Our Favourite Classic Quotes
By Megan Powell, Hannah Spruce, Michael Calder and Lucy Carr
As readers of classic literature, we can safely assume that paired with the book is an array of colourful tabs to mark some of the most beautiful quotes found in these novels. More than once have we read a classic and found the need to remember iconic lines in literature and now we are sharing some of our favourite quotes with you!
It is without a doubt that rooted in some of the best examples of classic literature are some of the most profound and inspiring quotes of our time. Many contextualise imperative attitudes, while I find a lot are as relevant today as much as they were upon first publication. This feature would be lost if not including perhaps Emily Brontë’s most well-known line from Wuthering Heights:
“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
This quote speaks volumes in depicting the emotional turmoil between Catherine and Heathcliff, ultimately deducing that they are one, their souls are one. The intense love is encapsulated in this quote and leads nicely to my next choice from Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf:
“It is a thousand pities never to say what one feels.”
I think this is something everyone has experienced at some point in their lives and we should truly practise honesty to avoid regret.
While reflecting on classic literature, the melancholic and yearning quotations seem to stand out in my mind. In Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, after Jo refuses her friend Laurie’s proposal, he rejects her notion that she shall never marry, stating:
“There’ll come a time when you will care for somebody [...] and live and die for him – and I shall have to stand by and see it.”
This quotation conveys the devastation and intensity of unrequited love and loss. An equally emotive passage comes from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, where the passionate heroine declares:
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.”
Jane rejects the image of female fragility and instead reinforces her independent spirit. Both quotations are situated in moments of emotional climax in the novels and the reader feels Laurie and Jane’s emotional turmoil as they grapple with their conflicting love for Jo and Rochester.
Classical literature, in my mind, impacts a society, reflects a philosophy, embeds universal conflicts or truths, and transcends the passage of time. The best quotations, I believe, do the same. They impart a lesson or wisdom, and no greater wisdom can be granted than the knowledge that the passage of time remains inevitable and should be embraced.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – J.R.R.Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
When paired, the first two quotes encapsulate fundamental philosophies regarding existential survival and the daunting question – what should we do with our time? The answers are simplistic, elegant and founded within universal systems of belief. When confronting Frodo’s despair at living through troubling times, Tolkien has Gandalf suggest that we must only decide to do something with the time we’re given, and Lewis Carroll would add that we must only move forward. There is a comfort within the notion that we define our own purpose and, perhaps, the most noble purpose would be understanding that the passage of time will require hardships, one thousand times over, to quote The Kite Runner: “For you, a thousand times over.”
“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” – Alan Bennett, The History Boys
“It was pure love with no other end than love itself. Without possession and without jealousy.” – Luis Sepulveda, The Old Man Who Read Love Stories
This first quote from The History Boys is a beautifully written yet simple expression of why so many people love reading. It illustrates why books have such profound effects on us, and why it’s so easy to find solace and warmth within the pages of a book; because the words make us feel connected — connected to ourselves, to others, and to ideas. Speaking of connections, I adore the second quote’s description of love, taken from The Old Man Who Read Love Stories by Luis Sepúlveda. It describes the protagonist’s deep affection towards the Shuar community he lives with in the Ecuadorian jungle. Again, it’s uncomplicated, but the words perfectly capture a very peaceful and pure form of love.