Why Fifty Shades of Grey Became a Hit

Fifty Shades of Grey is a novel that has people talking about it like mad. There are a few particular reasons why this novel—and its two companion books, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed—is such a hit.

The premise is that a fresh-from college virgin woman takes a journalism job and is sent to interview a Christian Grey, an entrepreneur who is high on the social ladder. The two are immediately—and intensely—attracted to each other and start a relationship. Each thinks they have found “the one”. This is fine until he brings out bondage toys and plays a cat-and-mouse game with her. Frightened, she calls off the relationship, and immediately both parties are miserable. She discovers that he was born to a prostitute mother who was abused by clients and her pimp. He was adopted upon his mother’s death (he spent a week with her body before the neighbors called in a foul odor), where he lived a happy life but for being the prey of an older woman while he was in his teens. Now, the heroine must choose if she wants to stay with a man who has a haunted past—and fight with him over a woman’s place in a relationship. Likewise, he must decide if he can tame his exotic appetites and learn to accept her as an independent woman.

Why it works:

1-It is a risk

Grey is a highly unconventional character who exposes much of the subjects that conservative adults do not much like to talk about. His character alone threatens to polarize readers. Played poorly, he can become a schmuck that no one cares about. Played well, he becomes a character that proves he is only human, and is that much more endearing.

2-The Foil

While Grey is a man who unashamedly hires sex workers and has a “toy room”, the heroine is the very meaning of conservative. Any time that a main character has a foil, there is instant tension. Foils are found in every single major piece of literature.

3-A Common Goal

Both hero and heroine wish to be together. The problem is overcoming their respective inner perceptions and finding a compromise that will allow them to live in harmony.

4-Internal and External Conflicts

Grey needs to learn to let go of his idea of where a woman belongs, and the heroine must learn to remain patient with him while standing her ground. The heroine must learn to not be jealous over his past, to not be terrified of what he perceives as normal, and to have confidence in an area of life she is not familiar with.

5-The Ground

The heroine responds to Grey in a way that the average reader would—shock, surprise, and fear. Without her behaving this way, the novel suddenly becomes nothing more than erotica and loses the majority of its readers because they can’t relate to the story. With the heroine as the ground, the readers are implicitly asked what they would do in this situation.


Fifty Shades of Grey is a book I have heard mentioned several times, most recently in The Writer’s Digest(May 2012), and I was curious. So when I saw Mom holding Fifty Shades Deeper, I asked her about it. She told me all about it, and promised to lend me the book after. So, yes, all of the above was written based on secondhand knowledge, but I will do a review once I get the chance to read it.


Meanwhile, I believe my analysis still stands.


Your Dearest Nicolette


PS, those of you who have read my blog know that I have finally found employment as an assistant manager. The theatre just opened a couple of days ago, I think we got the glitches out, and this is my first day off in almost two weeks. I’m supposed to have another day off soon, and I’ll try to schedule posts for the future. Thanks for your patience, and please check by as often as you can!


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