What Makes a Classic Novel a Classic?

June 1, 2008
What is a classic novel? Does it have to be written by an old, white, dead dude to be a classic? This is a controversial issue these days. If there’s one thing most everyone seems to agree on, it’s that a classic is timeless.

Everyone has their own opinion on what makes a classic. “A classic novel is one that has survived many, many years, received the approval of billions of critical eyes and minds, and has had such value that other authors have been inspired and changed by it,” said Paul Sheckarski, a librarian for teens at a library in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Ally Carter-author, gave the examples of Pride and Prejudice and To Kill a Mocking Bird. The reasons these are classics in her eyes is because, “There’s something intrinsically true about both of them and when that’s the case the story will never age.”

A Language Arts teacher, in Tulsa- Mrs. Griffin, said that a classic book “has themes and characters that are timeless. Shakespeare is a perfect example because any of his plays could have been written now.”

“Hamlet is about a son whose father died and his mother remarries a bad guy that Hamlet doesn't like. How often does that happen? Much Ado About Nothing is about young adults spreading rumors about each other, Macbeth is about power-hungry politicians, and even Romeo and Juliet is about two young people in love when their families don't get along.”

Another author, Melissa Walker said a classic “is relevant into future generations. Usually, classic works have something to say about the human condition--and they touch profoundly on big themes of life like love, loss, justice, social classes, race, sexual politics, etc in a way that resonates for years to come.”

Author Elizabeth C. Bunce -commenting on what will someday be a classic said, “the only book I've read, finished, and thought: ‘This book will still be read in 100 years--it will still be in print, and companies will publish flocked-and-gilded hardcover gift editions for people to buy for their grandchildren because it's that good’ was The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It was more a sense than anything I can articulate--a feeling, deep down where great books resonate.”
Gretchen Laskas-author thinks, “They (classics) contribute to our sense that creativity in itself is valued and valuable.”

All these definitions of what a classic is show that maybe a classic is a lot things, or maybe what a classic is, is just in the eye of the beholder. No matter what definition you agree with, one thing’s clear: books will continue to be named classics for a long time, and people will continue to wonder who makes these decisions and how.

Join the Discussion

This article has 12 comments. Post your own now!

APlit_amiright said...
Jan. 13 at 12:46 am
thanx man.
Paradise said...
Mar. 21, 2016 at 4:26 pm
Very deep. Very talented
SmritiBansal said...
Sept. 20, 2010 at 5:29 am

Hey, first of all- brilliant topic. 

But what I felt while reading this was, thats it's everybody's view but yours.

I'd like to know what YOU have to say. What YOUR definition is. I can always google what other people have to say.

So, yeah. I like the article, id just really like to know what your views are.

Ren-P. replied...
Sept. 27, 2010 at 11:06 pm
I'm am the author of this and I just wanted to say, as I have said before, I meant it to be a sort of news article. It originally went in my school paper. It isn't supposed to be my opnion!
Anita This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm
women can write them, too-- Jane Austen, anyone??
Ren-P. replied...
Sept. 27, 2010 at 11:06 pm
You are right. Thank you for pointing that out.
nchic replied...
Nov. 25, 2010 at 3:05 pm
yes, jane austen. that is what i was going to post.
WithPenAndScript replied...
Jan. 11, 2011 at 5:33 pm
Pride and Prejudice was mentioned...
Anita This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 11, 2011 at 6:11 pm
wow... you're right. I didn't notice that. :)
Ren-P. replied...
Jun. 24, 2011 at 12:54 am
I just noticed, To Kill a Mockingbird (by Harper Lee) is also mentioned and also by a woman.
unearthlyhaphazard said...
Aug. 7, 2009 at 3:38 pm
This was an excellent piece of writing, and a topic that I never really pondered until now. I definitely agree with Ally Carter and Melissa Walker on the definition of the classic. Just add more of what you think. It's your article; your opinion is just as important, too!
Ren-P. replied...
Sept. 26, 2009 at 1:33 am
Yes my opinion is important, but this was originally a piece for my school newspaper, therefore the intent was journalism. This was meant as an article, not a column, so it shouldn't be about what I think but what the world thinks.
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