Wait, What’s a Classic?

Wait, What's a Classic?

To read good literature means to live in different worlds, different time periods and to learn. Countless numbers of books out there have changed the way humans view different things, like the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. As the United States civil rights movement in the ’60s was gaining publicity, Lee came out with a coming-of-age story of a young girl witnessing racial injustice in her hometown. At the time, racial injustice was finally being fought and getting the attention it needed. Lee, a white, female author wrote the story of Scout, and how she learned how to empathize with people different from her, people of color and her strange neighbor, Boo Radley. The story was relevant to its time, as it is still relevant today. It helped shape the view of just how bad racial injustice is in America. It helped the world better understand its own time.     

How do books become a so-called ‘classic’? How does an artist become famous? They do something never done before. When a book explores an unpopular ideology or speaks on difficult topics, the novel has the potential to become a classic. A book that is considered a classic can come from any genre; historical fiction, horror, sci-fi and more. 

To have a book universally agreed upon as a classic is rare. Different scholars and authors, even ordinary people with no English background have different opinions and standards. “Classic literature is an expression of life, truth, and beauty. It must be of high artistic quality, at least for the time in which it was written,” writes Esther Lombardi in ThoughtCo article, Literature Definitions: What Makes a Book a Classic. Different styles of writing and controversial thoughts on life will come and go, but the books considered classics will stand the test of time. 

There are some universal requirements to call a book a classic. One of the main ones is the book shows a great representation of its time period. A book written during World War II has the potential to become a classic if written to a high standard, but an amazing piece of writing about World War II after its time period can not be considered a classic, although it can be later deemed a ‘modern classic’. 

Books such as The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitsgerald (1925), Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck (1937) and Great Expectations, by Charles Dicken (1860-1) all are classics with one universal thing in common; they’ve touched reads from all over the world. People with different cultures, religions and experiences connect with the theme of the story. These stories all touch different generations. Today, at Waukee High School, The Great Gatsby is still read in eleventh grade English even though the story is almost one-hundred years old. Senior Kiernan Sheeler states, “I believe that classic books can be appreciated by the specific audiences,” when asked if The Great Gatsby should still be read in schools today. “I do not believe everyone needs to study them though, like The Great Gatsby,” Sheeler said. 

There is literature out there that many believe should be defined as a classic, and there are some out there who believe the story should not hold such a title, but they all hold some characteristics in common. The stories touch many lives of different cultures, religions and educational backgrounds. The author describes and shows its readers what its time period was like, and reaches a universal theme.

All have different preferences on what books they like to reach, but almost all can agree that classics can always be a go-to.