What Turns a Novel into a Classic?

Jump to Last Post 1-5 of 5 discussions (10 posts)
  1. Jacqueline4390 profile image88
    Jacqueline4390posted 3 years ago

    What Turns a Novel into a Classic?

    Many writers have put their pens to countless stories. Some of the stories have slipped into antiquity while others become enduring classics—required reading by instructors and movies that grace the silver screen. What is it that turns some novels into classics while others remain little known? Is it the ability of the author to capture and hold the audience spellbound or is it just “the throw of the dice?”


  2. Zelkiiro profile image95
    Zelkiiroposted 3 years ago


    When determining whether a novel becomes a classic or not, I've noticed the narrative itself often isn't a terribly important part of the criteria; rather, the groups that decide these things are far more interested in how influential the novel was, what the prose is like, whether or not it paints an illuminating picture of the time it was written, symbolism and metaphors present, and/or whether it challenges convention or not.

    Basically, the things that determine a classic are more under-the-hood kinds of traits.

    1. Jacqueline4390 profile image88
      Jacqueline4390posted 3 years agoin reply to this

      Great answer!

  3. M. T. Dremer profile image93
    M. T. Dremerposted 3 years ago

    Obviously writing skill is a primary component, but overall if a book has strong, and deep, characters, and it paints a picture of a very specific place, in a specific time period, then it is more likely to become a classic. Imagine every classic you've ever read and they almost always have strong characters + strong setting. It seems inherently harder for genre fiction to become classics, because they involve fictional settings and they tend to be more plot driven, but it's not impossible.

    Though there is some element of luck that the right agent/publisher/editor will pick up the next classic. Because even the greatest books ever written were rejected at one point or another.

    1. Jacqueline4390 profile image88
      Jacqueline4390posted 3 years agoin reply to this

      Yet another meaningful answer!

  4. courtneyk lm profile image69
    courtneyk lmposted 3 years ago

    I think the key lies in the stories relevance, and whether people relate to it not. 
    Tales of struggle and perseverance
    going from underdog to conqueror
    a conceited man and his fall from grace then subsequent rebuilding of his life from scratch....but this time with different values
    the forbidden love story
    the growing up and finding oneself story
    These are only a few examples, but a lot of people can relate with these kind of novels.

    1. Jacqueline4390 profile image88
      Jacqueline4390posted 3 years agoin reply to this

      I also agree. Great answer!

  5. dohn121 profile image83
    dohn121posted 3 years ago

    What turns a novel into a classic?  There are at least three attributes that are consistent with every classic: Significance, relevance, and time.

    When determining whether or not a novel is in fact a classic, significance is well, highly important (do you see what I did there?).  A classic novel per se should be significant to its time period.  It should stand out as a testament to its time period's history and epitomize the modus operandi. Dickens' Oliver Twist is a social novel depicting the horrors of child labor and poverty during the industrial revolution, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle depicts the same horrors needing much reform in America.  Both novels are still studied and read today because of their historical significance.  The lessons their authors taught changed the way the public viewed poverty and proved to be catalyst to social reform.

    Do the lessons the novel teaches us relevant today?  By far, no author or playwright is quoted more than Shakespeare.  Disney's 1994 classic, The Lion King is loosely based on Shakespeare's arguably best play, Hamlet.  If the subject of love could be put into words, those words would undoubtedly come from Romeo and Juliet or perhaps one of his sonnets.  To name drop another classic work is Sun Tzu's The Art of War which was mentioned in Oliver Stone's Wall Street.  These lessons are still relevant.  Why?

    Because they've withstood the test of time.  The last and final attribute is Time.  The worst thing that can happen to a book is for that book to become Out of Print.  To a book, Out of Print is blasphemy.  Should a book fall to this fate, significance and relevance would be its reasons.  The book failed to achieve the two.  I'm sorry to say that there are far more books in human history that are out of print in contrast to books that are in print.  I don't know the exact number but I can guarantee you that it's not close. 

    Only the most special books can become classics.  Only the very best, most reviewed and most sold books last. Period.

    1. Jacqueline4390 profile image88
      Jacqueline4390posted 3 years agoin reply to this

      Well said. Can you name any modern day works that would "fit the bill" or would no doubt be candidates for classics? Or has there not been enough lapse in time?

    2. dohn121 profile image83
      dohn121posted 3 years agoin reply to this

      That's a good question.  I think that to be in the conversation, a book must first be in circulation within the last 20 years or more.  Just take a look at the books that are constantly being republished (I nominate "The Watchmen" as a future classic


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)