Fifty Shades of Grey – Can it really be classified as a piece of literature?

Christian Grey. Heard of him? Of course you have! E.L. James’ fastest-selling paperback has outshone the Harry Potter series by selling a staggering 40 million copies. But does the book deserve the popularity it has been given? The poorly written and awkwardly phrased erotic novel has become a social statement amongst women today. Describing the novel as a ‘literary milestone’ has to be one of the biggest insults and reflects the degrading role of literature in society today. How can the limited vocabulary and constant repetition of the book come close to competing with the carefully crafted works of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens? There are dangerous relationships that are included in classic novels such as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre; why has Fifty Shades of Grey become the centric of British culture? Perhaps the influential and powerful role of the media (including social media) has inflamed the topic and urged everyone’s curiosity. We all know that sex sells but if exploitation of sex is the only motivation for reading books then I worry for the forthcoming generation.

Regardless of the over-lengthy description and annoying ‘inner goddess’, the novel is getting people talk about literature. All good literature aims to attack the reader’s emotions; this could be through comfort, fear, happiness or shock and Fifty Shades certainly shocks us all whether it was through the introduction of the ‘Red Room of pain’ or Christian’s riding crop. Although the book is far from reality there are some relevant issues such as the role of domineering men. Aspects of it could be seen as an eye-opener to women who are involved in relationships with ‘control freaks’ and those who are merely used as a sex object. It reveals what psychologists refer to as the ‘foot in the door technique’ where humans find it difficult it to say no once they have already agreed; similar to the way Ana progressively agrees to participate in more vulgar activities. A link could also be made to Sigmund Freud’s Cognitive Approach stating how traumatic childhood events like Christian’s cause problems in adulthood.

Personally, I think love is an important theme in the novel as it presents the extreme situations a relationship can get to in the absence of love. Psychological research has shown that men are likely to use blatant lies about caring or commitment to have sex whilst women are more likely to have sex to gain approval and promote intimacy; Fifty Shades reflects this issues which many people today could be completely oblivious to. Nevertheless, Fifty Shades of Grey should be merely enjoyed as in the words Christian Grey ‘we aim to please’ but should not be seen as a literary phenomenon.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user moriza (Mo Riza)

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