The Novels That Bring To Life The Seven Deadly Sins

The Novels That Bring To Life The Seven Deadly Sins

Avatar of Mariana Rosas

By: Mariana Rosas

February 17, 2017

Books The Novels That Bring To Life The Seven Deadly Sins
Avatar of Mariana Rosas

By: Mariana Rosas

February 17, 2017

As we browse through history books we are struck by how little human beings have changed. Even within different contexts and cultures, humans remain largely unchanged. We still make the same mistakes; we still have the same fears, and mainly, we're still guilty of committing the same sins. According to the Catholic religion, there are Seven Deadly Sins that a religious person must avoid at all costs: lust, sloth, gluttony, wrath, envy, greed, and vanity.

The idea of the Deadly Sins has been always present in art. For example, in 1995 David Fincher shocked the world with his movie Se7en. Starring Brad Pitt, the movie tells the story of a murderer who kills his victims according to the seven deadly sins. Even before that, in the early 1300s, Dante Alighieri's portrayal of the Purgatory consisted of a seven-stepped space, each representing one of the deadly sins. Dante and Virgil had to pass over this place, so that the writings on the steps would be erased and they could purify their soul.

Seven deadly sins in books teapot

The fascination over these vices has been present in literature as well. Do sins characterize us as humans? Here we show you a list of books that represent each of the deadly sins. Which of these sins have you committed?


1. Lust: 

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert  

Seven deadly sins in books bed

Emma Bovary is a young woman bored with her marriage. Her husband, doctor Charles Bovary, is a good husband and father, to sum up, an honest and rightful man who fails to satisfy her wife. Throughout the novel, Emma engages with men to look for what Charles can't give her, a combination of passion and sense of belonging.

It is said that Flaubert's master novel, a classic of universal literature, was inspired by his tormented relationships and affairs. 


2. Sloth:

Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov

Seven deadly sins in books lake

Oblomov is Ivan Goncharov's most popular book. The nineteenth-century writer wanted to make a critique of the Russian nobility and aristocracy.  This novel tells the story of a young nobleman who has no intentions of doing something with his life. It is enough to say that the protagonist won't even leave his bed for the first 150 pages of the book.

The novel had so much an impact that in Russia the word "Oblomovism" is used to describe a passive, indecisive, and lazy person.


3. Gluttony:

Women by Charles Bukowski

Seven deadly sins in books coffee

Gluttony refers to an excessive ingestion of food, but it can also refer to any kind of excess.

Charles Bukowski began his drinking path at the age of seventeen, and since then, he never stopped. In many of his novels, he describes his love for alcohol through his alter ego, Henry Chinaski. In Women –a semi-autobiographic novel–, Henry, a 50-year-old divorced man, decides to get involved with a bunch of women to forget his tormented and solitary life. These affairs, combined with lots of booze, transform his world with rampant moments of fun.


4. Wrath:

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Seven deadly sins in books map

Popularized by the homonymous movie by Stanley Kubrik (1971), A Clockwork Orange tells the story of Alex DeLarge, a 15-year-old teenager whose passion in life is committing violent acts and crimes with his gang. After being betrayed by his friends, Alex ends up in jail, where he is treated with a very extreme Pavlovian method to correct his behavior.
The novel is written in English with extracts of nadsat, a fake language that combines English and Russian. This "language" is used in Alex's particularly dystopic reality.
Alex can be considered a sociopath due to his enjoyment in committing outrageous misdeeds and the inner wrath and disdain he shows towards society.



5. Envy:

Othello by William Shakespeare

Seven deadly sins in books market

Shakespeare's tragedies are known for dealing with deeply human themes like pride, ambition, envy, and lust for power. In this play, Othello, the protagonist, is happily married to Desdemona, the daughter of an important senator. This soon changes when Iago, his enemy who's seriously envious of Othello, misleads him to believe that Desdemona is being unfaithful.

Iago's envy and jealousy produce a chain of events that end in tragedy. As Iago's wife, Emilia, mentions "But jealous souls will not be answered so.
They are not ever jealous for the cause,
But jealous for they are jealous. It is a monster 
Begot upon itself, born on itself."


6. Greed:

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

Seven deadly sins in books bags

Considered the first novel in Russian literature, Dead Souls is defined by its author as an epic poem written in prose. This novel narrates the story of Chichikov, a mysterious character who arrives at a small town searching for souls to buy. In other words, he looks for the names of dead peasants who are still registered as living people.

It is said that in this novel Gogol is satirizing Russian society and their system; nevertheless, rumor has it the author lost his mind when he tried to turn it into a reformist novel. He was working on the sequel but he burnt it in a moment of despair, since by the end of his life his physical and mental state were in decay.

7. Vanity:

Paradise Lost by John Milton

Seven deadly sins in books library

Written in 1667, Paradise Lost is a key text in English literature. The poem is divided into ten books (12 according to the original edition) with two main stories: Satan's and Adam and Eve's. Satan, the main character, and hero of the poem formerly named Lucifer, was an angel in God's service. Through the story we become Satan's accomplices in his rebellion against God, a rebellion pushed forth by his vanity, since he considered himself to be a superior being. In the most emblematic line, "Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven," Satan acknowledges his egocentric and rebellious personality.  

Seven deadly sins in books library girl

In the The Tempest William Shakespeare wrote: "Hell is empty, and all the devils are here." We all might have sinned at some point in our lives; some of those sins might've been worse than others; however, no one is safe from sinning. The characters of the aforementioned books are clear examples of what can happen to those who fall into temptation, but these sins endow these characters with depth and make these books the masterpieces they've become. 

If you're interested in classic literature, don't miss these 11 Classic Books You Didn’t Know You Misunderstood.

Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards