Calling All Classics Lovers and Readers Everywhere:
I have a very important question to ask you and I would love all the feedback I can get. My question: What qualities define a classic?
I am getting ready to start reading The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck for The Womens Classic Literature Event and my husband asked me why it was a classic. He is a big fan of James Clavell and loves the Shogun series and he wanted to know why The Good Earth is considered to be a classic, but Shogun isn’t. I have never read Shogun so I can’t answer that question fully, but I have a few thoughts on what qualities I think define a classic:
- It has stood the test of time
- It has characters who broke with convention
- It provides a realistic look at the social mores and customs of the time
- It deals with issues still relevant today
- It offers a look back in time and still has us talking today
There is something about a classic that has an enduring quality to it, but what defines that quality is hard to narrow down. I think that could be because it may vary from person to person. I may consider The Good Earth to be a classic, but someone else may not. One person may think that Jane Austen is not worth reading because she is not relevant to us today, but another person may say she is definitely worth reading because of what we can learn about that time period from her novels. Maybe this is the mark of a classic, a work that still has us talking about it and saying ‘you need to read this and here’s why.’
I guess if a work is still in print after a certain period of time, I would say 50 or 60 years, and there is still something I can learn from it, e.g. history, culture, or social structure, then maybe these are the initial marks of something that has ‘classic’ potential.
What are your thoughts on what defines a classic? I’d love to hear from you. Tell me in the comments below.