When I first read Dickens I couldn't shake the thought that he was just so pretentious. His extensive descriptions and elite language made me sure of it. Turns out I was wrong, seen as contextually he was actually a bit of a commoner and his target audience was the working class. That told me.
Even so, prior to 2014 I couldn't understand the hype around so many of the classics. I thought the majority of the plots in the literary canon weren't enticing enough, just the cliché boy meets girl storyline. Oh how ignorant I was. It's actually surprising to me how many classics seem to challenge the structure of society when the assumed audience of this genre are so commonly the elite, the ones that benefit from the hierarchy that's under fire and who resist revolution.
Whilst Shakespeare's metaphorical thinking is mind blowing and Orwell seems to be a psychic, it still begs the question of whether we respect the classics because of their literary greatness or because we are supposed to. It's ok to like Harry Potter but we can't put Rowling ahead of Austen because she's not good enough or because she hasn't stood the test of time?
The lack of ethnic representation in the canon clarifies my doubts on whether these books and authors really are the best of the best or whether they are purely a collection of works that the white elite have considered worthy of respect. I don't doubt the standard of writing for a minute but 'the best of the best' is always going to be a pair of boots that are too big to fill.