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Author Topic: The Test of Time  (Read 762 times)

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April 01, 2013, 11:43:37 PM


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The Test of Time
Exploring the Hobbit’s Appeal Over the Years

The Hobbit by JKRR Tolkien is almost universally referred to as a must-read classic in English Literature. As to what makes a book so universally appealing is the subject of this thread. Trying to find a definition of the concept of 'Classic Literature' is like nailing Jello to a wall! There doesn't appear to be a good consensus! Some adhere to the test of time, others point to a universal appeal, still others subscribe to pushing the boundaries, or to the uniqueness of the material - these concepts all appear to be traits that are prized, in various emphasis, in 'a classic'.

•   What is your definition of a ‘Classic book’?

•   Is it the writing style itself that makes a book a classic?

•   If you think time is the main criteria for a classic - How long a timeline does it take to make a book a classic?

•   Does popularity alone make a classic?

The Hobbit can be read as a Children’s adventure book with many close calls and exciting adventures. It also can be read as a ‘coming of age’ novel or even as a moral saga. It still is considered one of the best novels ever written.  But why is it considered such a classic? The Hobbit is something we all seem to enjoy, so now we can voice why we think it belongs on the Classic list!

•   What do you think are the attributes of The Hobbit that fit the word Classic?

•   What makes it remain popular? 

Come ahead – post your opinion!

April 04, 2013, 02:55:53 AM
Reply #1


  • April's Fool
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Classic … well the first thing that comes to mind when I hear that word is the epoche (yep I am a musician through and through). Yet that does not really give me any clues as to what makes a book a classic.

To be honest I have never been one to follow such categories or trends. If I hear a book is classic and another isn't, that doesn't really tell me anything, other than many people thought the book worth reading across time. At least that's how understand it. So do I add my voice the chorus of "must read!"? It depends who I am talking to. It is a great tale to learn about personal development, what drives people forward and group interaction, but offered in a non-indepth way, seeing it is catered to young readers.

I think the popularity lies in the simplicity of how the take is constructed. It offers the fantastical approach, with the non-humans and far off lands; it offers adventures both in the greater arch as well as from chapter to chatper; it offers a bit of morality along the way. All nice and digestible …
"Of course it is all in your head, but why on Earth should that mean it isn't real?" ~Dumbledore (DH)
April 28, 2013, 03:40:33 PM
Reply #2


  • Quibbling Queen
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Classical books generally
I don't know if I have a readily made opinion of what makes a book classic, because it is hard to pin down any one definition that would encompass all books that are considered classics.  :ron:

Possibly, one of the requirements is that it gained a lot of readers initially (when it was first published). Because if it didn't it wouldn't be known to those who came later, not normally anyway. To become such a well-spread book in the first place there might be several different roads, and possibly a classic might originally have appealed in any one of those ways:
* Thought provoking and daring in its own original time, i.e. the years immediately after it was written.
* Extremely popular because it was considered a great read.
* A work of an extremely well-known author.
Possibly more reasons might apply.

Having once become popular, it is still considered a great read (by many people) for any of a couple of different reasons I think:
* It is timeless and as gripping and engaging today as when it was written.
* Because it used to be thought provoking, we can learn a lot about the time during which it was written by digesting it, knowing that it used to be thought provoking or even controversial.
* Because the author was very famous, and looking at his entire written bibliography, these books "stand out" for some reasons, and so you can learn a lot about the author - or the time during which they lived - or, possibly, about their overall writing process, by digesting it.
And, most likely, several other factors as well....

Is a classic always a must read, to me? No, far from. I think some classics DO get out dated eventually, and may sometimes turn into a boring tale. As long as you are not studying the author, or their works, in detail, you might not gain a whole lot from having to read some of them, when the world is filled with wonderful books. On the other hand, how do you make the choice, before hand, on which classics are better avoided?  :ron:
April 28, 2013, 11:07:03 PM
Reply #3


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One thing which I have always wondered about the writing of JRR Tolkien's books is whether they became 'classics' because he was a professor - and therefore had the ear of those that pushed what was great literature onto unsuspecting students!  ;) I think on a symbolic level professors 'got' all the nuances of this book - the Norse mythology, the made up world, the underlying meaning of the places and names in the book... On another level, this book can easily be interpreted as a moral tale, a coming of age tale and a commentary on warfare all of which were well-looked upon by the post WWI academic crowd. I think too that positive reviews by Tolkien's good friend CS Lewis may also have helped the initial popularity of the book.

Of course on a different level the book was marketed as children's literature and became popular as a children's book. Then with the publication of Lord of the Rings , The Hobbit was touted more as a prequel to that. I'm not really a fan of thinking that. My feeling is The Hobbit should be seen as a stand alone book. What's you ideas on this?
May 06, 2013, 05:17:51 AM
Reply #4


  • The Only Wizard Bob the Duck Ever Feard
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  For me, "classic" has two ideas. The first is something from the classical antiquities--ancient Greece or Rome. Of course, that is not what most people understand.
  So, a classic book is one whose popularity endures, or even grows, over the years. Some books and writers have  popularity in their own time but recede in relative obscurity (Ella Wheeler Wilcox and William Dean Howells, for example). Others seem somewhat unappreciated in their own time, but are elevated in status yeas later (like Herman Melville).
  I wouldn't dream of claiming that any one quality could make a book a classic: plots, characters, themes, style ...
  Shakespeare's plots are not as complex or well structured as many other lesser writers, but his characters and style just knock my socks off. By "style" I mean diction, sentence and verbal patterns, and figurative language (metaphors, similes, personification). Nobody does it better.
  HealerOne, as I understand, most of the so-called literary experts did not esteem Tolkien's works (especially LOTR) very highly, pointing out things like point of view inconsistencies. Yet, one writer who is virtually perfect in that respect, Henry James, is relatively unknown outside of academic literary circles (I like his works, but it's kind of an acquired taste).

  Though I wouldn't call Tolkien a master stylist, The Hobbit is a wonderful, magical book, written by someone who clearly understands how to tell a good tale. Tolkien, as a literary academic, understood all about literary archetypes, ancient languages, plots, symbols, etc. But in The Hobbit especially, he manages them unobtrusively, like an expert architect or engineer who puts up a great building and then pulls away the scaffolding so that we focus on the experience of the finished product without thinking particularly of the process -- the art of hiding the art.