This thread is a more specific followup to the "Why does bad literature sell so good?" thread. In that thread, erebh and I got into a discussion that was getting a bit heated and was drifting off the point I think we both wanted to discuss, so I'm restarting it here, with a clean slate, so to speak. The question is this: Are there standards by which we can objectively determine whether one novel is better than another? How can we tell a great novel from a bad novel? Is there a generally-accepted standard? Most critics would regard Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms as a good novel and Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code as an inferior one. Is there any objective validity to this? I think there is. Hemingway was a master builder of character, and did a beautiful job of presenting the world he was writing about. He had a clear, strong worldview and a brilliant prose style. Dan Brown, on the other hand, used paper-thin characters, a ridiculous plot, and obviously contrived and manipulative cliff-hangers. Brown, for all his popular success, is not a good writer. I think, research aside, Hemingway could have tossed off The Da Vinci Code over a weekend if he'd wanted to. I don't think Dan Brown could write A Farewell to Arms if he spent the rest of his life trying. Am I right? Am I "elitist"? Are there objective standards?