What is a classic?


What makes a classic a classic? Is it the book’s popularity? How much change it causes? The depth of meaning the author pours into the book?

I would argue that it’s all of those. A classic story has a purpose. When you read a classic, it changes you at your core, and you are never the same again. Classics shove people into action. Classics reveal the destruction created by discrimination. They force us to look at the world without a veil of comfort clouding us from reality.

While classics are often simply accepted by the vast majority, there are a few that constitute further research, and in my opinion, demotion from their place as classics.

Through my younger school years, I had always accepted that Huckleberry Finn was an American classic: the epitome of noteworthy American literature. How disappointing to find that to be so far from the truth. It was like growing older and finding out that your parents are in fact not perfect.

I didn’t initially come to the conclusion that Huckleberry Finn wasn’t a classic. When I first began to read it, I was enamored with the idea that a classic could be such a fun adventure story. However, as the story progressed and the plot became increasingly chaotic, I began to wonder– to doubt Huckleberry Finna��s status as a classic. Classic stories are there so that we may learn from them. Their popularity may be a large part of their being a classic, but that popularity comes from the truths they possess.

Reading Huckleberry Finn, I found there to be much lacking. There were certainly some truths to the story, but they were glossed over, trapped under a pile of confusing side-plots and unnecessary twists and turns. The very real truths that could have made this story one of the greats were mercilessly suffocated. The amazing transformation of Huck, from a boy who willingly accepted slavery to a young man who used his own experiences to make a decision for himself on his stance against slavery (a theme that so reflected Mark Twain’s own development), was grossly hidden by dead men and kings and dukes and daring escapes. Also, Twain’s use of satire to poke fun at slavery, mob mentality, and the general stupidity of humanity was ironically underplayed.

If you’re in search of a true, unparalleled classic, look no further than stories such as The Book Thief or To Kill A Mockingbird. Not only are they staples in the American classroom, but they are well-loved stories that change the way the reader sees the world, no matter the reader’s age.

To Kill A Mockingbird is undeniably a classic due to the truth resounding throughout its pages. It tackles issues like slavery, not passively like Huckleberry, but with vigor. There are no questions as to the truths in the book’s pages, and yet you can still find deeper meaning in each of its sentences. The book practically screams at you, demanding to be heard and taken to heart.

Even classic children’s stories have a depth meant to help children grow. They’re certainly simpler lessons, but they are important, meaningful lessons all the same.

True classics have not only stood the test of time and become some of the most well-known and popular books, but they have forever changed the minds of thousands of people.