These novels have good characters or societal forces that are battling evil. Sometimes they have to walk a careful line to make sure they don’t become evil themselves. The reader can judge how successful they are.
See also Morality and Ethics
Theme: Good & Evil
The Violent Bear it Away | Flannery O’Connor
Mason Tarwater considered himself a prophet. He was institutionalized for four years by his sister. He kidnapped his nephew Francis to raise him as a prophet. Mason gives Francis the mission of baptizing his mentally disabled cousin, Bishop.
East of Eden | John Steinbeck
Spanning almost sixty years, the narrative covers three generations of the Trask and Hamilton families. It begins with Samuel Hamilton, who has five sons. His family does well despite not having a lot of money. Meanwhile, Cyrus Trask has two sons, Adam and Charles. Adam joins the army while Charles stays at the ranch. They meet Cathy Ames, who shows up at the ranch seriously injured.
Lord of the Flies | William Golding
A plane crashes on a tropical island, killing all the adults. A group of children survive and have to explore the island and find a way to live. When one boy blows a conch shell, they all gather to figure out what they will do and what roles they will play.
“What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?”
Crime and Punishment | Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Raskolnikov, a young man, sickly and poor, is contemplating a crime. He goes to a pawnbroker’s to get a little money and scout the place. Raskolnikov feels his passivity is a burden on his family. He hears about the pawnbroker’s routine, and comes up with a plan.
“The whole question here is: am I a monster, or a victim myself?”
Grendel | John Gardner
This is a retelling of the first part of the epic Beowulf, from the point of view of Grendel, the monster.
The Pearl | John Steinbeck
Kino and Juana are in a panic when their baby, Coyotito, is stung by a scorpion. They take him to the doctor, but are turned away. Kino is intent on securing more money, so he goes pearl diving; his wife prays for a big find. Kino uncovers the “Pearl of the World”, and Coyotito seems to be improving.
“And, as with all retold tales that are in people’s hearts, there are only good and bad things and black and white things and good and evil things and no in between anywhere.”
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Robert Louis Stevenson
Dr. Jekyll is walking with his lawyer, Gabriel, and another man, Enfield, when a story is told of a man named Hyde with a highly displeasing appearance and manner, who knocked down a little girl in the street. Gabriel discovers that Jekyll has Hyde in his will, having bequeathed all his possessions to him. An associate says that Jekyll’s mind hasn’t been right for ten years. Gabriel looks into Hyde, finding him to be disgusting and evil. A witness later identifies him as the man who committed a serious crime.
“All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone, in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil.”
Oliver Twist | Charles Dickens
Oliver is an orphan who is sent to an “infant farm”, a workhouse, and then is apprenticed to an undertaker. Along the way he is underfed and bullied. He runs away to London and gets in with a crowd of child criminals led by Fagin, a filthy, selfish man who trains the children to steal.
“Why, what evil wind has blowed you here?”
The Natural | Bernard Malamud
Roy, nineteen, is on a train with his manager to try out for the Chicago Cubs. Also on the train is Walt Whambold, a batting star in the American League. When the train has to make a stop, the passengers go to a nearby carnival where Roy excels at a baseball contest. This leads to a little baseball showdown between Roy and Walt. The narrative jumps ahead fifteen years with Roy signed, now as a batter, to help a losing major league team. Neither the reader nor the characters are aware of the details of Roy’s life these past years.
The Color Purple | Alice Walker
Fourteen year old Celie writes letters to God about her life. She was raped by her stepfather and he threatened her not to tell anyone but God. She is essentially sold to a man who beats her often. Celie is a hard worker and struggles thru her oppression.
The Chocolate War| Robert Cormier
Jerry Renault is a student at a private, all-male Catholic high school in New England. He’s trying out for the football team, but not doing very well. To raise funds, the school is having a chocolate sale, but Jerry refuses to participate, causing a stir among the students. Meanwhile, there is a secret student organization, the Vigils, that organizes pranks and other disruptions, who are given an assignment by the headmaster.
Sula | Toni Morrison
Sula and Nel are friends who grow up in “The Bottom”, the African-American part of a town in Ohio. Sula is wild and feels unloved and guilty over an accident in her childhood. Nel was raised in a strict household, and finds some excitement in Sula’s company. There is a lot of drama in the lives of Sula, her mother, and her grandmother.
Moby-Dick | Herman Melville
Ishmael signs on to a whaling ship, the Pequod, run by the vengeful Captain Ahab. After they set sail, Ahab stays in his cabin for a few days before showing himself to the crew. He tells them the sole purpose of their mission is to find the whale that cost him his leg on his last trip, Moby-Dick. He offers a reward to the first man who spots the whale. Ahab’s actions become increasingly unsettling.
“Were I the wind, I’d blow no more on such a wicked, miserable world.”
Billy Budd | Herman Melville
Billy is pressed into service aboard the HMS Bellipotent. He is popular with the crew, except for the Master-at-arms, John Claggart. His dislike of Billy escalates.
Ender’s Game | Orson Scott Card
Ender is six when he has a government monitoring device removed, a year later than usual. He is the third child in his family; usually, families are only allowed two children. Ender is recruited for Battle School. Earth has been invaded twice by the Buggers, insectoid aliens, and they were barely repelled. Ender shows promise as a military leader. He excels at the training scenarios, but he has many conflicts with the other boys.
The Road | Cormac McCarthy
Somewhere in the United States after an apocalypse, a father and son are travelling south to avoid the coming winter. They stop at abandoned stations and homes looking for food and supplies. There are few people left; many of those still living are violent and dangerous.
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