Just A Bunch of Literary Memes - Op-Ed Piece

We all thought memes were “just jokes.” Well, here are some Literary memes that make solid points about some of the most important works in literature.

E.B. White said that “explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.” Therefore, I won’t be explaining any memes to you today. It would be totally against the spirit of lighthearted literary critique.

Instead, let’s just take a moment to reflect on jokes and their simple power to make strong, serious claims about complex topics.

But before we talk about jokes, let’s talk about the Treachery of Images.

And I’m not talking about photoshop.

Renee Magritte, the famous French painter, created the following art:


For all you non-French people, that says, “This is not a pipe.”

“What?” you may ask, “How is it not a pipe?”

Well, it is not.

It is a painting of a pipe.

And there is a big difference.

In the same way, memes are not just pictures. They’re nuanced and detailed arguments about social phenomena (Mostly. I’ve seen some that are… well, less than intelligent, shall we say).

Sure, making a meme is not the same as writing a lengthy, compelling treatise on the plotline of Heart of Darkness (although many people have tried) but it still gets us to think about the novel from a new perspective.

To shamelessly exploit an overtired cliché, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, memes have both.

Just by choosing the picture and the words, a memer can criticize, discuss, summarize, analyze, and otherwise explain their opinion about any subject, including literature. Honestly, why don’t college professors let students put memes in their essays?

More to the point, memes are usually jokes. They’re making fun of something. As Mark Twain said, “Laughter without a tinge of philosophy is but a sneeze of humor. Genuine humor is replete with wisdom.”

As we all know, Mark Twain is considered the American expert on humor.

And then there’s Aristotle, who noted that “a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.”

Jokes can call out racism, sexism, political imbalance, classism, ageism… and any other type of “ism” you can think of. And they can do it so subtly that the person with the “ism” might not even know what happened.

Literature, of course, is a serious subject, and some might object to its being joked about. But truly great books stand the test of time and humor. And truly great jokes stand up under scrutiny. Just don’t dissect them like a frog. Enjoy them.

Anyway, here are some excellent literary memes that make excellent points about important literary classics.

Since I found them online, there’s no way to verify their true creators. Instead, like the cave paintings of Lascaux, we will just have to admire their immortal mystique from afar.


Literary memes

Meme #1



Meme #2


Meme #3


Meme #4


Meme #5


Meme #6


Meme #7


Meme #8


Meme #9


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About The Blogger

Sarah Beach is a writer, editor, and researcher with an intense need for herbal tea. She writes about a variety of subjects, including social media, mental health, memes, and holistic wellness. Sarah is a graduate student in the field of Communication Studies and teaches rhetoric. She is also a registered Reiki practitioner and enthusiastic ukulele player. When she’s not writing, you can find her wandering aimlessly outdoors or watching period dramas.

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