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10 Famous Meaningful Literary Quotes That Are Complete Nonsense

September 18, 2019

The Great Gatsby has a bunch of meaningful quotes that are nonsense, but only one makes this list

Literary quotes are great because they can express important thoughts in creative and memorable ways.  Quotes in literature are meant to be deep but easily understood, so lots of thought has been put into these words and phrases that make up meaningful literary quotes.

It’s easy to find famous meaningful literary quotes today in the internet age.  Plenty of websites list literary quote after quote, and if a meaningful literary quote shows up on more than one list, then I consider it famous.

But maybe these famous meaningful thoughts aren’t as deep as readers feel.  Maybe some of these famous deep literary quotes are instead just plain nonsense.

Judge for yourself.  Are these literary quotes meaningful, or are they just gibberish?

1.  “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Nonsense.  “All the people in the world” haven’t had all the advantages that I’ve had, but maybe I haven’t had all the advantages they’ve had either.  How am I supposed to know which advantages each person has had and hasn’t had?  We don’t have the time or the ability to figure all that out.  Therefore, we should feel free criticize, as long as we don’t mind being criticized too.

2.  “The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity — it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud.”—Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Nonsense.  That entire paragraph is pure speculation with no empirical proof or data to support it.

3.  “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”—Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Nonsense.  I don’t mean to be a downer, but that’s just giving people false expectations.  People are capable of a lot of great things but “doing what they dream of” is way too general, especially at any time in their lives.  That’s just pandering to a gullible audience.

4.  “Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.” —Frank Herbert, Dune

Only one step beyond?  Nonsense.  I don’t know how many steps beyond logic the real universe is, but it’s way more than one.

5.  “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Nonsense  The heart is impulsive and can steer you in the wrong direction.  If you only follow your heart, you will become a short-term thinker who makes a ton of bad, selfish decisions.  You’re supposed to use your brain and your heart and your… okay, now I’m spouting nonsense too.

6.  “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”—Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Nonsense.  The word “agony” by itself is a bit strong for “bearing an untold story,” but the “no greater agony” is bunk.  There are plenty of things that are a greater agony.  Sometimes the experience or trauma of the untold story is worse than the “untold” part.  Sometimes telling the story would be worse than keeping it secret.

7.  “People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

I’m not convinced that Eat, Pray, Love is literature, but I despise the term “soul mate,” and any quote that involves the term “soul mate” is nonsense, unless the quote is calling the term “soul mate” nonsense.  To make things worse, people who believe in “soul mates” have high divorce rates.  I have no empirical proof to back that up because after the divorce, the people who believed in soul mates often deny they ever believed in that foolishness.

8.  “Not all those who wander are lost.”—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Nonsense.  Who said that everybody who wanders is lost in the first place?  I thought it was common knowledge that some people who wander do so for different reasons.  I like to wander just to clear my mind, but not in any “I’m lost” kind of way.  I’m not a fan of people making arguments against ideas that nobody really believes.

9.  “We need never be ashamed of our tears.” Charles Dickens- Great Expectations

Nonsense.  Men should never shed tears during a movie.  That’s downright embarrassing.

10.  “The Answer to the ultimate question of Life, The Universe and Everything is…42!”- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This might be the most nonsense of nonsense quotes because it was meant to be nonsense and people actually waste time trying to figure out its meaning.    It doesn’t even make sense.  Out of all the numbers that could have chosen, 42 is just random.  12, I could understand.  Maybe you could make a case for 7 or even 13, but 42?  Where did Douglas Adams even… now I’m thinking about it.  Douglas Adams just got me!  AAAAaaaarrrrgh!

*****

Enough about me!  What do you think?  What famous deep literary quotes do you know that truly don’t make much sense?

17 Comments
  1. Number 3 is ridiculous when yiu apply it to people whose dream is to be famous even when they have no talent as a dancer, singer etc. That’s how so many of them end up on awful shows like X Factor. But when you look at other situations maybe that quote does have meaning. It could be the thing that gives people hope and the inspiration to overcome an obstacle in their lives.

    • “It could be the thing that gives people hope and the inspiration to overcome an obstacle in their lives.”-

      Ugh. I don’t mean to be the dasher of hope and inspiration. I just like precise wording in famous meaningful literary quotes.

  2. I’m just rereading Life, the universe and everything, a later book in the same Douglas Adams series. Arthur Dent asks again if he may know what the question was, that prompted the answer ’42’ . It appears that question and the answer are mutually exclusive i. e. whichever one you know, you will never know the other one – so, a joke extended over several books. I think it was a mistake to lump a rather brilliant, intentionally ludicrous, satyrical premise in an article about straightforwardly meaningless quotes, which you seem to have recognised, but still done.

  3. I don’t know any book quotes, but I hate it when people say, “Never go to bed angry with your spouse.” Nonsense! What if your fight starts at 9pm?!?

  4. Sometimes a literary quote is completely true and worthy. When Huck retrieves a note from a church he notices pigs under the floor – it’s cool there. Huck (but likely the author writes, “You notice most people go to church only when they got to. But a hog is different.”

  5. guys, check out my rhymes
    there are times in life when you need someone handsome
    to make your day awesome
    you dont care if he is troublesome
    all you need his love-some embrace to take away your lonesome
    that is when love never meet tiresome

  6. I don’t know if you’re right or if I was cranky when I got here. But now I hate all these books and all these authors.

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