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These Classic Books Have Great Underlying Moral Themes

 Any book lover will vouch that reading a book is not just an activity of pleasure, it can often become an immersive experience. Whether you read to cry or laugh, or to escape to another world, books have the magical ability to empower the soul. Also, whether you are a child or an adult, many books teach us essential moral lessons either in subtle or powerful ways.

Today, we look at some of the popular classic English books and the morals we can learn from each one of them. You might have read the books mentioned in the list below, but maybe reading them again from a fresh perspective will offer you some important life lessons. Take a look.

1. Pride and Prejudice

English Classics and Morals, Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
Year: 1813
What’s it about? 
'Pride and Prejudice' is perhaps one of the most popular and influential novels written by a female author. Jane Austen's best-loved book is set in rural England in the early 19th century and follows the story of the Bennet sisters: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. Their mother wants them to make good weddings and is consistently at odds with the girls. However, the plot centers primarily on the intelligent and sensible Elizabeth Bennet – her struggles with the societal pressures of marriage and her conflicting love-hate relationship with Mr. Darcy, a rich, handsome, and clever gentleman.
What's the moral of the story?
There are several underlying themes and morals in Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps the most prominent lesson we learn from the book is that first impressions can indeed be misleading. In the first half of the novel, the plot revolves around Elizabeth and her misperceptions about the seemingly proud Mr. Darcy. It is only later when her prejudices have been corrected, does she truly find love and happiness.
Another key lesson in the story is that a good marriage challenges both partners to grow. Elizabeth and Darcy go through a range of emotions and perspectives and finally see matters through the eyes of the other before they can love each other. Even though this book came out in the 19th century, the theme will resonate with married couples even today.

2. A Christmas Carol

English Classics and Morals, A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Year: 1843
What’s it about? 
‘A Christmas Carol’ is a classic and immensely popular novella by Charles Dickens about an old and miserly man named Ebenezer Scrooge who has completely distanced himself from society. On Christmas Eve, three ghosts - the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come – visit Scrooge. The three spirits eventually end up showing Scrooge how his mean behavior has affected those around him and why he must transform his ways.
What’s the moral of the story?
The entire plot of ‘A Christmas Carol’ is based on Ebenezer Scrooge and the moral of the story has everything to do with his transformation. At the start of the tale, he is a miserly, closed-hearted man. Through the events of the story, however, Scrooge eventually accepts his follies and changes into a man whose heart is open to the pain, struggle, and love of others. The story teaches us that no matter how old we become, it is never too late to begin to act in a loving and caring way towards others. That we can always open ourselves to the spirit of love, forgiveness, and generosity.
As Scrooge mentions in one of the passages towards the end: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

3. The Old Man and the Sea

English Classics and Morals, The Old Man and the Sea
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Year: 1952
What’s it about? 
‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is the story of an epic struggle between an old, seasoned fisherman who is engaged in an epic battle to catch a giant marlin. The aged Cuban fisherman named Santiago has been trying to catch the fish for 84 days but without any luck. However, Santiago’s resolve never wavers and he is confident that his unproductive streak will come to an end. When Santiago finally catches the fish, though, more struggles await him at the sea.
What’s the moral of the story?
There are so many moral values that we can take from the story of ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. This heroic tale of perseverance shows us that a man must do whatever he must do to the best of his ability, no matter what tribulations befall him. Furthermore, patience and humility also play a major role in the story. Santiago demonstrates patience by pursuing the marlin dedicatedly, despite the hurdles he faces. Also, respect for others and one's surroundings is demonstrated clearly throughout the story through the old man’s eyes in his pursuit of the fish.

4. The Alchemist

English Classics and Morals, The Alchemist
Author: Paul Coelho
Year: 1988
What’s it about? 
‘The Alchemist’ tells an inspiring story of a young shepherd boy who embarks on a journey to achieve his ‘personal legend’. Along this journey, the boy comes across a plethora of obstacles that eventually change his perspective, and the voyage then transforms into a life-changing adventure.
What’s the moral of the story?
The consistent theme in The Alchemist is to pursue your dreams by following what your heart desires. Throughout his journey, the young boy learns to truly listen to his heart and to use it to overcome fear. 
One of the passages in the book reads: “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” This tells us that any new pursuit is scary but fear is a bigger obstacle than the obstacle itself.
Apart from this, The Alchemist also teaches us the quest for being a greater person, embracing the present, and achieving the best through reaching the heights of human potential. It’s a motivational and powerful book and its uplifting themes are bound to stay with you.

5. Crime and Punishment

English Classics and Morals, Crime and Punishment

Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Year: 1866

What’s it about?

What drives someone to kill in cold blood? What goes through the murderer’s mind? And what kind of society breeds such people? These are some of the hard questions that Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky raises in his book ‘Crime and Punishment’ which is widely regarded as one of the best-known works of Russian literature. The story is told from the point of view of Raskolnikov, a poor, young, former student in Saint Petersburg who plots to kill a dishonest pawnbroker for her money. The young man tries to justify his crime but is also ridden with nightmarish guilt. It is a brilliant psychopathology of guilt and still matters more than 150 years later.

What’s the moral of the story?

As challenging and disturbing as Crime and Punishment is, it also touches on various complex moral issues. Before and after Raskolnikov murders the old pawnbroker, he is deeply troubled by the thought of such an act. It shows the mental anguish and moral dilemmas people have to face for their lethal actions. The book also addresses the idea that killing might never be justified. In the end, the protagonist goes through a crucial transformation and allows himself to accept and experience his own harsh feelings, thus showing us that if we do realize our follies we can indeed ultimately redeem ourselves.

Another crucial aspect of the book is that while many of us face actual punishment for the crimes we commit and many of us don't, the harshest punishment comes from within.

6. The Incredible Journey

English Classics and Morals, The Incredible Journey
Author: Sheila Burnford
Year: 1960
What’s it about? 
'The Incredible Journey' tells the story of three heroic animals - a young Labrador, a Siamese cat, and an old Bull Terrier - and their remarkable journey across the wild countryside in pursuit of finding their owners who have left for the holiday. Published in the early ‘60s, the book might have been targeted at children but it remains a favorite of many adults because of the various loving themes it captures. The timeless classic takes us on the adventure with the three animals, the obstacles they face along the way, and how they eventually overcome them together.
What’s the moral of the story?
While The Incredible Journey might be a straightforward story, its lessons on survival and friendship resonate through all ages. The animals show that friendship and determination pay off eventually if we learn to trust in each other. The three animals fight off a bear, trek through rivers, and face many hurdles together. But it is their friendship which helps them survive.
Another crucial theme in the narrative is to always stick together with the ones who care about you and not leave anyone behind. The loyalty of pets is shown beautifully throughout the book as well and hence it will resonate with pet lovers and anyone who has a heart for animals, adventure, and love.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird

English Classics and Morals, To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Year: 1960
What’s it about? 
Even if you haven’t read the book, it is more than likely that you are well aware of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. The immensely well-known classic novel by Harper Lee is set in the mid-1930s in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama, and is narrated by a six-year-old girl named Scout Finch who lives with her brother and widowed father, Atticus Finch. When one of the town’s black residents, is falsely accused of raping a white woman, Atticus agrees to defend him despite threats from the community. The reader gets to see the different stages of the story through the eyes of Scout which eventually ends up teaching her some valuable life lessons.
What’s the moral of the story?
To Kill a Mockingbird is a compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving story. Throughout the plot, Scout and her brother gradually learn important moral values from their father about tolerance, empathy, and understanding. Initially, the two children assume that people are good because they have never seen evil. However, through the different stages of the trial, they gain a clearer perspective of the world. This portrayal of the transition from innocence to experience is one of the most vital moral themes in the story.
Furthermore, the reader also gets to understand how hatred, prejudice, and ignorance can harm innocent people and why it is so vital to inculcate moral education in young minds. 

8. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

English Classics and Morals, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Author: Mark Twain
Year: 1884
What’s it about? 
All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. There was nothing before.” - Ernest Hemingway.
'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' is the story of a young boy named Huck and his search for freedom and adventure. The story follows Huck and a freed slave named Jim who sail down the Mississippi River on a raft. Along the way, the two boys encounter many odd people and situations which eventually strengthen their resolve to discard mainstream society.
What’s the moral of the story?
While Twain intended the book to be an adventure story, there are quite a few morals that we can take back from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. For instance, a theme we see repeatedly in the story is the reasoning between good and bad. In his journey, Huck is forced to make several tough decisions that force him to test his ability to judge between right and wrong. The development of the young boy’s moral compass is a fascinating aspect of the narrative that even adults today can learn from.

9. The Diary of a Young Girl

English Classics and Morals, The Diary of a Young Girl
Author: Anne Frank
Year: 1947
What’s it about?
‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ is a moving real-life account of a young Jewish girl living in Amsterdam during the Holocaust. The book begins on Anne’s 13th birthday (12 June 1942) when she gets a diary. From there on we learn about her life and her family who have to go into hiding because of Hitler and the Nazi Party’s treatment of Jews in Europe during the Second World War. Anne and her family spend almost two years hiding in Amsterdam with another family, and we learn about their experiences through Anne's accounts. The diary ends suddenly on 1 August 1944.
What’s the moral of the story?
The most significant message in ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ is that all people have the right to live in freedom. More importantly, though, Anne’s diary shows that she was a really happy and cheerful person even though she and her family were in such a horrible situation. This true story indicates that people can find hope within themselves, no matter how hard a time they are having.
The most important idea that we can learn in this book is that we are all lucky to have the days that we do. Hence, it is so essential to cherish and value each day. If at times you are feeling downtrodden you can find inspiration in Anne’s words: “It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, despite everything, that people are truly good at heart.” 

10. The Lord of the Rings 

English Classics and Morals,The Lord of the Rings
Author: J.R.R Tolkien
Year: 1954
What’s it about? 
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is an epic fantasy novel that tells the story of the War of the Ring in the fictional world of Middle-earth. The focus of the story is around the magical One Ring - an indestructible force of evil that lays wake to death, destruction, and darkness. Throughout the book, the free peoples of Middle-earth, like Men, Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits, try and overcome the dark power of Sauron by destroying the Ring.
What’s the moral of the story?
There are so many morals portrayed in the Lord of the Rings story. Friendship, loyalty, honesty, selflessness, devotional love, obedience, and humility are some of the most noteworthy values the reader learns in this sweeping tale.
Death and immortality is also another powerful theme that the author touches upon frequently in the narrative. In fact, Tolkien stated in the book ‘The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien’ that the core theme of The Lord of the Rings is death and the human desire to escape it. Lastly, while the book is essentially a fantasy about good versus evil, it also makes you see that anything in our life can actually be undone but we have to still make the best of what's left.
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