After finishing reading 60 pages of Madam Bovary in the past few hours, I wonder to myself why in the world is it considered a classic piece of literature.
I also question why many other pieces of literature are considered classics.
Sure, many classic novels which we read in our schools contain themes, plots, ideas, and concepts dealt with in such a way that they are considered classics without any hesitation. They captured the minds of readers in the past, present, and surely will in the future. There are many, however, that I cannot fathom how they ever got the title of "classic."
First I shall list some pieces of literature which I have read in my course of life that are easily classics.
This list includes:
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Scarlet Letter
Lord of the Flies
Each one of these books contains a compelling story with a very evident overriding theme which we can all learn from. Either that, or it is simply a classic tale of courage which has lasted several hundred of even several thousand years.
To Kill a Mockingbird addresses racism in our society, and shows the evils of it.
The Crucible is a tragic story of hypocrisy, blashphemy, and Godly sorrow.
The Scarlet Letter is a compelling story of guilt and its effects on man.
Lord of the Flies shows us what can happen if man lets his natural instincts have complete reign and does not use common sense.
Watership Down relates a story which shows how man can be cruel in this world, and also relates a story of faith and courage.
For all these reasons, these stories hold my attention as I read them, and they are considered classics under my eyes. The following stories I consider false classics:
The Once and Future King
The Great Gatsby
The Once and Future King, trying to be a great story, is only a mockery of the Arthurian Legend. It goes so far as even to contain Robin Hood (named Robin Wood in the story), who did not live until over 500 years later. If you want a true classic containing the Arthurian Legend, then read the Le Morte d'Arthur, the first of them all, published originally in 1485. It is the best and will always be the best. Do not even pick up The Once and Future King.
Siddhartha is very lacking in its genre. It is supposed to be a story about a journey, and finding the meaning in ones life. If you read it all the way through, you will find the story to contain all the elements of the journey of life, but that is if you even get all the way through. In that adventure, I wish you good luck. This novel competely lacks any interesting plot whatsoever, therefore nullifying its attempt to display its overriding theme. There are so many other good novels out there that convey the same theme in a much more interesting and fulfilling way.
The Great Gatsby is nothing but a bore. It attempts to convey a theme of the hollowness of the upperclass, which it completely fullfills in the hollowness of its own self. If you want to read about some person's dull life going to nondescript parties, drinking tea, and going out to lunch with each other, then by all means read this novel. It will only be a great waste of your time.
By all means, there are so many novels which I did not list that can also be considered classics, and there are so many which I did not list which can also be considered "false" classics.
In my eyes, a classic piece of literature is a piece of literature which captures the imaginations of the masses for generations upon generations, not just the tinkering minds of a small group of intellects who spend their lives reading inbetween the lines over and over again trying to figure out the overall meaning of a piece of symbolism or allusion which they think they have found.