First, they are written in noble language. Second, they teach readers important lessons about human nature (life lessons pertaining to virtue and vice). Third, because they are well written and deal forcefully with human nature, they transcend time; in other words, generation after generation can read, enjoy, and benefit from them
Some characteristics of mainstream lit and their popularity
– The classics not only exhibit distinguished style, fine artistry, and keen intellect but create whole universes of imagination and thought.
-They portray life as complex and many-sided, depicting both negative and positive aspects of human character in the process of discovering and testing enduring virtues.
-They have a transforming effect on the reader’s self-understanding.
-They invite and survive frequent re- readings.
-They adapt themselves to various times and places and provide a sense of the shared life of humanity.
-They are considered classics by a sufficiently large number of people, establishing themselves with common readers as well as qualified authorities.
-And, finally, their appeal endures over wide reaches of time.
According to Kalpakgia, what makes a work of literature a “classic” is whether or not it “deals with a subject of universal importance” and can “portray the nature of things, the structure of reality, the enduring timeless truths that touch every person’s life.” He goes on to cite how The Odyssey illustrates that family is the center of civilization and Pride and Prejudice demonstrates the importance of marrying someone for the right reasons. But it’s not just a book’s subject matter that qualifies it as “great” or “timeless” — there’s also its effect on the reader. “A classic always makes a person reflect on the difference between the way things are and the way things ought to be,” says Kalpakgia. “They enlarge the consciousness.”