Classic literature is a portal to the human spirit and imagination, a link to our history and development, and a path in which to navigate the educated world. Its benefits include the knowledge of ourselves as human beings, the knowledge of our roots, and the knowledge of how these concepts and realities tie to our current life.
Literature becomes classic by embedding in its pages themes that tie humanity together. It presents conflicts, choices, human nature, character, ethics, morality-elements of life that are as relevant to someone in Beijing as they are to someone in Minot, North Dakota.
"The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck is a story of overcoming a criminal past, combating hunger and poverty, fighting to provide for one's family, encountering corruption, and fighting for a cause larger than oneself. "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" by Thomas Hardy depicts the plight of a woman who is seduced, pregnant and unwed, searching for love, fighting for survival in an unequal world, and being rejected. Even Arthur Conan Doyle's stories of Sherlock Holmes remind us that brilliant eccentrics are quirky and, despite their intellect, they sometimes choose a destructive path as evidenced in his cocaine use.
Such shared human experiences cut across national boundaries, ages, languages, religions, ethnicities and gender. They bring us together to realize we all bleed red and we all struggle on earth although the circumstances may vary.