Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Study of English Novel

Rise of the English Novel

King Alfred who ruled West-Saxon (Wessex) from 871 up to 901 was the founder of the English prose or the person who laid the cornerstone of the English prose. At the end of 8th century, King Alfred tried to save the English culture in Northumbria due to the attack of Scandinavians. He asked his scholars to translate the important works. Some of the important works translated in his age are:

1. Pastoral Care by Pope Gregorius

2. Ecclesiastical History of the English People by Bede (The original was in Latin)

3. Universal History and Geography by Orosius

4. Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

He also instructed his scholars to write and collect the important events and notes in his kingdom, and later known as Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

The next important person to note is that John Wyclif (± 1324-1384). He was a scholar as well as a priest. He was well-known as the translator of Bible. His famous translation was Voyage and Travail of Sir John Maundeville or known as Mandelville’s Travell (the original language was French).

Novel’s Origin in Medieval Stories

Medieval romances and collections of ballads, especially those concerned with The Legends of King Arthur (Morte d’Arthur: 1470) by Sir Thomas Malory, were the germinal sources of the modern novel. They were fiction of a picturesque and lively kind, though rambling stories. They were peopled by stock characters such as the wicked wizard and the damsel in distress. But they catered to the human longing for fiction and imaginative stimulation.

Development in the Elizabethan Age (1550-1600)

The Elizabethan Age saw the rise of the prose romance. Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit by John Lily (1554-1606) and Arcadia by Philip Sidney are the good examples. Their prose styles, however, are too fantastic. Characters are rudimentary and there is little attempt at an integrated plot. There is too much of moralizing.

Picaresque Novel in the Seventeenth Century

A new type of embryo novel of Spanish origin, namely Picaresque Novel, made its appearance at the end of the sixteenth century. It remained popular till the days of Fielding and Smollet. The name derives from Spanish word, ‘Picaro’, which means a wandering rouge. Its hero is a rascal, who leads a wandering life full of rather scandalous adventures. Cervantes’ Don Quixote is the best-known of picaresque tales in Spanish. Le Sage’s Gill Blas is a French example of this mode of writing.

The picaresque novel in England began early with The Unfortunate Traveller or The Life of Jack Wilton (1594) by Thomas Nash (1567-1601). The English Rogue (1665) by Richard Head is another of the type.

End of the Seventeenth Century and Beginning of the Eighteenth Century Novel is Assuming Shape

The novel dimly took shape by the end of the seventeenth century. Aphra Behn’s Orinooko or The Royal Slave shows power of description, and some claim to plot, characterization and dialogue. It is an experiment in the infancy of the novel. Bunyam’s The Pilgrim Progress (1668), though intended to be an allegory shows a smoothly working plot, a variety of characters, impressive descriptive passages, and simple, dramatic dialogue.

Daniel Defoe (± 1661-1731) represents the culmination of the seventeenth century tendencies in English fiction. He emerged as a novelist with the publication of Robinson Crusoe. Some of his other novels are The Memoirs of a Cavalier, Captain Singleton, Moll Flandors, Colonel Jacob, and Roxana.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) is also well-known with his work Gulliver’s Travels. He is a well-known English satirist.

Novelist of the Eighteenth Century: “Four Wheels of the Wain”

In the early eighteenth century, the two prominent essayists Steele and Addison reflected some traits of the novel in their essays which were published in The Spectator and The Coverley Papers. There is little plot in their essays but the character sketches are very entertaining and reveal the spice of delicate humour.

Professor Saintsbury designates Tobias George Smollet (1721-1771), Laurence Sterne (1715-1768), Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) and Henry Fielding (1707-1754), as the “Four Wheels of the Wain” of the English Novel in the eighteenth century.

(i) Richardson, as the creator of the Novel of Sentiment, drew his strength and inspiration from national and middle class material. His first novel, Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740) came into existence out of a purely commercial undertaking. It was a poplar success because its matter, manner, and morality were new. His other novels were Clarissa or The History of a Young Lady and History of Sir Charless Grandison.

(ii) Henry Fielding goes with Samuel Richardson. Though both were reformers of ‘a depraved age’, their literary methods were different. Fielding was a satirist, whereas RichardsonThe History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and His Friend Mr. Abraham Adams (1742). His other novels were Jonathan Wild the Great (1743), The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749), Amelia (1751). As a novelist, Fielding marked the rise of a new school was a preacher. Fielding’s first novel was of fiction. He created the Novel of Realism.

(iii) Smollett’s novels—Roderick Random (1748), Peregrine Pickle (1751), Ferdinand Count Fathom (1753), Sir Launcelot Greaves (1762), Humphrey Clinker (1771)—contain his observations and experiences as surgeon, sailor and hack-writer.

(iv) In Sterne’s novels—Tristram Shandy (1760-1767), Sentimental Journey (1762)—were the sentimental novel which reached the extreme limits of its principle.

Sir Walter Scott called Fielding “the father of English Novel”. He said that Fielding had “high notions of the dignity of art which he may be considered as having founded.

Some have attributed this title to Richardson. Some critics go to the extent of saying that if Fielding was the father of English Novel, Richardson was its grand father. W.J. Dawson offers this honour to Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe. There are some writers who even confer this greatness on John Lyly, the author of Uephues or Sidney, the author of Arcadia, or Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress and Life and Death of Mr. Badman.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What is Novel?

What’s Novel?

Novel may be roughly defined as a long story in prose, meant primarily for entertainment, and presenting a realistic picture of life.

Baker defines the novel as a literary form whose “medium is prose, not verse; as to content, it is a portrayal of life, in the shape of a story, wholly or in the main fictitious”. W.E. Williams defines it as “a long narrative in prose detailing the actions of fictitious people”. The term is now applied to a large number of writings that have in common only the attribute of being works of fiction written in prose.

Difference between a Novel and a Short Story

Its extended narrative, distinguishes it from the short story and from the work of middle length called the “novelette”. It also permits:

a. Greater variety of characters.

b. Greater complication of plot or plots.

c. Greater development of milieu (setting).

d. Greater analysis of the motives of characters than the shorter modes.

Novella (Italian) is “a story,” “a little new thing.” It is a brief prose tale. (Though the English word, novel designates an extended narrative, it derives from this term). Occasionally, the term novella is used as a synonym for the short novel.

Short Novel is a prose narrative briefer than the novel but longer than the short story. It is also called the “novelette” and occasionally “the novella”.

Short Story is a prose narrative briefer than the short novel, more restricted in characters and situations, and usually concerned with a single effect. The short story does not develop character fully; generally, a single aspect of personality undergoes changes or is revealed as the result of conflict. Within this restricted form, there is frequently concentration on a single character involved in a single episode.

Prose is a literary expression not marked by rhyme or by metrical regularity. Prose is the type of language used in novels, short stories, articles, etc.

Essay is a short composition which is usually in prose and which discusses either formally or informally, one or more topics. The word “essay” means “an attempt” or “effort”. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a composition of moderate length on any particular subject, originally implying want of finish, but said of a composition more elaborate in style, though limited in range”. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is generally regarded as the father of the English essay, for he was the first to use the word “essay” in England, and his volume of Essays published in 1597.

The Chief characteristics of the literary essay are:

1. It is a prose composition, brief or of moderate length.

2. The essay is incomplete. The essayist does not say all that is to be said on the subject. He writes only on those aspects of the subjects which he considers most significant, and leaves out the rest.

3. It is personal in nature. It is more or less a personal affair. Thus, the essay expresses the personal likes and dislikes, prejudices and predilections, of the essayist.

4. It is informal and unsystematic. There is no formal or logical development of thought in an essay. The various points or arguments are not systematically arranged.

5. A good essay should be attractive and charming so that it may be easily retained in the mind. It should have a touch of humour.

Novel is Different from History and the Essay.

As fiction, the novel is distinguished from history, which undertakes to be a narrative of facts, and from the essay, which often presents characters and incidents, but only as brief illustration of a concept or point of view.

The Four Essential Attributes of a Novel

The four essential attributes of a novel are: Theme, Plot, Characterization, and Style. These are not separable parts. They are interrelated and a novel is their sum.

a. Theme sums up the novel’s abstract meaning. The theme of a novel defines its purpose. It is used to indicate the subject of a work, and more frequently employed to designate its central idea or thesis.

b. Plot is the organization of incidents. It is a purposeful progression of rationally interlinked events which end in the resolution of a climax. This means that a novelist must create a logical structure of events, in which nothing is irrelevant. In a good novel, its theme and its plot must be integrated. According to Aristotle, in the Poetics, plot is of two kinds, i.e unified plot (organic plot) and episodic plot (loose plot). A unified plot has a beginning (that which is not necessarily caused by something else but which produces other events), a middle (which derives from what has gone before and which something else must follow), and an end (something that depends on what has happened but which needs be followed by nothing else). An episodic plot is a plot which consists of a series of disconnected incidents, even though it may center on one figure.

c. Characterization is the portrayal of those essential traits which form the unique distinctive personality of an individual human being.

d. Style necessitates choice of words and choice of content.

The Chief Elements of a Novel are:

1. It deals with events and actions which constitute its plot.

2. It has characters i.e. men and women which carry on its action and to whom things happen.

3. The conversation of these characters constitutes the element of dialogue.

4. It has a scene and time of action i.e. the place and time where different things happen to different characters. It may be some limited region or its action may range over large number of places, cities, even countries.

5. Its treatment of life and its problems are realistic. Thus, it is realism which distinguishes it from the earlier prose romances. The novel does not provide escape from life and its problems, but rather a better understanding of them. It also reflects the very spirit of the age in which it is written.

6. It exhibits the author’s views of life and of some of the problems of life. It thus gives the author’s criticism of life or his philosophy of life.

Kinds of Novel

Kinds of Novel:

1. The Picaresque Novel

It is the tale of the adventures or misadventures of a picaro (the Spanish word) or rogue who wanders from one country to another, from one setting to another, from the town to the country, from one inn to another, and in this way the novelist gets an opportunity of introducing a variety of characters and incidents, of painting society as whole realistically.

The Novelists of the Picaresque Novel are:

1. Mark Twain: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1816)

2. Thomas Nash (the first writer of this type of novel): The Unfortunate Traveler or The Life of Jack Wilton (1594)

3. Richard Head: The English Rogue (1665)

4. Daniel Defoe (1659-1731): Moll Flanders (1722), Robinson Crusoe (1733)

5. Henry Fielding: Tom Jones, Joseph Andrews

6. Charles Dickens: Great Expectations, Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist

2. The Panoramic Novel

Henry Fielding, the father of English Novel, is the creator of the panoramic or the epical novel. In this kind of novel the novelist ranges over a wide ground and provides a comprehensive picture of the live of the times. The picture which he presents of contemporary life, society, dress, habits, and manners, is epical in its range, sweep and variety.

The Novelists of the Panoramic Novel are:

1. Henry Fielding: Tom Jones

2. Thackeray: Vanity Fair

3. The Historical Novel

It seems to be a contradiction in terms. The word novel designates a work of fiction; and facts are the underlying basis of history. The historical novelist takes certain events and characters from history and weaves around them a fictitious enchantment. In making use of the facts, the novelist does not follow the method of historian but of the artist. He takes into account what may be described as the spirit and atmosphere of history. He reconstructs imaginatively the life of the past. Thus The Historical Novel is a mixture of fact and fiction, an imaginative treatment of history, and such an imaginative treatment which would necessarily select, order, and arrange its material is not congenial to the rational and scientific temper of the age.

The Novelists of the Historical Novel are:

1. Sir Walter Scott (the creator of the Historical novel): Ivanhoe, Quentin Durward

2. Bulwer Lytton (1803-1873): Rienzi, The Last Days of Pompeii

3. Thackeray: Henry Esmond

4. William Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882): Road Wood, Jack Shephard, The Tower of London, Old St. Paul’s, The Lancashire Witches

5. Charles Reade (1814-1884): The Cloister and the Heart (1861)

6. Charles Kingsley (1819-1875): Westward Ho (1855)

4. The Novel of Social Reform

The novel of social reform is associated with the name of Charles Dickens. He was the first English novelist who consciously used the novel-form to focus public attention on the many social evils prevalent in his age. In this way, he tried to cure some of these evils which caused great suffering to the poor. In this way, he rendered great service to society, and contributed much to the well-being of the underdog of society. Thus he made the novel an instrument of social reform.

His famous work in this novel-form is David Copperfield.

5. The Regional Novel

The Regional novel is the novel which depicts the physical feature, life, customs, manners, history, etc. of some particular region of locality.

Some important novelists of the Regional novel are:

1. Thomas Hardy (Wessex): Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge

2. The Brontes: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne (The Yorkshire)

3. Maria Edgeworth (Irish) (1767-1849): Castle Rackrent, The Absentee

4. Susan Ferrier (Scottish) (1782-1854): Marriage (1812), The Inheritance (1824), Destiny (1831)

5. George Eliot (the Midland Counties of Warwickshire): Adam Bede, Mill on the Floss, and Silas Marner.

6. Arnold Bennett (1867-1931): The Old Wive’s Tale, Clayhanger, Imperial Palace

6. The Psychological Novel

The psychological novelist analyses the motives, impulses and mental processes which move his characters to act in particular way. He depicts the inner struggles of his characters and thus lays bare their souls before his readers. Thus in a psychological novel there is much soul-dissection, as in the dramatic monologues of Browning, and the novel acquires a broad intellectual tone.

Some great novelists in this type of novel are: Samuel Richardson, George Eliot, and George Meredith.

7. The Stream of Consciousness Novel

The stream of consciousness novel carries the analysis of motives and mental processes a step further. It depicts the flux of emotions and sensations passing through the consciousness of a character, without any organization or ordering on the part of the novelist. The novelist places us within the mind of his characters and shows what is happening in his soul at the sub-conscious or even the unconscious levels. The action moves backwards and forwards in harmony with the though-process, and the complete soul of the characters is laid bare.

Some great novelists in this type of novel are: Henry James, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson, etc.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Oedipal Love in D.H. Lawrence's "The Rainbow"

In The Rainbow, D. H. Lawrence discusses Oedipal love in three relationships. In the first generation, Tom Brangwen has a mother-fixation which results in his sexual insufficiency. He is so much haunted by the mother image that he is not able to push his relationships with his girls to their desired development. Next we find it in the Tom-Anna relationship. During Lydia’s pregnancy and later during her preoccupation with the newborn child, Tom diverts his love towards his step daughter Anna. The relationship is charged with great intensity, but only momentarily. After Tom’s satisfactory adjustment with his wife, the undesirable intensity of this relationship automatically fades away. It is in the case of Will-Ursula relationship that we find a detailed discussion of the Oedipus complex. Frustrated in his marriage, Will looks to the child Ursula for his emotional fulfillment. Since it is a very strained and perverse kind of love, it sustains him all right, but it has a ‘deadening’ effect on Ursula’s sensibility. She becomes too moody and sensitive.

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