an aspiring wizard. "At our first meeting," he recalls, "before
we finished the first course in the restaurant, we had one of those
conversations that you remember years later."
"How do you feel about sequels?" Rowling asked Cunningham.
"When a first novelist says that to an editor," he says now, "you're always
Cunningham pointed out that the first book hadn't even been published yet,
but Rowling replied that she had seven books in mind. "She was obviously
bursting to say it," he says. "And what convinced me that we were on the
right track is that she knew what Harry was going to do every successive year
of his life until he left school."
That intricacy is at the heart of what has turned into the biggest book story
bridging the millennia. Rowling's wizard Harry Potter and his elaborately
complete world have become, in three short years, ubiquitous, breaking
through every conceivable barrier.
In the London Underground recent Saturday afternoon, a small boy
exclaimed to his brother, "Look, it's Harry Potter," upon spying a reader (me)
several decades his senior reading one of the books. We spent the next five
minutes discussing the relative merits of the series' first and second books.
Later, I tried to recall the last time I'd had a literary exchange with
strangers on the tube, let alone junior strangers. The answer was never.
Rowling's success has turned nonreaders into Harry addicts, and Potter books
have taken the top three spots in The New York Times, the Wall
Street Journal, and USA Today adult bestseller lists. Forbes
magazine's Celebrity 100 list places Joanne Kathleen Rowling (35 this July) as
the 24th-highest celebrity earner in the world, wedged between Michael Jordan
and Cher at $40 million earned in the past year. Around the world, her books
have sold 30 million copies and have been translated into 35 languages.
Sophisticated French students and Japanese women alike can't get enough of the
budding wizard, who wasn't even on the scene until 1997. And in a world where
one might say the highest form of flattery is a lawsuit, Rowling has earned
"Her great achievement is not to overdraw or overdescribe the characters,"
says Stephen Fry, the actor-writer-comedian and all-around Renaissance man
who won the task of reading the first book when the British version went to
audio. Fry was meticulous in familiarizing himself with the text. "I have to
confess that I first read it to prepare for reading it aloud," he says. "So I
started off paying attention to how the characters would sound. By about page
three, I had forgotten all that and was having too much fun reading."
Jamie Jauncey, children's author and chairman of the Scottish Arts Council's
children's book awards, believes that the series could have been written at any
time in the past 60 years, with its timeless themes of magic and good versus
evil. In addition, there is its always-popular anti-adult stance, pitting the
Hogwarts children against the unimaginative adult world outside. "She has done
what Roald Dahl does," says Jauncey. Like the author of Fantastic Mr. Fox
and James and the Giant Peach, Rowling never betrays any sense of being
an adult writing down to children. "She steps into the children's shoes as she
writes," he says. But most of all, "the story just bursts onto the page with
sheer, raw imaginative power."
That's what comes up again and again. "So imaginative." "Original."
"Surprising." "Made me laugh out loud." Even Kevin Casey, the lawyer handling
a recent suit filed against Rowling, which claims she's not so original after
all, says his family loves the books. "Have you read them?" he asks. "They're
Rowling's first three books tell the story of ten-year-old orphan Harry
Potter, who lives with his dull, smug Muggle (nonmagical) relatives, the
Dursleys, until he is informed he is a wizard and is whisked off to Hogwarts
School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry becomes a year older in each
successive book and endures all manner of adventures alongside his chums,
bookish Hermione Granger and plucky Ron Weasley, while they all learn magic.
Reader after reader acknowledges that the series, deceptively simple in
summary, offers a density of detail and characterization --- along with the
complex balance of good and evil and darkness and wit, and the pace of the
plots -- that makes it thoroughly addictive. Gavin Wallace, acting literature
officer for the Scottish Arts Council, recalls the launch event for book
one's Braille edition. "[Rowling] talked to all the kids," he says, and made
an empathetic connection with them. "I think she really understands how their
As tends to be the case with overnight successes, Rowling's own story has its
fair share of hardship and hard work. Without her determination and penchant
for unusual names -- such as "Hogwarts" and "Muggles" -- she might well still
be temping in an office or teaching French, still scribbling down stories but
reading them to an audience of just two: her daughter, Jessica, and her
sister, Di. Rowling's talent and luck, along with the encouragement and
imagination of a dedicated cluster of people in London and Edinburgh,
Scotland, allowed Harry Potter to end up charming the world into getting out
its collective torch and reading under the bedsheets (as Harry himself is
wont to do).
Christopher Little, an agent for heavyweight writers such as Simon Singh, (
Fermat's Enigma) and Janet Gleeson (The Arcanum), was the first
person outside Rowling's circle of friends and family to spot her potential,
even though he'd never been involved with children's fiction before. Rowling,
typically, tried Little because she liked his name, sending him the first few
chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1995. The
typewritten pages found themselves perched on top of the pile of dozens of
unsolicited manuscripts Little received most weeks.
He read her submission quickly and took only three days to take her on as a
client; she was so thrilled, she read his reply eight times. Little had spoken
to the new Bloomsbury Children's Book department at the 1995 Frankfurt Book
Fair and knew they were looking for something special. "And Harry Potter was
different," he says. Different and long. Most children's books are less than
40,000 words long; Philosopher's Stone was at least 65,000.
Cunningham, the editorial director starting the Bloomsbury children's list,
saw the manuscript when it arrived from Little in June 1996. "There it was,"
he says, "a complete world with everything worked out and everything working,
a world you could enter into as a child and lose yourself within." Cunningham
needed Rowling and Harry to cast their spell over his colleagues. So he
handed over the manuscript to Rosamund de la Hey, children's marketing
She, too, was gripped. "It made me laugh out loud and stay up all night
reading it," she says. The next day she and a colleague spent all afternoon
making copies of the manuscript, stuffing them with Smarties candies and
tying a ribbon around each one. These packages were delivered to the company
directors whose support would be needed to buy the book. They adored it, and
Cunningham bought it the following day.
An impediment to Rowling's sequel strategy was that, despite signing with
Bloomsbury, she literally had no money. Fortunately, in early 1997 she received
an £8,000 ($13,000) grant from the Scottish Arts Council, which considers
children's fiction as important as adult literature. (Rowling's application was
graded with exceptionally high marks, according to Wallace: A, A, A-, B+, A-).
Meanwhile, editorial discussions were proceeding about the first book: Should
it be so long, and should it be illustrated throughout? The length of the
book was reduced only slightly, finally, but Cunningham initially considered
sticking with the convention of providing illustration.
"But Joanne felt from the beginning -- and I certainly agreed after I'd
chatted to her -- that everybody wanted to have their own Harry in their
mind," he says. Similarly, they talked about the cover. Neither wanted an
adult fantasy image, so they chose a fun children's cover. Interestingly,
every country has its own look for Harry Potter. Rowling's favorite covers
come from the Netherlands, where you don't actually see Harry's face. In
Britain, an additional "adult version" was released to assuage the concerns
of the series' self-conscious older readers.
It was when the American audience embraced Harry Potter that the entire
phenomenon went over the top. In the first weekend of British publication last
summer, for instance, 20,000 copies of book three, Harry Potter and the
Prisoner of Azkaban, reportedly were imported to the States via the
Internet; and in its first two weeks of official U.S. publication in fall 1999,
it sold half a million copies. Overall U.S. sales for Rowling's books are now
approaching 20 million -- total. Everyone, Little says, was shocked by the
speed and scale of the books' success. "I thought it would be big, but not that
big," he says now. "I mean, there's never been anything bigger than this."
MY ATTITUDE TO HARRY POTER NOVELS
Harry Potter is now the most famous boy in the world. Children of all the
countries admire him and hos adventures. It seems almost impossible to imagine
a world without the Harry Potter novels. Not only did these books --
which chronicle the education of boy wizard Harry Potter -- become a worldwide
phenomenon, they encouraged kids (and adults) in the video age to drop
everything in favor of an unlikely object of obsession: books. While the fun of
fantasy might be its otherworldliness, its power lies is the truths it reveals
about the real world. So the magical world of Harry Potter, a world of flying
cars and dragons, unicorns and magic potions, invisibility cloaks and evil
powers, becomes real as readers discover truths about bravery, loyalty, choice,
and the power of love. We believe in Harry because of his human qualities,
especially his human frailties.
While reading the stories I found some realy wize quotetions.
"The truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be
treated with great caution." (The Sorcerer's Stone)
"...to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone,
will give us some protection forever." (The Sorcerer's Stone)
"It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much
to stand up to our friends." (The Sorcerer's Stone)
"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our
abilities." (The Chamber of Secrets)
"You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are
still working. But you'll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no ...
anything. There's no chance at all of recovery. You'll just—exist. As an empty
shell." (The Prisoner of Azkaban)
"You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don't recall
them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble?....You know, Harry, in a
way, you did see your father last night....You found him inside yourself." (
The Prisoner of Azkaban)
"Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can
there be recovery." (The Goblet of Fire, page 680)
"You place too much importance...on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to
recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!"
(The Goblet of Fire, page 708)
So as you see the books are realy worthy of reading. They would interest not
only children, but also adults. Furthermore they are easy to read and to my
mind in the nearest future The Harry Potter novels will even included
in the list of literature in schools.
List of literature used
1. M. Hecker, T. Volosova, A. Doroshevich “English Literature”
Moscow “Prosveshchenye” 1975
2. The Brief Encyclopaedia of English Literature
3. G. Kirvatis, A. Surnaite “English Literature”
Siesa publishing house “Kaunas” 1971
4. I. Arnold, N. Diakonova “Three Centuries of English Prise”
Leningrad “Prosveshchenie” 1967
5. Copmleted by Yu. Golitsinsky “Great Britain”
“KARO” St. Petersbourg 2000
6. The World Book Encyclopaedia (Volume 6)
World Book Inc. 1994
7. Compton’s Encyclopaedia (Volume 7)
Edition Compton’s Encyclopaedia 1991