The Lord of the Rings

by J. R. R. Tolkien

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Why is The Lord of the Rings considered a classic novel?

Quick answer:

The Lord of the Rings is a classic novel because it presents unforgettable, well-developed characters. It explores humanity and its experiences, encourages multiple readings, and it remains influential over time.

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To understand why J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings may be considered a classic novel, we have to first understand the characteristics of a classic. A classic novel is one that displays literary excellence and stands the test of time. According to many literary scholars, classic novels share four common qualities.

First, classic novels present well-drawn, well-developed, unforgettable characters. This is certainly true of The Lord of the Rings. Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin, Legolas and Gimli, Aragorn, Galadriel, Gandalf, and even Sauran and Saruman are characters readers are not likely to ever forget. Tolkien develops each of them in detail. Readers can easily form mental pictures of each and delve into the depths of each one's personality.

Second, classic novels explore what it means to be human. Even though some of the characters in The Lord of the Rings are hobbits, elves, and dwarves, they still share enough qualities with human beings to make them relatable. As we travel with the Fellowship, we learn about perseverance, courage, fear, determination, temptation, and hope. We look into the depths of degradation (the orcs aren't human, but they show us what corrupt humans look like) and up into the heights of what is best in humanity (the quiet dignity of Aragorn and the practicality and loyalty of Sam, for instance).

Third, classic novels invite and support multiple readings. Readers never tired of The Lord of the Rings. It is so rich that readers can find something new in every read. It also “grows” with readers; as they grow, it teaches them something different that applies to their current state of life. They notice new points and new details that they never saw before. Many people have read The Lord of the Rings dozens of times, explored it in depth, and still find delight and enrichment with every additional read.

Fourth, classic novels retain influence over long periods of time. While The Lord of the Rings is not as old as many classics (the third volume was published in 1955), it has only grown in popularity over time and will certainly continue to do so as new generations are introduced to this delightful, vibrant tale that speaks directly to readers' hearts.

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