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Thursday, 24 January 2019 21:48

A background study and history of Novel



The novel owes its existence to the interest which men and women everywhere and at all times have taken in men and women and in the great panorama of human passion and action. This interest has always been one of the most general and most powerful of the impulses behind literature, and it has thus given rise to various modes of expression, the novel being the largest and fullest of them.

Occasionally novel has been compared with drama. But it must be remembered that drama is not pure literature. It is a compound art in which the literary element is organically bound up with the elements of stage setting and histrionic interpretation. The novel is independent of these secondary arts. It is a 'pocket theatre', containing within itself not only plot and actors but also costume, scenery and all the other accessories of a dramatic representation.

The novel has a freedom of movement, a breadth, and a flexibility to which, even in its most romantic developments, the drama cannot possibly attain. What the novel loses in actuality and vividness by its substitution of narrative for representation it thus amply makes up for in other ways. This is, of course, one reason why the novel has largely displaced the drama, as it has displaced other vehicles for the expression of our common interest in human life and has established itself as the principal literary form of our complex and many sided modern age.

The drama is the most rigorous form of literary art while prose fiction is the loosest.

In the first place, the novel deals with events and actions, with things which are suffered and done ; and these constitute what we commonly call the plot. Secondly such things happen to people and are suffered or done by people ; and the men and women who thus carry on the action form its characters. The conversation of these characters introduces the third element i.e. dialogue. Fourthly, the action must take place, and the characters must do and suffer, somewhere and at some time ; and thus we have a locale and time of action. The element of style may be put as the fifth. Every novel must necessarily present a certain view of life and of some of the problems of life ; that is, it must so exhibit incidents, characters, passions, motives, as to reveal more or less distinctly the way in which the author looks out upon the world and his general attitude towards it. Thus plot, character, dialogue, time and place of action, and point of view (the stated or implied philosophy of life) are the chief elements of a novel.

In dealing with the element of plot our first business will always be with the nature of the raw material out of which it is made and with the quality of such material when judged by the standards furnished by life itself. Take, for example, the works of Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot and Hawthorne. It is immediately evident that these four writers drew their subjects from widely different aspects of life and classes of incident ; and as we turn from David Copperfield to Vanity Fair, and from these again to Adam Bede and The Scarlet Letter, we feel that with each transition we are passing, not only from one kind of plot interest to another but also from one kind of world to another. Their themes possess in themselves a substantial value and a genuine human meaning because they are concerned with passions, conflicts, and problems which, however their forms may change, belong to the essential texture of life. It is the certain mark of all great novel, as well as of all great literature, that, wide as may be the range of its accessory topics, it is primarily engaged with the things which make life strenuous, intense, and morally significant.

Life may be as strenuous, intense, and morally significant in the simplest story of the humblest people as in the largest movements of history or the most thrilling situations of the heroic stage. Nor does it mean that it is to the tragic phases of experience only that a great novel must be confined, for the comedy of life is often as full of large and permanent human interest as its tragedy. A novel is really great only when it lays its foundations broad and deep in the things which most constantly and seriously appeal to us in the struggle and fortunes of our common humanity.

One function of fiction is to provide amusement for the leisure hour and a welcome relief from the strain of practical affairs. Any novel which serves its purpose in this way may be held to have fully justified itself. Moreover, the excellence of its technique, or its dramatic power, or its exceptional cleverness in characterisation, or its abundant humour, or some other outstanding quality of its workmanship, may suffice to lift an otherwise insignificant story to a high rank in fictitious literature. The true greatness of a novel is to be sought in its substantial value of its raw material.

However, the greatness of subject matter will not of itself ensure the greatness of a novel. Mastery of handling is now requisite in order that all the varied possibilities of a given theme may be brought out to the full. We approach the whole question of the making of a novel including the two contributory elements of individual power and technical skill. But there is a preliminary problem to be touched upon, since individual power would be wasted and technical skill exercised to little effect unless they are both supported by an ample knowledge of life.

We are thus brought back to the cardinal principle of fidelity to oneself and one's experiences as the condition of all good work in literature. Because fiction is fiction and not fact, it is sometimes falsely assumed that it has nothing to do with fact. Whatever facts of life the novelist may choose to write about, he should write of them with the grasp and thoroughness which can be secured only by familiarity with his material.

This general principle has been rigorously interpreted to mean that the novelist should confine himself within the field, however small, of his own personal first hand intercourse with the world and never allow himself to go stray beyond it. Thus George Eliot attacked the work of the ordinary women novelists of her times who tried to write like men and from the man's point of view instead of taking their stand on the fundamental difference of sex. Alike in theory and practice Jane Austen adhered strictly to this principle of absolute fidelity. There is no scene in all her novels in which men only are described as talking together and their dialogue reported. Her women converse with other women, and with men ; but as she had ni immediate knowledge of the behaviour of men among themselves in wholly masculine company, she simply left the subject alone.

How little this principle of fidelity is commonly recognised is repeatedly shown in the writings of minor novelists who frequently build their plots out of materials lying far beyond their own observation. It is often said that every man might produce atleast one interesting novel if he would only write faithfully of what he has known and felt for himself ; but it is a curious fact that in the vast majority of cases this is the last thing that the would be novelist ever think of doing. On the contrary, inspired rather by the work of some favourite writer, whom he seeks to imitate, than by life itself, he commits the fatal blunder of drawing upon second hand information for the ground work of his plot.

It is not, however, necessary to push the doctrine of authenticity to the extreme represented by the precept and practice of Jane Austen and we should be warranted in doing so only on the supposition that a novel must be realistic in the narrowest acceptation of the word. Knowledge of life may be obtained in various ways besides direct personal experience ; it may be obtained through books and through conversation with other people who have touched the world at points where we have not touched it ourselves. A writer of real creative genius, with the power of absorbing and utilising all kinds of material derived from all kinds of sources, and that sheer power of realistic imagination which habitually goes with this, may thus attain substantial fidelity even when he is handling scenes and incidents which have never come within the range of his own experiences and observation. Little fault has been found with Robinson Crusoe on the score of inaccuracy even in details, while in the quality of carrying conviction it stands in the front rank of fictitious narratives ; yet it must not be forgotten that the man who wrote it had not only never lived on a desert island, but had never even seen the sea. The historical novelist is evidently compelled to rely upon indirect information for the specific characteristics of any period he undertakes to describe ; and what the historical novelist does in dealing with the past, the novelist of contemporary life may do with equal assurance when the exigencies of his plot carry him beyond his individual field. What is required in all cases is a large many sided experience of men and things and a resulting general knowledge of life both ample and thorough, the application of which to specific details may vitalise and humanise materials wheresoever gained.

A novel, whatever else it is or is not, is at any rate a story. Two questions, therefore, suggest themselves which, we must still state in definite form. Is the story, as story, fresh, interesting, and worth telling? And this being settled, is it well and artistically told? In other words, we demand, that the story shall in its own particular way be a good one and also that it shall be skillfully put together. By this we mean that on careful examination of all its details, it shall reveal no gaps or inconsistencies ; that its parts shall be arranged with a due sense of balance and proportion ; that its incidents shall appear to evolve spontaneously from its data and from one another ; that common place things shall be made significant by the writer's touch upon them ; that the march of events, however unusual, shall be so managed as to impress us as orderly and natural in the circumstances ; and that the catastrophe, whether foreseen or not, shall satisfy us as the logical product and summing up of all that has gone before.

Mere power of narrative is also in itself a feature. The gift of telling a story to the best possible advantage is much rarer than is commonly supposed. Among English poets Chaucer, Dryden, Scott, and William Morris had this gift in a marked degree. There are novelists whose books have little weight or permanent value, who can atleast tell a story naturally, easily, and in a way to bring out at each stage its maximum amount of interest ; there are others of immeasurably greater intellectual power in whom this faculty is poorly developed, or in whose work its exercise is impeded by the pressure of other things. Thus in reading Dumas, for example, who is one of the world's very best story tellers, we cannot fail to admire the free and vigorous movement of the narrative, which sweeps us on from point to point with no apparent effort or strain, while a certain sense of effort and strain is almost always with us when we are reading George Eliot or Balzac or Tolstoy. Nor is it only at the evolution of the action as a whole that we have to look. We must consider also the writer's power of managing his seperate parts -- of handling his situations and working up his effects. Much of the dramatic value of scenes of great potential interest is often allowed to escape under inadequate treatment ; but a novelist who knows his business will make every incident tell with its proper proportion of effect in relation to the whole. We may have, for instance, the marvellous brevity and restraint of Thackeray's account of George Osborne's death at Waterloo ; we may have, in a totally different manner, the elaborately wrought detail with which Dickens describes the death of old Krook, and Hawthorne the death of Judge Pyncheon. Hence it will always be a matter of interest not only to observe results, but also to examine the means by which the results are obtained by different writers or by the same writer in different circumstances or at different stages of his career.

In dealing with plot structure we may distinguish roughly between two kinds of novel -- the novel of loose plot and the novel of organic plot. In the former case the story is composed of a number of detached incidents, having little necessary or logical connection among themselves ; the unity of the narrative depending not on the machinery of the action, but upon the person of the hero who, as the central figure or nucleus, binds the otherwise scattered elements together. Such a novel is "rather a history of the miscellaneous adventures which befall an individual in the course of life than the plot of a regular and connected epopoeia, where every step brings us a point nearer to the final catastrophe." Thus while it may be filled to overflowing with interesting separate episodes, it has little in the nature of a comprehensive general design, in the evolution of which each detail plays a distinct and vital part.

Robinson Crusoe, Gil Blas, Joseph Andrews, Roderick Random, Vanity Fair, Pendennis, The Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby may be cited as familiar examples of of this 'incoherent and loose' type of novel. In them one scene leads to another, the characters cross and recross ; but the book as a whole have little structural or organic unity.

The case is entirely different with novels of the organic type with such novels as Tom Jones, Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend, and The Woman in White. Here the separate incidents are no longer treated episodically ; they are dove-tailed together as integral components of a definite plot pattern. In these cases something more than a general idea of the course of the story was necessary before the author began his work. The entire plan had to be considered in detail ; the characters and events arranged to occupy their proper places in it ; and the various lines laid down which were to converge in bringing about the catastrophe.

Even in novels of the organic kind there is often a great deal of purely episodical material. Thus in Tom Jones, Bleak House, and Our Mutual Friend there are many incidents and characters which lie outside the general design and are not really connected with it. Secondly, all degrees of plot organisation are, of course, possible between the elaborate compactness of these books and the extreme looseness of The Picwick Papers or Pendenis. Among Dickens's novels David Copperfield and Martin Chuzzlewit exhibit intermediate stages of plot unification. There are innumerable novels in which the matter of the plot is so simple that no regular development of a dramatic scheme is to be looked for.

A really great novel is likely to approximate rather to the loose than to the organic type. At the same time, compactness and symmetry undoubtedly give aesthetic pleasure and we rightly admire the technical skill to which they testify.

The two drawbacks to which a highly organised plot is specially liable may be noted here. It may be so mechanically put together that its very cleverness may impress us with an uneasy sense of laborious artifice. This is commonly the case with the novels of most deft manipulator of mere plot, Wilkie Collins. Or it may lack plausibility in details. Here a frequent error is the abuse of coincidence. Thus in Tom Jones all sorts of unexpected things are perpetually happening in the nick of time, while people turn up again and again at the right moment, and in the place where they are wanted only because they chance to be wanted then and there.

Two of any plot are thus suggested. It should seem to move naturally, and be free from any appearance of artifice ; and the means used in working it out should be such as we are willing to accept, in the circumstances, as at least credible.

A special aspect of the principle of unity in plot structure has next to be considered. The plot of a novel may be simple or compound ; that is, it may be composed of one story only, or of two or more stories in combination ; and the law of unity requires that in a compound plot the parts should be wrought together into a single whole. In Bleak House the three threads of Esther Summerson's story, the story of Lady Dedlock's sin, and the story of the great Chancery suit of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, are very cleverly interwoven, and thus we have an admirable example on an immense scale of the unification of complex materials. It should also be noted that where several independent elements enter into a plot, it is often the practice of novelists to make them balance or illustrate one another.

There is one another point of in the study of plot. While the dramatist confined to a single way of telling his story, the novelist has his choice among three methods -- the direct, or epic ; the autobiographical ; and the documentary. In the first, and most usual way, the novelist is a historian narrating from the outside ; in the second, he writes in the first person, identifying himself with one of his characters and thus produces an imaginary autobiography ; as in Robinson Crusoe, The Vicar of Wakefield, David Copperfield, Esmond, Jane Eyre ; in the third method, the action is unfolded by means of letters, as in the epistolary novels of Richardson, Smollett's Humphrey Clinker, Fanny Burney's Evelina and Goethe's Sorrows of Werther ; or by diaries, contributed narratives and miscellaneous documents. Occasionally, the methods may be blended, as in Bleak House.

Each of these three methods has its special advantages ; for while the direct method always gives the great scope and freedom of movement, a keener or more intimate interest may sometimes be attained by the use of either the first personal or the documentary plan. Yet it will be observed that both these last named methods involve difficulties of their own. In adopting the autobiographical form, a novelist may frequently fail to bring all his material naturally within the compass of the supposed narrator's knowledge and power ; and he may sometimes miss the true personal tone. And whatever may be urged in theory on behalf of the documentary method, in practice it is very apt to become, even in the hands of a skillful artist, both clumsy and unconvincing

In passing from plot to characterisation in fiction we are met at the outset by one of those elementary questions of which even the most uncritical reader is certain to feel the force. Does the novelist succeed in making his men and women real to our imagination? Do the "stand upright on the ground? They lay hold of us by virtue of their substantial quality of life ; we know and believe in them as thoroughly, we sympathise with them as deeply, we love and hate them as cordially, as though they belonged to the world of flesh and blood. And the first thing that we require of any novelist in his handling of character is that, whether he keeps close to common experience or boldly experiments with the fantastic and the abnormal, his men and women shall move through his pages like living beings and like living beings remain in our memory after his book is laid aside and its details perhaps forgotten.

The process of creation are confessedly as mysterious to those who possess such creative power as they are to other people. Thus Thackeray spoke of this power as 'occult' ---- as a power which seemed at times to take the pen from his fingers and move it in spite of himself. "I don't control my characters," he once protested, "I am in their hands, and they take me where they please." He had endowed them with independent volition, and by so doing had to a large extent placed them beyond the range of his calculations ; they spoke and acted on their own impulse.

Herein lies the ultimate distinction between creative genius and mere talent, however brilliant and well trained. The latter simply manufactures, and its effects are always within the field of conscious and deliberate effort. The former really creates and for this reason its outworkings are often as strange and inexplicable to the author himself at the time as to those who afterwards pick his characters to pieces in the hope of plucking the heart out of their mystery.

Confining ourselves to the question of method, we may note that a novelist's success in characterisation necessarily depends in part upon his faculty for graphic description. In the representation of a play those secondary arts of which we have already read are of immense service in the definition of personality, and the make up of the actor and his interpretation of his part give us the dress and bearing, the looks and gestures, of the character portrayed by him. In the reading of a novel all these things are of imagination only ; and thus it is an important part of the business of the novelist to help us by description to a vivid realisation of the appearance and behaviour of his people. Whatever is individual and characteristic in their physical aspect in general, whatever is of importance in their expression or demeanour at any critical moment, must be so indicated as to stand out clearly in the reader's mind.

It will be found that as a rule a set and formal description, given item by item, is one of the least successful ways of making a character live before us, and that a skilled artist is specially known by his power of selecting and accumulating significant detail and of stimulating the imagination of the reader by by slight occasional touches.

In regard to what is more specifically understood as characterisation --- that is, the psychological side of it --- the principal thing to remember is, that the conditions of the novel commonly permit the use of two opposed methods -- the direct or analytical, and the indirect or dramatic. In the one case the novelist portrays his characters from the outside, dissects their passions, motives, thoughts and feelings, explains, comments, and often pronounces authoritative judgement upon them. In the other case, he stands apart, allows his character to reveal themselves through speech and action, and reinforces their self-delineation by the comments and judgements of other characters in the story. The conditions of the novel commonly permit the use of these two methods in fiction in which the autobiographical or documentary plan is strictly adhered to, in fact as well as in theory, and the intrusion of the novelist in person is thus prevented, the presentation of character is confined within the limits of dramatic objectivity. Generally speaking, however, the very form of the novel as a compound of narrative and dialogue, practically involves a combination of the non dramatic and the dramatic in the handling of character. In the examination of a novelist's technique, therefore, his habitual way of using these two methods, and the proportions in which he combines them, will evidently prove an interesting question.

Thus Thackeray supports its results by an enormous amount of personal interpretation and criticism ; while direct analysis is seriously overdone by George Eliot and the so called psychological novelists in general. In Jane Austen's works the dramatic element predominates ; her men and women for the most part portray themselves through dialogue, while she herself continually throws cross lights upon them in the conversation of the different people by whom they are discussed.

Modern criticism rightly favours the fullest possible development of the dramatic method. The principle that it is always better that a character should be made to reveal itself than that it should be dissected from the outside, is thoroughly sound. It is one advantage which prose fiction possesses in comparison with the drama that the author himself may from time to time appear in the capacity of expositor and critic.

The immense scope of the novel, its freedom of movement, and its indifference to considerations of time and place, combine with the advantage just mentioned to give it a special power of dealing with character in the making. Even the earlier novelists were quick to seize the opportunity thus afforded, as we may see in the writings of Defoe and Richardson. So far as modern fiction is concerned, therefore, there is little exaggeration in the statement of Lotze that, "the slow shaping of character is the problem of the novel" ; for it would be difficult to name any really great modern novel in which that problem does not occupy a conspicuous place, even if it does not furnish the kernel or centre of interest. A common practice with the novelist who writes as a serious student of character is thus to present at the outset some leading figure with certain potentialities of good and evil, and then to follow his movement upward or downward under the influences of other people, surrounding conditions, personal experiences and his reaction to them, and whatever else enters as a f ormative factor into his life.

In our general estimate of any novelist's characterisation, the question of his range and limitations must not be left out of consideration. Catholicity of course counts greatly in our judgement of his work in the mass ; for while we admire those who are content to do a few things and do them well, we naturally assign a higher place to those whose accomplishment is broader and more varied. But every novelist who writes much and covers a considerable field is certain to have his points of special strength and special weakness, and the strength and the weakness alike will always throw much light upon the essential qualities of his genius and art.


The need of fidelity to personal observation and experience in the plot and manners of a novel is of course no less applicable to its characterisation. In his "essay to prove that an author will write the better for having some knowledge of the subject on which he writes," Fielding urged that "a true knowledge of the world is gained only by conversation ; and the manners of every rank must be seen in order to be known."


But a broad and intimate knowledge of human nature at large, a keen insight into the workings of common motives and passions, creative power and dramatic sympathy, will together often suffice to give substantial reality and the unmistakable touch of truth to characters for which scarcely a single suggestion can have been taken directly from the life.


We distinguish roughly between two classes of novels --- those in which the interest of the character is uppermost, while action is used simply or mainly with reference to this ; and those in which the interest of plot is upper most, and characters are used simply or mainly to carry the action. It suggests the question of the relative value of incident and character in fiction.


Of the two elements characterisation is the more important ; from which it follows that novels which have the principal stress on character rank higher as a class than those which depend mainly on incident. The interest aroused by a story merely as a story may be very keen at the time of reading ; but it is in itself a comparatively childish and transitory interest, while that aroused by characterisation is deep and lasting.


We now see why the novels which hold the highest places in literature are in nearly all cases novels of character and not novels of plot. Our greatest novelists have habitually shown a disregard of mere plot, sometimes amounting to positive carelessness.


While in every novel plot and characters must be combined, there is a right way and a wrong way of treating their relationship. The wrong way is to bring them together arbitrarily and without making each depend logically upon each ; the right way is to conceive them throughout as forces vitally interacting in the movement of the story. In a merely sensational novel, where the writer's main concern is with his plot, the machinery of the action will commonly be found to have little to do with the personal qualities of the actors.


But it is in the personal qualities thus subordinated that in all really good fiction the mainsprings of the action must ultimately be sought. Simple or complex, the plot evolves as a natural consequence of the fact that a number of given people, of such and such dispositions and impelled by such and such motives and passions, are brought together in circumstances which give rise to an interplay of influence or clash of interests among them.


Incident is thus rooted in character, and is to be explained in terms of it. One point to be kept in view, therefore, in the examination of a novel, is the degree of closeness with which plot and characters are interwoven.


By a natural transition we pass from the characters of fiction to their conversation. Dialogue is one of the most delightful elements of a novel ; it is that part of it in which we seem to get most intimately into touch with people. The expansion of this element in modern fiction is, therefore, a fact of great significance. Good dialogue greatly brightens a narrative, and its judicious and timely use is to be regarded as evidence of a writer's technical skill.

Investigation shows that while dialogue may frequently be employed in the evolution of the plot, its principal function is in direct connection with character. It has immense value in the exhibition of passions, motives, feelings ; of the reactions of the speakers to the events in which they are taking part ; and of their influence upon one another.

The dialogue should always constitute an organic element in the story ; it should really contribute, directly or indirectly, either to the movement of the plot or to the elucidation of the characters in their relations with it. Extraneous conversation is therefore to be condemned for precisely the same reason as we condemn any interjected discourse on miscellaneous topics by the author himself ; namely, that having no connection with the matter in hand, it breaks the fundamental law of unity. Conversation extended beyond the actual needs of the plot is to be justified only when it has a distinct significance in the exposition of characters. Dialogue should be natural, appropriate, and dramatic ; which means that it should be in keeping with the personality of the speakers ; suitable to the situation in which it occurs ; and easy, fresh, vivid, and interesting.

Next is the novelist's power of humour, pathos, and tragic effect. These special attributes are so conspicuous by their presence or absence, as the case may be, and they are so inevitably recognised or missed by even the most careless reader. In our estimate of any novelist's work as a whole, there are two points which in particular will here come up for examination. There is first the question of the extent and limitations of his powers. In the comparative study of fiction this question has some interest, since one writer is weak in humour who is strong in pathos ; with another the conditions are reversed ; a third is most at home among the fiercer passions ; while here and there we may find one who has something of Shakespeare's assured mastery of many moods, and can touch us with equal certainty to mirth, to pity, to terror. Secondly, there is the more important question of the quality of his accomplishment in any of these directions ; for humour may vary from broad farce to the subtlest innuendos of high comedy ; pathos from weak sentimentalism to the most delicate play of tender feeling ; tragedy from a crude revelling in merely material horrors to the most soul moving calamities of the moral and spiritual life. It may be taken for granted that in the study of any novel or author both these questions of range and quality of emotional effect will be considered as a matter of course.

Humour, one of the greatest endowments of genius and that one which beyond all others should help to keep a novelist's work sane and wholesome, may yet be misemployed in various ways, will readily be perceived. It is misemployed when it is enlisted in the service of indecency or used to turn to ridicule what should arouse sympathy or the sense of revulsion rather than mirth. To lay down an abstract rule is impossible, for many things which are intrinsically pitiable or disgusting, like drunkenness, have still their comic aspect, and may therefore rightly be handled in the comic way. Often too such comic handling is morally most effective, and for this reason humour has always been a potent instrument for the correction of manners and the castigation of vice. Much depends upon spirit and treatment. But we are at least safe in saying that when our laughter is stirred it shall be by no unworthy subjects, that it shall not partake of cruelty, and that it shall leave no bad taste in the mouth.


A similar problem confronts us in connection with the painful emotions. Why we enjoy them at all when we experience them in the mimic world of art? That we do enjoy them is at any rate a patent fact, while the place that they occupy in much of the world's greatest imaginative literature testifies eloquently to the depth and permanence of their appeal. Yet these painful emotions may easily be abused, and often have been abused. Sentiment may degenerate into sentimentalism and an unhealthy indulgence in the luxury of grief, and no one will deny the danger of this tendency who remembers how much fiction is written with the express purpose of satisfying a wide spread craving for this particular kind of morbid excitement in weak or over sensitive natures. In the same way, the proper bounds of tragic feeling may be overstepped or its power perverted, as in the numerous instances in which descriptions of suffering are drawn out to a point at which they become positively agonising, or the reader is compelled to linger over scenes the whole effect of which depends upon their profusion of pathological detail. Once more it is impossible to formulate general principles for the guidance of taste, for healthy sentiment passes by insensible degrees into sickly sentimentalism, while the border line between the tragic horror which is justifiable and that which is unjustifiable is equally shifting and vague.


Our next concern is the question of setting in a novel, or what we have called its time and place of action. In this term we include the entire milieu of a story --- the manners, customs, ways of life, which enter into its composition, as well as its natural background or environment. We may therefore distinguish two kinds of settings --- the social and the material.


One marked feature of modern fiction is its specialisation. Fielding probably intended to give in Tom Jones a fairly complete picture of the English life of his time. Balzac and Zola alike attempted to embrace the whole of French civilisation in all its phases and ramifications. The tendency of the modern novel to spread out in all directions until it has become practically coextensive with the complex modern world, has inevitably been accompanied by a parallel tendency towards the subdivision of its subject matter. A certain largeness of design is indeed often noticeable, as in the works of Dickens ; yet, for the most part, life is rather treated in sections, each novel concerning itself chiefly with one or two aspects of the great social comedy. Thus we have novels of the sea and of military life ; of the upper classes, the middle classes, the lower classes ; of industrial life, commercial life, artistic life, clerical life ; and so on. Subdivision also follows topographical lines, as in the innumerable novels of different localities and of local types of character : Scotch novels, Irish novels, "Wessex" novels etc.


Frequently the local type of character is presented amid its natural surroundings, but often its peculiarities are brought out by the device of transplanting it into another and contrasted environment. Whichever plan is adopted, it is evident that in all novels in which particular phases of life are kept to the fore, characterisation and social setting are vitally associated, and each element must therefore be considered in its connection with the other. But it must further be remembered that many novels owe much of their attractiveness and literary value to their skilful portrayal of the life and manners of special classes, social groups or places. At this point the work of the novelist has again to be judged by the accuracy and power of his descriptions.


These principles hold good for the historical novel, which aims to combine the dramatic interest of the plot and character with a more or less detailed picture of the varied features of the life of a particular age. Sometimes the historical setting has comparatively little to do with the essence of the narrative, the basis of which is provided rather by the permanent facts of experience than by the forms which these facts assume in special circumstances. Sometimes, on the other hand, the permanent is so bound up with the temporary and interpenetrated by it, that the setting becomes an essential element in the human drama itself. It will thus always be well to observe the connection between theme and setting and the extent to which the latter is essential to the former. In some cases we shall find that the plot and characters are used simply to focus the outstanding features of the period dealt with.


In whatever way the setting may be treated, however, the interest of a historical novel will always inhere in part -- for this is one sense is the very justification of its existence -- in its vivid reproduction of the life of a bygone age. Here again the tests to be applied are those of descriptive power and substantial accuracy. It is the business of the historical novelist to bring creative imagination to bear upon the dry facts of the annalist and the antiquarian, and out of a mass of scattered material gleaned from the variety of sources, to evolve a picture having the fulness and unity of a work of art. It is this power of making real and picturesque some particular period of civilisation, and of doing this without any suggestion of the dry as dust and pedantic, that the ordinary reader values most in the writer of historical fiction.


On the other kind of setting in fiction --- the material --- every reader will perforce note for himself the difference between novelists who pay slight attention to the milieu of their scenes, and those who, specially delight in minute descriptions of streets, houses, and interiors ; while the question of skill, vividness, method, and general artistic value will just as inevitably come up for consideration. In our examination of a novelist's use of nature, our first concern will be with his power as a landscape painter. But it must be remembered that he may treat the natural background and accessories of his action in various ways. He may introduce them for picturesque purposes only and without relating them to his human drama ; or he may associate them directly with his drama either through contrast or through sympathy. Of these two methods, that of making external conditions harmonise with the action or the mood of the characters is the more common. The use of nature in sympathy with man is indeed one of the most familiar of all dramatic devices ; and the connection is often accentuated to the full and most elaborately worked out ; as in many storms which, as any novel reader will remember, synchronise with and intensify situations of tragic power.


Let us now consider the sixth element in novel, i.e, the writer's criticism, interpretation, or philosophy of life. Like the drama, the novel is concerned directly with life -- with men, and women, and their relationships, with the thoughts and feelings, the passions and motives by which they are governed and impelled with their joys and sorrows, their struggles, their successes, failures. Since, then, the novelist's theme is life, in one or several of its innumerable aspects. Little as he may dream of using his narrative as the vehicle of any special theories or ideas, certain theories or ideas will will none the less be found embodied in it, and even the slightest story will yield under analysis a more or less distinct underlying conception of the moral values of the characters and incidents of which it is composed. To this extent every novel may be said to rest upon a certain view of the world, to incorporate or connote various general principles, and thus to present a rough general philosophy of life.


What a novelist thinks about life will inevitably guide him in the arrangement of his plot and the treatment of his characters. But his primary concern is not with abstract question but with the concrete facts of life. Such moral system, or philosophy of life may be given in the novel in two ways. In the first place, like the dramatist, the novelist interprets life by his mere representation of it. He selects certain material out of the mass which life offers to him ; by his arrangement of these he brings certain facts and forces in to relief ; he exhibits character and motive under certain lights ; and in the conduct of his plot indicates his view of the moral balance among the things which make up our human experience.


Every novel is a microcosm, of which the author is the creator and the plot the providential scheme. Merely by selection and organisation of material, emphasis, presentation of character and development of story, the novelist shows us in a general way what he thinks about life.


Thus far the novelist's course is the same as the dramatist's : they both interpret life by representation. But while the dramatist is confined to the indirect method, the novelist is able to supplement it by direct personal commentary and explanation. He can step before the curtain, elucidate the action, discuss the characters and their motives, and generalise on the moral questions suggested by them. Where he avails himself of the privilege afforded by the free form of the novel to do this, he becomes himself the interpreter of the mimic world he has called into existence, and therefore of life at large.


In estimating the philosophy of life contained in any novel, we have to test it from two points of view --- that of its truth and and that of its morality. The truth we demand in fiction is not identical with the truth we demand from science. Plato made the mistake of confusing them, holding that all imaginative literature is 'false' because it does not reproduce the actual facts of existence ; what Homer's poetry, for instance is full of "lies." Even today we may meet with people who are more or less troubled by this difficulty, and who, failing to perceive any difference between fiction falsehood, look askance at all kinds of fictitious writing in consequence.


Aristotle pointed out the fallacy of Plato's view, rightly maintaining the existence in all great works of the imagination of a "poetic truth" which is really deeper and more comprehensive than the mere literal fidelity to fact which we expect in the work of the historian. For while the historian is bound down to things which have gone through the formality of taking place, the creative artist is limited only by what Aristotle called "ideal probability."


De Quincey devised the phrase and made distinction between what he called the literature of knowledge and the literature of power. The literature of knowledge must be judged by its accuracy in matters of fact ; and with every step forward taken by science, it necessarily becomes antiquated. Thus it is that the text books of biology and physics have perpetually to be re written and that even histories have continually to be revised. But the truth of the literature of power is fidelity to the great essential motives and impulses, passions and principles, which shape the lives of men and women ; and because these change so little amid all the vast upheavals of the ages, the books which have in them this supreme element of essential truth remain, however old in years, as fresh and vital in their human interest as in the days when they were written.


There is a famous saying : "In fiction everything is true except names and dates ; in history nothing is true except names and dates." There is no need to feel great offence or defense at this statement at this statement. This paradoxical statement has been quoted here just to show the kind of truth upon which all greatness in fiction ultimately depends. The novelist may take innumerable liberties with his subject ; he may re arrange his materials in fresh and startling combination ; he may invent outright ; but we insist that he shall still be true to ideal probability and the great elemental facts and forces of life. If at this point his work proves to be faulty, without hesitation we adjudge it unsound.


In recent years more than enough has been said about realism in novels and the advocates of this realism have told us with wearisome iteration that the one and only business of the novelist who takes his art seriously is to go direct to actual life and reproduce what he finds there with photographic fidelity. Now, in common practice this doctrine of realism is often shamefully abused. Sometimes it is made to justify detailed pictures of the sordid, base, and ugly --- pictures which, while they may be painfully accurate in their presentation of selected particulars, are so completely out of perspective that they are anything but true to life at large. Sometimes it is employed to dignify the much ado about nothing of a certain class of writers whose chief concern seems to be the elabotration of the trivial and the commonplace. But even when not so not so abused in one or other of these two ways, the theory of realism as generally understood --- that the novelist should never venture beyond actual fact --- is to be rejected because it involves in another form the old confusion between scientific and poetic truth. Art cannot without self destruction adopts the aims and borrow the methods of science. "The artist's work," as Goethe admirably says , "is real in so far as it is always true ; ideal, in that it is never actual.


Bearing this principle in mind, we shall cease to be greatly disturbed by the loud quarrel of the rival schools of novelists and critics over realism and romance. We shall see that, properly understood, both are justified, since both spring from fundamental instincts : the source of the one being our delight in seeing the near and familiar artistically rendered ; of the other, our pleasure in the remote and unfamiliar. We shall see too that while each has its justification, each has likewise its conditions. Realism must be kept within the sphere of art by the presence of the ideal element. Romance must be saved from extravagance by the presence of the poetic truth.


A novelist's chief concern must always be with the concrete facts of life, and in doing this, We may assume that he may deal with concrete facts without troubling himself in the least about their moral bearings. It has now to be added that while theorists may say what they like about the moral indifference of fiction, it remains none the less true that nearly all the really great novelists of the world have been declared moralists, and have troubled themselves a great deal about the moral bearings of the concrete facts presented by them.


But the conditions of success in carrying out of such moral purpose under the forms of fiction and with due regard to the demands of art, must be clearly recognised. The ethics must be wrought into the texture of the story ; the philosophy must be held in solution ; the novelist must never for a moment be lost in the propagandist or preacher.


All art to be truly great, must be moralised -- must be in harmony with those principles of conduct, that tone of feeling, which it is the self preservative instinct of civilised humanity to strengthen. This does not mean that the artist should be consciously didactic or obtrusively ethical. The objects of ethics and art are distinct. The one analyses and instructs ; the other embodies and delights. But since all the arts give form to thought and feeling, it follows that the greatest art is that which includes in its synthesis the fullest complex of thoughts and feelings. The more complete the poet's grasp of human nature as a whole, the more complete his presentation of life in organised complexity, the greater he will be. Now, the whole struggle of the human race from barbarism to civilisation is one continuous effort to maintain and extent its moral dignity. It is by the conservation and alimentation of moral qualities that we advance. The organisation of all our faculties into a perfect whole is moral harmony. Therefore artists who aspire to greatness can neither be adverse nor indifferent to ethics.


The application of those admirable remarks to the special question of prose fiction will be evident. In respect of the novel it is often said that art as art has nothing to do with morality. The reply is, that in the sense in which morality is understood, in the sense in which the word has been employed throughout the present discussion, art is vitally connected with morality. Art grows out of life ; it is fed by life ; it reacts upon life. This being so, it cannot disregard its responsibilities to life.







Story telling is the most ancient mode of entertainment. Every country has its own saga of stories told in different forms. Epic, ballad, anecdote, romance- are all stories.


The novel is a comparatively new form of fiction and it is a late growth in literature. It began in Italy and the Italian nouvella soon spread to the rest of Europe all through the course of Renaissance. Ifor Evans places its origin in English in the eighteenth century with the publication of Richardson’s PAMELA in 1740.

However we may trace back the roots of English novel into the romances of sixteenth century. Sir Philip Sidney’s ARCADIA, a romance written about 1580 and published in 1590, had a blend of pastoral and chivalrous. The said work had a principal plot enriched by many episodes. Here and there the chivalrous and the sentimental are interspersed with the comic. But it is through his characters that Sidney marks a progress. He contrasts his virtuous characters with the vicious ones and presents a very bold picture of vice. He enriched the descriptive art of the time by his search for details in the portraits and by his analysis of expression and gestures.

Though ARCADIA had some traits of novel it cannot be called so. At this point it would be proper to distinguish novel from story telling. The novel is a prose work, while most of the early story telling was in verse. Chaucer’s TROILUS AND CRISEYDE has many elements which we would expect in a novel. He accepts and preserves the tragic elements of his theme but he is specially drawn to the study of character.

Verses were used later also as a method of story telling. Scott and Byron wrote verse romances and had the last popular success. It was Scott who showed that prose provides possibilities of width and background to the story which verse cannot. Width and background are two ways in which the novelist distinguishes his art from the art of story teller. Thus the novel can be defined as a narrative in prose based on a story in which the author portrays character and life and analyses sentiments and passions and the reactions of men and women to their environment.

The novel may be the last form of English literature to establish itself but since its beginning in the eighteenth century its success has been huge. The attachment of readers to this form of literature was not surprising. For many it was and it is an indirect satisfaction of the need for a philosophical or moral guidance. For others it is the only outlet to a large experience.

It is quite substantial to mention here that Sidney’s ARCADIA was popular in the eighteenth century and when Richardson called his heroine Pamela he did so in the memory of the virtuous Pamela in Sidney’s romance.

Apart from Sidney a very different kind of contribution was made by John Lyly (1554-1606) whose EUPHEUS(1578) though reduced story to the minimum but was brilliant in the discussion of manners, sentiments and morals. A group of Elizabethan writers wrote for money and tried to follow popular taste. Robert Greene (1560-92) merely popularized the style of Sidney and Lyly. His euphuistic romances are written on a high moral plane. MAMILLIA warned the young man against the seemingly pure love which might take them towards lust. PANDOSTO was used by Shakespeare for THE WINTER’S TALE. Greene developed a manner to describe the low life of London: the thieves, rogues, drabs, their tricks and their victims.

Thomas Lodge wrote a euphuistic romance ROSALYNDE (1590) in Sidney’s manner. The romance was a medley of monologues and sentimental dialogues which inspired Shakespeare for his AS YOU LIKE IT. Thomas Deloney (1543-1602) has been discovered recently as a writer of Elizabethan fiction. Being a weaver by profession Deloney reproduces the spirit, the feelings and the prejudices of the craftsman’s world. His JACKE OF NEWBURY takes us into the great weaver’s shop with its two hundred looms, each worked by one man and a boy to help him, one hundred women carders and two hundred spinsters, hundred and fifty children to pick wool, fifty shearers, eighty rovers and twenty fullers.

Thomas Nashe (1567-1601) was perhaps the first Elizabethan writer who experimented the picaresque in his THE UNFORTUNATE TRAVELLER. The said work is also the nearest approach to realistic novel. Therefore Elizabethan fiction strikes us as a series of attempts but compared with Elizabethan drama it was just a beginning.




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The great beginning achieved during the sixteenth century did not develop on expected lines during the seventeenth century. The religious controversies, social dissensions and the Civil Wars have absorbed the attention of the writers who left a trail of pamphlets. However this century also contributed to the history of fiction. The most important element came from France in the elegant far fetched heroic romances of Mlle de Scudery whose Le Grand Cyrus was translated into English in 1653-55 and proved very popular. The primary appeal to these romances was to the aristocracy but others enjoyed them too.

In the later half of the seventeenth century though fiction made little progress the readers started experiencing the voice of the private citizens describing their own life. John Evelyn (1620-1706) and Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) recorded the type of material in their diaries which the novelists were to use someday. But perhaps the greatest fiction writer of the seventeenth century was John Bunyan (1628-88). He was a soldier in the Republican Army, a preacher, a prisoner and a mystic. After his release from army services in 1647 Bunyan began to study the Bible and it was on the Bible that his whole literary and religious life was founded. In 1660 he was imprisoned in Bedford gaol for the crime of preaching and remained there for twelve years. During the first six years he published nine books including GRACE ABOUNDING which has been recognized as one of the great books of religious experience. After his release in 1672 he was elected pastor of the congregation in Bedford. He was imprisoned again when the bill was revoked in 1675.The first part of THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS was written during this period and was published in 1678.

The central theme of THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS has nothing original in it and in his development of the story Bunyan followed the lines of earlier allegories. He recounts the vision of life allegorically as the narrative of a journey. Bunyan had a flair for detail and anecdote, for the description of scenery and the invention of conversation. He combined all this with allegory so that his narrative, despite all spiritual meanings, becomes a realistic story. Thus Bunyan had a natural gift, he knew how to tell tale and to link up incidents. His style is racy and has ease, lucidity, order and a sense of construction.




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Though Ifor Evans traces the origin of English novel from Richardson’s PAMELA many regards Daniel Defoe (1657-1731) as a pioneer novelist of adventure and low life. For the first time he let the readers hear the actual voice of the average middle class. He notes the moral corruption of the nobility and the decline of the brutal but ignorant country gentleman. He is the most wonderful observer of facts and by means of his imagination he can form them anew.

Defoe was the first nonconformist and dissenter in English literature. When he established his periodical The Review in 1704 the age of English journalism was less than fifty years. Like Dickens he was highly endowed with the experiencing nature and nothing seemed to him to be too small to escape his notice. He knew how to turn the smallest detail into literary account. He had made fiction appear like truth and truth appear like fiction.

In 1706 Defoe published A True Relation of the Apparition of one Mrs. Veal, the day next Day after her Death, to one Mrs. Bargrave at Canterbury, the 8th of September 1705. At one time this book was thought to be a hoax but actually turned out to be a well researched work of imagination. When the first part of ROBINSON CRUSOE was published in 1719 Defoe was sixty years old. During the next few years he was to become the most extraordinarily prolific old man in the history of English fiction.

In quick succession he wrote CAPTAIN SINGLETON (1720), MOLL FLANDERS (1722), COLONEL JACQUE (1722), A Journal of the Plaque Year (1722) and ROXANA (1724). Defoe regarded novel not as a work of imagination but as a true relation and even when the element of fact decreases he maintains the close realism of pseudo fact. ROBINSON CRUSOE has the shipwreck of Selkirk as its source. CAPTAIN SINGLETON and MOLL FLANDERS have accounts of travels and the vague and suggestive geography of the time, the memoirs and biographies of loose women and criminals. Defoe instinctively applies the documentary method.


The most important development in English novel seems to have come almost by chance. Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) came to London and apprenticed himself as a printer. Once he was asked to prepare a series of model letters for those who were unable to write by themselves. Thus he told maid servants how to negotiate a marriage proposal, apprentices how to apply for situations and even sons how to plead their father’s forgiveness. This task made him realize that he possesses the art of expressing himself in letters. This realization led to the publication of three epistolary novels titled PAMELA (1740), CLARISSA (1747-8) and SIR CHARLES GRANDISON (1753-5).

Pamela struck the readers as a virtuous servant who resisted the attempts of seduction of her master and as a reward gained the marriage proposal from him. Though Richardson intended Pamela to point out a moral but the artist in him got the better of the moralist and his first novel belongs to an order of artistic achievement and psychological truth. Richardson’s next novel CLARRISA grew out of PAMELA. The moralist Richardson must have found some danger in the hero of PAMELA being a rake reformed by marriage so CLARRISA was designed as a painful demonstration of the perfidy of man. It is quite substantial to note here that as CLARISSA had grown out of PAMELA, SIR CHARLES GRANDISON grew out of CLARISSA. Richardson took up the moralist’s burden once again and Sir Charles Grandison appeared as a model gentleman.

Richardson, like Defoe, was a representative of the average middle class. In Richardson, his analysis of sentiment becomes the dominant motive and is pursued with a minuteness and patience which fiction in England was seldom to parallel. His realism in narration was combined with a skill in dialogue. He produced the first novels of psychological analysis and made everyday manners and ordinary persons acceptable in fiction. The French found in him a herald of revolt. Goethe felt his influence and became Richardsonian in The Sorrows of Wether. Even in Italy two plays were adapted from PAMELA by Goldoni.

In the eighteenth century novel grew to its full stature. The Elizabethans had toyed with romance and realism. Bunyan had made story out of his religious convictions. Defoe had given to homely fact an imaginative appeal. Richardson emerged as the typical figure of the changed order. The English novel firmly established by Richardson was further strengthened by Fielding and Smollett.


Henry Fielding (1707-54) began his literary career as a playwright by writing a comedy in the Restoration manner. But he soon found a real talent for burlesque. Richardson who was skilled in dramatic parody was tempted to write a parody of Richardson’s PAMELA and the result was SHAMELA (1741). Soon he found something on a large scale and there appeared his first published novel JOSEPH ANDREWS (1742). As Pamela was tempted by her master so her brother Joseph Andrews is tempted by his mistress, Lady Booby. With Pamela as his example of virtue he resisted though the reward was only to be kicked out in disgrace. There follows a series of adventures on the road where Joseph was accompanied by Parson Adams, a clerical Don Quixote. The comedy is admirably contrived with the Hogarthian figure of a pig keeping parson as one of its main delights. Apart from the motive of satire Fielding presented a contrast between the picture of humble, contemporary life and the classical epic.

Fielding was displeased with Richardson’s PAMELA but both of them were moralists and used the novel to demonstrate what they considered right and wrong behaviour. For Fielding morals were essentially positive and he laid emphasis on action. To him Richardson seemed to be saying that virtue and prudence were identical. Pamela appeared to be a calculating young woman whose concern for virtue masked a self regarding intentness on material and social betterment. Fielding made Shamela a hypocrite who resists her master in order to drive him into marriage so that she may become a lady and carry on freely with a local parson.

In his next novel JONATHAN WILD (1743) Fielding’s irony was the fiercest. In this novel Fielding took the life of a thief and receiver, who had been hanged at Tyburn, as a theme for demonstrating the small division between a great rogue and a great soldier or a great politician. The said novel is a satire on human greatness. The condensed irony, the self mastery, the mental liberty heightened by the implicit violence of the thwarted passion has a power that recalls Swift.

TOM JONES, appeared in 1749, is the first long English novel conceived and carried out on a plan that secured artistic unity for the whole. In its attitude to prudence and to the codes of conduct TOM JONES like JOSEPH ANDREWS is an anti Richardsonian novel. In TOM JONES Fielding appears as the innovator of the main tradition of English novel—the novel of panorama. Scott, Dickens and H G Wells followed the suite later. In this novel Fielding offers a mature presentation and criticism of almost every topic of general human interest: religion, sex, love, war, the nature of man and woman.

In his last novel AMELIA (1751) Fielding idealises the main woman character by making the novel a celebration of womanly virtues. Amelia is a successful character in English fiction, a credible and convincing representation of a positively good person. This novel is the work of a mellower Fielding and represents a fresh start conditioned by Fielding’s admiration for Richardson’s CLARISSA.

With Fielding the English novel seems to have come of age. He established it in one of its most notable form—middle class realism. He appeared as one of the most civic minded English writers, a living example of the Augustan ideal of the public man.


At the age of eighteen Tobais George Smollett (1721-71) came to London from Scotland to make his fortune not by practicing his apprenticed profession of a surgeon but by producing his tragedy THE REGICIDE. The managers refused to produce the play. Having obtained an appointment as a surgeon in the navy, he sailed in 1740 to the West Indies. This experience exposed him to the rough sea life and to the people who lived it. Having left his job and settled in London to practice as a surgeon he wrote a number of poems of no value and interest. Then he turned to his most ambitious work and published his novel THE ADVENTURES OF RODERICK RANDOM in 1748 in which he portrayed the life of a rogue hero until his marriage with the loyal, beautiful and incredible Narcissa. The depiction of the reckless and ferocious sea life makes this novel memorable. He gave a new life to the picaresque form and enriched it with freshly invented characters

Two years later Smollett published THE ADVENTURES OF PEREGRINE PICKLE (1751) which became his most successful work in comic characterization. Once again it is a novel of a rogue who follows a depraved life until he marries the virtuous Emilia. With these two novels Smollett exhausted his own experience and in FERDINAND COUNT FATHOM (1753) he draws a fantastic villain who anticipates the figures of the “novel of terror” which was soon to follow.

Both Fielding and Smollett tried their hands at the drama before finding their true medium. Fielding was the essayist novelist of character; Smollett is the exuberant novelist of incident.

During the twenty years after the death of Richardson, new elements were added to the English novel. Chief of these was “sentiment” or “sensibility” and the master of this was Lawrence Sterne. Apart from him the novelists of the time fall into three groups: (a) the novelists of the sentiment and reflection typified by Henry Mackenzie; (b) the novelists of home life represented by Fanny Burney; and (c) the novelists of ‘Gothic’ romances typified by Horace Walpole and Clara Reeve.


Though educated almost in a barrack room Sterne (1713-68) found his way to Cambridge for a Master’s degree. Though he read theology and published sermons he also studied the works of Rabelais and Cervantes. The publication of his novel LIFE AND OPINIONS OF TRISTRAM SHANDY began in 1760 (Vols I, II) and continued at intervals until the year before his death. The novel had no predecessor and was the product of an original mind. Sterne showed that there were untried possibilities in the genre and opened new fields of humour. In a style more subtle and a form more flexible Sterne invented the fantasia novel. The narrative consists of episodes, conversations, perpetual digressions, excursions in learning, with unfinished sentences, dashes, blank pages, fantastic syntax, and caprices in humour, bawdy and sentiment. Sterne asserted that the orderly narratives of events, with their time and space realism, have little relation to the disorder of the human mind, where sequence is not logical but incredibly capricious.


Henry Mackenzie (1745-1831) was the novelist who carried the eighteenth century well into the nineteenth. With the publication of THE MAN OF FEELING (1771) he was recognized as the literary leader of Edinburgh Society. The sentimentalism of Sterne not only remained popular but also gained its most lachrymose exposition in this novel in which the hero is forever weeping under the stress of some pathetic scene or emotional excitement. The story is purely episodic, completely without humour, owing nothing in form to Fielding or Smollett. In his next novel THE MAN OF THE WORLD (1773) Mackenzie achieved both a plot and a villain. His last and the best novel JULIA de ROUBIGNE (1777) strikes as a wholly different note and places him in the straight line of descent from Richardson. It is one of the few tragedies to be found in the early stages of English novel.


With the novels of Frances (Fanny) Burney (1752-1840) we enter into another plane of reality. Her first novel and her best EVELINA (1778) took the reading public by storm. The novel describes the entry of a country girl into the gaieties and adventures of London. This is the first English novel of home life. The motherless Evelina goes out into the world and her adventures are related in a series of letters with a vivacity and swift succession of incidents entirely original. She had created new comic characters who pre shadowed the far off Dickens. She was the first to give flesh and blood to sheer vulgarity. She had been regarded as the direct English successor to Richardson. However while Richardson could create things Fanny Burney seemed to have only a tenuous store of invention to support her own observation and experience. As a result her work declined. CECILIA (1782) is less natural and less effective. In her last novel THE WANDERER (1814) her style seems to have become diseased. However she was the first writer to depict that how the ordinary embarrassments of a girl’s life could be taken for the main theme of a novel.


Amid these later eighteenth century developments in English novel one of the most notable is the tale of terror or “Gothic” novel which continues into the tales of horror or crime. The saga began with THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO (1765) by Horace Walpole (1717-97). It was written in conscious reaction against the domesticities of Richardson and sought to extend the world of experience by the addition of the mysterious and the supernatural. Walpole’s antiquarianism had its emotional aspects for he can be regarded as the clearest example in the eighteenth century of a wide spread sensibility arising from a disillusionment with the increase in commercialism and rationalism. Walpole carried out the medieval cult than most of his contemporaries and at Strawberry Hills he constructed a Gothic house where he could dream himself back into the days of chivalry and monastic life. THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO resulted from those romantic day dreams. Set in medieval Italy the story includes a gigantic helmet that can strike its victim dead, tyrants, supernatural intrusions, mysterious and secret terrors.


William Beckford (1759-1844) was another gentleman of fashion and wealth who made a Gothic edifice, Fonthill Abbey, and had written a romance of mystery. As Fonthill appeared to be more extravagant than Strawberry so was VATHEK (1782), a more bizarre composition than THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO. Walpole had a sound sense of the material world but Beckford seemed to live in a territory of fantasy. VATHEK is an Oriental story of a caliph who pursues his complex cruelties and intricate passions. The main impressions communicated by this novel are of a fantastic world of lavish indulgences.


Among later practitioners of the Gothic novel the most able and popular one was Mrs. Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) whose best known novels are THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO (1794) and THE ITALIAN (1797). Though she accepted the mechanism of Gothic novel she combined it with sentiment. In The Mysteries of Udolpho we find an innocent and sensitive girl in the hands of a powerful and sadistic villain named Montoni who owns a grim and isolated castle where mystery and horror stalk in the lonely corridors and haunted chambers. The works of Mrs. Radcliffe not only attracted the circulating library readers but it also infected a number of powerful minds. Byron at Newstead Abbey appeared to be a Montoni come to life. For Shelley the ghosts of the tale of terror become so real that he actually saw them. Charlotte Bronte’s Rochester in JANE EYRE was a Montoni modified into a middle class setting. Emile Bronte’s novel WUTHERING HEIGHTS was also stimulated through this strange source.


Matthew Gregory (Monk) Lewis (1775-1818), who had read Goethe and the German romanticists, employed all the worst of his reading in THE MONK (1796). He modified the Faust theme for such a portrayal of sensuality that contemporary taste was offended though the novel was immensely popular. He continued this notorious success with TALES OF TERROR (1799) and TALES OF WONDER (1801).

We may also briefly observe that one of the most competent of the tales of terror was FRANKENSTEIN (1817) by MERRY SHELLEY. It is the novel of a mechanical monster with human power of a terrifying aspect.




(series 04)


There was tremendous growth in English novel during the 19th century and the century was to produce works of fiction of far greater significance than the tales of terror. Seldom has the English novel been conceived with such deliberate and successful art as in the novels of the 19th century.


Jane Austen (1775-1817), the daughter of the Rector of Stevenson, lived quietly at different homes in Hampshire and in Bath and was taught by her father. She did not travel, went to London only once, saw nothing of “high life”, and after a long period of bad health, died at Winchester at the age of forty two. She read the ordinary classics of her times and enjoyed Fanny Burney. She read the Gothic romances with amused contempt. Her inborn sense of comedy was aroused very early by the absurdities of sentimental novel and she made some juvenile literary efforts not printed till 1922.

LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP (1790) was evidently written for domestic entertainment but it contained nearly every quality which Jane Austen was to show in her later works. The transition from these juvenilia to her first published books can be seen in the fragment of her epistolary novel LADY SUSAN first printed in 1871 though written about 1794. A little later she wrote Elinor and Marianne, a first draft of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, in the epistolary form. Jane Austen did not offer it for publication and never attempted the epistolary form any more. The first of her published novels to be written was PRIDE AND PREJUDICE which was composed first under the title First Impressions in 1796-97. Her father offered First Impressions to a publisher Cadell who refused it. The novel had been completed some three months when Jane Austen began to re write Elinor and Marianne as SENSE AND SENSIBILITY which was not published till 1811. Thus PRIDE AND PREJUDICE became her first published novel and received immediate success. In 1798 she began to write Susan, the first draft of NORTHANGER ABBEY which was sold to a publisher who failed to publish it and Jane Austen did not recover the manuscript till 1816. The novel was later published in 1818 after her death. In 1803 & 1804 she began a story which was never finished and it was first published as THE WATSONS in 1871 with some other fragments. After 1803 there was a gap of several years in her literary career.

In 1812 she began writing MANSFIELD PARK which was published in 1814. EMMA was begun in 1814 and published in 1816. PERSUASION, last of her regularly published novels, was begun in 1815 and was finished in 1816. The manuscript was in her hands at her death bed and was published posthumously with NORTHANGER ABBEY in 1818. It is pertinent to note here that the novels published during her life time appeared anonymously and her name was attached in the short biographical note prefixed in the volumes of 1818.

It has to be noted that the tangled tale of Jane Austen’s literary activities shows that she was a careful craftsman who was prepared to give long considerations to her work. Her clear sighted eyes read through the inner minds of those who lived around her or of the beings that she invented and animated. Right from the beginning she seems to have realized the scene which she could portray and nothing could tempt her outside. She seemed to have no curiosity for the past and events that stirred Europe left no impression on her pages. She was completely detached and impersonal. With complete verisimilitude she created commonplace persons, not types, and they revealed themselves completely and consistently in narrative and conversation of almost extraordinary ordinariness.

She detached herself from the weaknesses of her predecessors. She assaulted the tale of terror directly in NORTHANGER ABBEY. The moral outlook of Richardson left her unimpressed. Sentimentalism also found her equally unmoved. More than anyone since Fielding she considered novel to be a form of art which required a close and exacting discipline.


It is quite pertinent to note that seldom has a single age been presented with two artists of such different range and outlook as Jane Austen and Walter Scott during the nineteenth century. Never was a writer more generous than Scott nor a critic more catholic in taste. He praised Jane Austen and distinguished her art from his “bow wow” manner. Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was born in Edinburgh which was almost a foreign city for Englishmen at that time. A mischance of early childhood left Scott lame but did not abate his extraordinary vigour. Though debarred from youthful sports he grew up with books and with the store of Border ballads and tales. Educated at Edinburgh High School and University, Scott joined his lawyer father’s office as advocate in 1792.

But the romantic ardour kindled in him by the traditional songs and stories moved him to make his first venture into print. He had developed an enthusiasm for the antiquities of Scotland and a series of visits into the Highlands stored his mind with legends which proved valuable to him later as a novelist. His researches led him to publish The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802-03). From a collector of poetry he himself became a poet with The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805).His another poetical story Marmion (1808) was full of heroic matter and in The Lady of the Lake (1810) the force is laid on incident. In Rokeby (1813) the force is laid on character and The Lord of the Isles presents the historical interest. His other less important romances are The Vision of Don Roderick (1811), The Bridal of Triermain (1813) and Harold the Dauntless (1817).Scott also attempted dramatic works like Halidon Hill (1822), Macduff’s Cross (1822), The Doom of Devorgoil (1830) and The Tragedy of Auchindrane (1830).

However Scott’s poetic romances represent merely a fraction of his endowments. It was for his novels to allow fuller scope for his natural gifts and acquirements and for his wholesome humour as well as his comprehensive sympathies. Scott may be said to have invented the historical novel though he seemed to have some antecedents including Maria Edgeworth’s CASTLE RACKRENT (1800).Instead of flashing the contemporary scene and the detailed study of middle class life Scot steps back into the past frequently using well known characters and constructing a narrative which is at once an adventure and a pageant of an earlier world. Where Fielding and Jane Austen had been satisfied with characters and their immediate surrounding, Scott invented a background for his scene with landscape and nature descriptions and all the details of the past ages.

Although Scott’s central theme often introduces the leading personalities his most secure element lies in his pictures of ordinary life and people particularly the Scottish peasants whom he knew well and in whose portrayal he freely exercised his gift of comedy. He seems to equal Shakespeare in the variety of scenes and characters but he did not penetrate into the hidden places of his character’s mind.

Scott’s earliest novel WAVERLEY (1814) dealt with the Jacobite rising of 1745. Though historical, Scott formulated in this novel a background from the memories of living people whom he had met in the Highlands. This Scottish element with Jacobitism, the last medieval movement in Europe, is the most secure element in Scott’s works and he recurs to it frequently. A bare list of his novels follows like this: WAVERLEY (1814), GUY MANNERING (1815), THE ANTIQUARY (1816), OLD MORTALITY (1816), THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN (1818), ROB ROY (1818), THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR (1819), IVANHOE (1821), THE PIRATE (1822), THE FORTUNES OF NIGEL (1822), QUENTIN DURWARD (1823), RED GAUNTLET (1824), THE BETROTHED (1825), WOODSTOCK (1826), THE HIGHLAND WIDOW (1827), THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH (1828), THE MAIDEN OF THE MIST (1829), CASTLE DANGEROUS (1832).

The success of these novels was indeed sensational. WAVERLY was an entirely new phenomenon--- new in setting, in incident, in character and in historical interest. GUY MANNERING and THE ANTIQUARY were tales of contemporary life, among the very best in sheer interest of the story and in richness of characterization. With OLD MORTALITY Scott seems to have plunged back into the past. While THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN succeeds as a tragedy of the domestic kind, THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR succeeds as a tragedy of the loftier kind. If IVANHOE, KENILWORTH and QUENTIN DURWARD are triumphant historical romances, ROB ROY carries us into wild Highland adventure. The Legend of Montrose and Wandering Willie’s Tale in RED GAUNTLET can rightly be described as masterpieces in lesser dimensions.

Indeed Scott had Homeric qualities. Like Shakespeare he did not judge he recorded. He was superb when he brought nature into his stories. His special quality was the peculiar combination of the humorist with a romance writer, of the man of the world with the devoted lover of nature and an ardent worshipper of the past. For him romance was not the romance of love but the general romance of human life, of the world and its activities, and of the warring adventurous past. Unlike Jane Austen, Scott was unnatural with the conventional and at ease with the eccentric. His almost mechanical rapidity forbade any kind of revision. His tremendous efforts to meet the financial liabilities cost him his life. There are perhaps few more affecting stories than his long odyssey in search of health and his return home to die.


In the nineteenth century English novel the name of Charles Dickens (1812-70) is pre eminent. With the exception of Shakespeare there is no greater example of creative force in English literature. Every figure which he created came alive. Vitality, exuberance, and idiosyncrasy –these are the notes of Dickens’ characters. The great humorist of the world can be counted on fingers of the single hand and Dickens is of that choicest company. In Dickens we have an astonishing combination of creative vigour, unstaled humour and abundant variety.

Dickens had an unpromising birth and upbringing. Born at Portsmouth, his father was a dockyard clerk in Navy Pay Office and a transfer to Chatham in 1817 made him familiar with the neighbouring Rochester and its ancient appeal. A further transfer to Somerset House brought the family to London where he lived in a sordid suburb and where he became painfully familiar with the debtor’s prison, the Marshalsea to which his father was sentenced. Just two days after his twelfth birthday he was sent to work at Warren’s Blacking warehouse to paste labels at blacking pots. It is pertinent to note that when Dickens’ father was sent to the debtor’s prison the entire family except him moved inside the prison shortly afterwards while he lived in a succession of lodging houses. After his release Dickens’ father proposed to send him to school but his mother was in favour of sending him back to the work place. This was the deepest wound made in his young soul, the only cruelty he never forgot though the father prevailed and Dickens resumed his education as a day scholar in a nearby school where he remained till 1827 when he joined a legal office as a clerk. Later on he began his journalistic career as a parliamentary reporter. While still a reporter he began writing short stories and achieved a modest success.

His early writings deserve consideration. The Sketches of Young Gentlemen, Sketches of Young Couples and the Mud fog papers are good samples of journalism. What came immediately were not the novels but the Sketches by Boz. Dickens’ first sketch was A Dinner at Poplar Walk (1833). After that he wrote numerous tales and sketches. Thus in his twenty third year Dickens was moderately well known as the author of journalistic and magazine contributions. What happened next is like a fairy tale. Dickens was asked to add the written matter to the pictures in a humorous monthly periodical chronicling the adventures of a cockney sporting club. Chapman and Hall were publishing the periodical and Robert Seymour was to draw the plates. The work was to become one of the world’s comic master pieces.

Dickens began his career as a novelist with PICKWICK PAPERS (1836-37) which has to become the supreme comic novel in the English language. The comedy did not seem to be superimposed for it is an effortless expansion of a comic view of life. The novel is a Rabelaisian fairy tale and has been regarded as a triumph of the curious and difficult process that may be called ‘realism disrealised’. This must be worth remembering that this vast world of three hundred characters and twenty two inns was created by a young man of twenty four years.

Dickens enjoyed life but hated the social system into which he had been born. The immense success of PICKWICK PAPERS enabled Dickens to write what he liked. In his next novels OLIVER TWIST (1837-38) and NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (1838-39) we see the crusader with wrongs to set right, the journalist with evils to expose, the philanthropist with causes to proclaim and the melodramatist with villains to denounce. THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP (1841) shows pathos transcendent over humour. BARNABY RUDGE (1841) is Dickens’ first attempt in the historical novel. In 1842 Dickens paid a long visit to America—the first of his tours abroad, which became frequent and exercised a great influence on his work. This particular voyage produced American Notes (1842) and MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT (1843-44). In 1843 he published A Christmas Carol, the first of his endearing Christmas books which continued annually with The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man. Between the first and the last Christmas book Dickens published DOMBEY AND SON (1847-48). It was Dickens’ first attempt at painting actual modern society. DAVID COPPERFIELD (1849-50) was written with a curious tenderness for there is in it something of what the young Dickens was, and something of what the young Dickens wanted to be. The abundance of life and vitality, the range of characters, the close knit texture of the story and the high quality of the writing can hardly be paralleled. There is no crusading although one can note melodramatic elements. Yet this novel can be aptly described as Dickens’ most varied, most serious and most firmly sustained effort.

BLEAK HOUSE (1852-53) has law delays as its chief crusading motif. HARD TIMES (1854), though not very popular, gives special emphasis to Dickens’ attack on social conditions of his times. Through Coketown and Mr. Gradrind the whole laissez faire system of the Manchester School has been satirised and Dickens suggests that its enlightened self interest is unenlightened cruelty. There was an unusual pause in the astonishing stream of production and it was only in 1857-58 that Dickens wrote LITTLE DORRIT. Here Dickens attacked the Circumlocution office and the methods of bureaucracy. The picture of prison life which was a comic motif in PICKWICK PAPERS is now a serious theme. There is some crusading and some melodrama but the tale is so ordered and so enriched that it becomes memorable.

With A TALE OF TWO CITIES (1859) Dickens returned to historical novel and laid his theme in the French Revolution. GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1860-61) is undoubtedly Dickens’ new and the best work and OUR MUTUAL FRIEND (1864-65) was the last novel completed by Dickens.

Dickens’ sense of words was exquisite. His genius in coining names was unsurpassed. He had an extraordinary range of language. He invented characters and situations with a range that had been unequalled since Shakespeare. When Dickens died in 1870 something seemed to have gone out of English life that was irreplaceable, a bright light that had shone upon the drab commercialism of the 19th century.


Born near Calcutta William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-63) was another English writer with a homeless childhood for his father died in 1815 and the mother remarried soon. As a boy of six he was sent to England where he attended many schools, the last being Charterhouse (‘Grey Friars’) London. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge which he soon left without getting any degree but the friendship of Tennyson, Fitzgerald and others. From Cambridge he moved to Weimar and began to study law in Middle Temple. Then he made a home in Paris where he gained acquaintance (and lost money) with a shady shabby genteel set of wasters who furnished him material for later sketches. Thereafter he began to inhabit the Bohemian world of letters, writing and drawing in various papers and magazines and using many pseudonyms.

As a novelist, he began late in his thirty sixth year, with VANITY FAIR (1847-48). Ten years later he was working on his last considerable novel THE VIRGINIANS (1857-59). For one decade his novels became a feature of English life. During these years he wrote PENDENNIS (1848-50), HENRY ESMOND (1852) and NEWCOMES (1853-55).

VANITY FAIR, despite its occasional failings, has a strength and sureness of creative touch. The novel showed Thackeray at his best, in a clear sighted realism, a deep detestation of insincerity, and a broad and powerful development of narrative. As a novelist Thackeray was never a crusader and propounded no problems. His range of characters appears to be limited when compared to Dickens. He kept close to the world he knew and did not, like Dickens, create a vast world of fantasy. Like Fielding he saw that in life it is hard to draw a clear line between vice and virtue.


The novel of social attack which was perfected by Dickens was carried on with documentary exactness by Charles Reade (1814-84), as in his exposure of the prison system in IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO MEND (1856). Reade was always a fighter who took up causes and attacked abuses. He used to turn novels into plays and plays into novels. His first novel PEG WOFFINGTON (1853) was made from his play Masks and Faces (1852). CHRISTIE JOHNSTON (1853) presents life of a Scottish fishing village and appears to have no stage counterpart. He was greatly influenced by realism which was at work in fiction during the middle of the 19th century. Reade’s documentary novels are not of one kind. Some of them make use of knowledge of trade and occupation such are THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A THIEF (1858), JACK OF ALL TRADES (1858) and A HERO AND A MARTYR (1874). There are stories of philanthropic purposes like IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO MEND (1856), HARD CASH (1863), FOUL PLAY (1869), PUT YOURSELF IN HIS PLACE (1870), A WOMAN HATER (1877). Reade’s habit of challenging attention by capitals, dashes, short emphatic paragraphs, accentuates the general impression of urgency and even anticipates the devices of modern journalism. The greatest achievement of his documentary method is the historical novel THE CLOISTER AND THE HEARTH (1861) where he portrays illusory but lively and detailed picture of the middle ages.


A very powerful quality is attached to the novels of Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81) whose reputation as the most vital figure in the politics of the 19th century has marred him as a writer of fiction. The most vital attack on new industrialism with its accompanying pauperisation was made by Disraeli. In the whole history of English literature he was the author who rose to become the prime minister of England and went to the House of Lords. Somewhat like Dickens he began with many disadvantages. He never went to a school or university and the earliest education he received was in his father’s personal library.

Disraeli’s earliest novel VIVIAN GREY (1826) is wild and melodramatic but it contains some good sketches of character and some brilliant satire. THE YOUNG DUKE (1830) has some pungent political criticism but deals exclusively with the world of fashion. CONTARINI FLEMING (1832) is a psychological romance and ALROY (1833), THE RISE OF ISKANDER (1835) are historical or quasi historical romances. Disraeli becomes a new person with his ‘young England’ trilogy: CONINGSBY (1844), SYBIL (1845), TANCRED (1847). The message given was—the Crown must govern, the Church must inspire, the Aristocracy must lead, the Commons must construct. Disraeli’s last two novels LOTHAIR (1870) and ENDYMION (1880) are full of politics.


Mrs. Gaskell (1810-65) exposed the cruelty of the industrial system in MARY BURTON (1848) and NORTH AND SOUTH (1855). Her picture of the social horrors that made the 1830s & 1840s in England a perpetual shame endures because her first aim was to tell a story and not to exploit grievances. MARY BURTON has been regarded as the first ‘Labour’ novel which proved to be so powerful and disturbing that the political economists fell upon it and proved by science how wrong it was. The success of this novel brought Mrs. Gaskell into association with the great writers of her day including Dickens who showed her the highest consideration and regard. In CRANFORD (1853) she showed gentleness and humour in a picture of provincial life. RUTH (1853) suddenly returns to problems, this time moral not social. In LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE (1857) she came out with natural honesty and included domestic details which were resented. With SYLVIA’S LOVER (1863) she discovered for herself a new setting for her genius in the wild Yorkshire coast which serves as a background to a domestic drama of extraordinary power. In striking contrast is COUSIN PHILLIS (1865) which tells the story of a broken heart. Mrs. Gaskell’s last story was WIVES AND DAUGHTERS ((1866) which she left near completion when she died. Thus we see that in her hands the social novel developed into a full grown form of fiction.

When the Victorian readers wanted to turn from politics or social evils they had a writer who could arouse mystery and terror in a far more subtle way than Horace Walpole or Mrs. Radcliffe. Wilkie Collins (1824-89) seems to have never been excelled as a contriver of complicated plots. His first outstanding success THE DEAD SECRET (1857) was followed by the unsurpassed thriller THE WOMAN IN WHITE (1860). Other novels were NO NAME (1862), ARMADALE (1866), THE MOONSTONE (1868) and THE LAW AND THE LADY (1875).


In 1846 Charlotte Bronte (1816-55), Emily Bronte (1818-48) and Anne Bronte (1820-49) together produced Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. The volume did not prove successful. Charlotte Bronte embodied some of her experiences in a novel THE PROFESSOR which failed to impress. In JANE EYRE (1847) she chose a story of unhappy experiences and troubled love and came out with a romanticism of individual passion. The novel became a unique Victorian book because in it purity became passionate and out spoken. Gone was the concept of the ‘man’s woman’; here was woman herself, confronting man on equal terms. One can find here the voice of free insurgent woman, free to feel and speak.

In WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1847), her only novel, Emily Bronte created a stark passionate world reminiscent of the storm scene of King Lear. The figures which she fabricated out of her dreams are worked out in wonderful relief as if they had been borrowed from the most intimately known substance of reality. Her psychology, which appears to be naive as it is profound, is at the same time wholly imaginary and astonishingly convincing.

The qualities of Anne Bronte have been, however, underrated. But AGNES GREY can be regarded as a moving personal record and THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL showed clear signs of undeveloped strength and fine observation. But time and experience were denied to her and she died in 1849. Emily Bronte died in 1848. Charlotte Bronte’s SHIRLEY was begun in excitement of success but was completed in utter bereavement. Unlike JANE EYRE, SHIRLEY is not easy to read and its beauty is of the rarer and more difficult kind. She once again took up the theme which she had tried in THE PROFESSOR. To compare VILETTE (1853) with THE PROFESSOR is to see the difference between material transformed and material merely used.


As Mrs. Gaskell gave the first of the operatives George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans, 1819-80) gave the last of the yeoman. Of all the women novelist of the 19th century, George Eliot was the most learned. Before writing fiction she had translated Strauss’s Leben Jesu and acted as assistant editor of the Westminster Review. She spent her early years in a rural home of a great estate of which her father was an agent. When quite young she was forced by circumstances to assume the charge of her father’s house and acquired singular self reliance and self control. Her sincerity of mind led her through many absorbing spiritual experiences including a period of devotion to ascetic ideals. Gradually she became a figure in ‘advanced’ circles. She lodged with the Chapmans and met many figures in advanced thought including Herbert Spencer who introduced her to George Henry Lewes. Attracted by the extraordinary intellectual vivacity of Lewes she made an “unofficial” marriage with him. Lewes’ own home had been broken up and on his three sons she bestowed full maternal affection. Lewes showed to her unsurpassable devotion and watched over her literary labours with great care.

Her early novel SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE (1858) was an immediate success. The novel won the admiration of Thackeray, Dickens, Trollope, Mrs.Gaskell and others. In her long novel ADAM BEDE (1859) the keynote is the belief that the divine spirit which works in man works through man’s own response to its call. On the background of the English rural life she created a far stronger theme than the Victorian novel previously permitted. In the character of Henry Sorrel she showed a young girl seduced and led to child murder. In Hetty she allowed a free play to her intuitions; her intellect controlled the ‘good’ characters in the novel, Dinah and Adam Bede. The Shakespearean humour accompanying the presentation of the tragedy made the novel unique. Her next work THE MILL ON THE FLOSS (1860) may not be the greatest of her novels but it was one into which she poured the experiences of her own early life. It is a Wordsworthian story told in prose. It is the story of the life of a brother and sister presented with great sensitiveness. The girl is passionate, dimly mystical, introspective, reacting against the blunter and more boisterous values of the brother. The novel is rich in character and description but it is more ample in scope and scale. SILAS MARNER (1861), where all is admirably ordered to one design, is smaller in scale. But its tenderness of fancy and humour and the strong simplicity of invention make it a perfect story.

Her next novel ROMOLA (1863) was an attempt to write a historical novel on the Italian Renaissance. The novel might have been more authentic if George Eliot had laboured less and had written with a larger creative freedom. The historical reconstruction of Medicean Florence is magnificently done; the tragedy of Savonarola is fitly narrated. The minor characters are sketched with divine insight. But the central tragedy fails to touch our deepest conviction.

FELIX HOLT, the RADICAL (1866) is the only political story attempted by George Eliot. With MIDDLEMARCH (1871-72) returned to the relation of domestic tragedy and comedy set in the English scene. DANIEL DERONDA was her last novel and it has never been popular. After that she attempted no more fiction and felt that the labour of long creative work was beyond her. The death of Lewes in 1878 removed her watchful adviser. However her place in English fiction is secure. In command of pathos, humour and tragedy, she is excelled by none. In her work one is aware of her desire to enlarge the possibilities of the novel as a form of expression.


Anthony Trollope (1815-82) entered upon a doubly prosperous career as a civil servant in the post office and as a man of letters. His youth and boyhood was equally wretched like Dickens and we may find some glimpses in his Autobiography (1877) and in THE THREE CLERKS (1858). Of his sixty novels the best are to be found among the tales of ‘Barset’. The real Trollope begins with THE WARDEN (1855) and develops in its successors BARCHESTER TOWERS (1857), Dr. THORNE (1858), FRAMLEY PARSONAGE (1861), THE SMALL HOUSE AT ALLINGTON (1864) and THE LAST CHRONICLES OF BARSET (1867). In these novels we get a perfect picture of English provincial life, with the middle or upper middle classes as its main figures. He was a man of strong prejudices. For instance he disliked the crusading spirit of Dickens which he criticised in THE WARDEN. He had a very easy and quite unpretentious narrative, a fertile imagination for creating characters and incidents. He is recognised as a representative English novelist and social historian of the period. He is ranked with the realists and possessed the essence of realism which consists in the inner intention of the artist first and concerns his technique only in the second instances.

George Meredith, Samuel Butler, Thomas Hardy and George Gissing, though Victorian in birth and upbringing represent a complete rejection of the normal Victorian values in faith and life.


George Meredith (1828-1909), partly Welsh by birth and educated at Neuwied, was never quite the Englishman. He started with POEMS (1851), containing poetic pieces of high promise and actual merit but gained very little recognition. His first prose works THE SHAVING OF SHAGPAT (1856) and FARINA (1857) showed his remarkable power of concealing his thought in verbal flourishes. A grouping of his subsequent novels can be given here: THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL (1859), EVAN HARRINGTON (1861), EMILIA IN ENGLAND [title changed to SANDRA BELLONI] (1864), and THE ADVENTURES OF HARRY RICHMOND (1871) --- all ideal with the upbringing of well born youth to the state of “capable manhood”. RHODA FLEMING (1865) gives prominence to figures of the yeoman class. In VITTORIA (1867), a sequel to EMILIA BEAUCHAMP’S CAREER (1875), and in THE TRAGIC COMEDIANS (1880) he takes a wider sweep of vision over the world of politics in England and Germany and of high national aspiration in Italy. THE EGOIST (1879) stands apart from Meredith’s own stories in its originality of attitude. The four novels DIANA OF THE CROSSWAYS (1885), ONE OF OUR CONQUERORS (1891), LORD ORMONT and his AMINTA (1894) and THE AMAZING MARRIAGE (1895) have a chivalrous advocacy of women compromised in honour and in pride by male despotism.

Though Meredith began to write at a time when Dickens, Thackeray, Browning and Tennyson were at the height of their powers still he cannot be affiliated to any of his contemporaries or predecessors. It must be admitted that his novels are difficult but there was perhaps no more sensitive mind among the novelists of the century. He made the first chapters of his novels intentionally difficult so that they might be signposts to the dim witted to follow him no farther. Through his conception of comedy he wished to show up the dangers that beset the human spirit in its struggle to abandon the brutishness from which it had arisen.


The son of a clergyman Samuel Butler (1835-1902) was intended for the church. At Cambridge, he did well in classics and pursued his interest in music. In 1859 he abandoned his intentions of taking orders, went to New Zealand and successfully managed a sheep run. He returned to England in 1864 and spent the remainder of his life in Clifford’s Inn. Thus his youth coincided with the main body of the Victorian age. He experienced its triumphant self confidence, its imperious order, and he reacted against them. His originality found itself in rebellion. His moral independence was carried to extremes. He seems to have established his life upon one exclusive principle, doubt, and the solitary search for truth. From 1865 to 75 he appears as a social intellectual at war with social surroundings.

He challenged the current values in morals and religion in EREWHON (1872), a satirical ‘Nowhere’ in which disease is a crime, crime a misfortune, religion a banking system and education the suppression of identity. With singular prophetic insight the Erewhonians banish machines from their republic on the ground that they will evolve and then become the masters of their makers. In EREWHON REVISITED (1901) the machinery of satire overwhelms its interest. In a century that was little given to satire he revived in THE WAY OF ALL FLESH (1903) the spirit of Swift.


With Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), the reaction of a robust nature against a philosophy assumes the character of one of those complete breaks through which men of energetic temperament will stand up against their times. Not only does he deny the hope of a happiness founded upon the progress of critical reason; it is the whole of modern civilisation that he condemns and as a wounded animal his sore heart seeks the shelter of the most primitive and untouched earth. He accepts science and feels its spells but joylessly. His tastes lead him away from the fever and fret of industry. A meditative and solitary man, he keeps in harmony with the austere though verdant countryside of Dorset shire where he spent his boyhood. His novels almost ignore the new facts of the present day world. Their background is the eternal framework of the hills and the moors.

Hardy’s first published novel was DESPERATE REMEDIES (1871) and it was followed in a regular succession by UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE (1872), A PAIR OF BLUE EYES (1873), FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD ((1874), THE HAND OF ETHELBERTA (1876), THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE (1878), THE TRUMPET MAJOR (1880), THE LAODICEAN (1881), TWO ON A TOWER (1882), THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE (1886), THE WOODLANDERS (1887), TESS OF THE D’URBERVIILLES (1891), JUDE THE OBSCURE (1896) and THE WELL BELOVED (1897). Being an architect by profession he gave to his novels a design that was architectural, employing all circumstances in the novel to one accumulated effect. The final effect came as one of a malign Fate functioning in men’s lives, corrupting their possibilities of happiness and taking them towards tragedy. Hardy revolted against the optimism of 19th century materialism and refused the consolations of Christian faith. Though he saw life as cruel and purposeless he did not remain a detached spectator. He had pity for the puppets of Destiny and it was a compassion that extended from man to earthworms and to the diseased leaves on the trees. Such a conception gave his novels a high seriousness.

Hardy was read and admired by a large following of thoughtful persons. Later in his career he attained notoriety by the publication of Tess with its challenging subtitle A Pure Woman. He infuriated the protectors of proprieties by the crude realism of Jude. Partly in contempt for the assaults of indignant sentimentality in England upon books that would have aroused no protest in any centre of continental culture, and partly because he felt that he had no more to say in prose fiction Hardy returned to his first love poetry.

Hardy’s novels have appealed to successive generations of readers. His gift for anecdote and his power of inventing lively incidents impressed his readers. Nature which to Wordsworth and the Romantics had seemed stimulating and benign appeared to Hardy as cruel and relentless. At the same time his kindliest characters are those who have lived away from the towns in a quiet rural life. It is important to note that in the First World War Hardy was read with pleasure as one who had courage to portray life with the grimness that it possessed and portraying it not to lose pity.


George Gissing was another Victorian rebel and realist who described the diseases of the society without any hope of curing them. Gissing began, at Owens College, Manchester, a promising academic career that was cut short by several misfortunes. He seemed born to encounter mischances in life and it is only fitting that he became the chronicler in fiction of lives in which success had no part. His first novel WORKERS IN THE DAWN was published in 1880. His more important novels are THE UNCLASSED (1884), ISABEL CLARENDON (1886), DEMOS (1886), THYRZA (1887), THE NETHER WORLD (1889), NEW GRUB STREET (1892), BORN IN EXILE (1891) and THE OLD WOMEN (1893). In form the novels of Gissing are Victorian; in matter they reject the current themes and beliefs. He was influenced by the French realists but he can not be called as the follower of any school. He can be regarded as the first English novelist of importance who considered seriously the psychology of sex.

It is important to note that Gissing has been often compared with Dickens. It is also essential to observe that in spite of striking analogies their works have quite different tones. Dickens, when he was not crusading, could depict the lives of the poor as rich in idiosyncrasy and humorous vitality. Gissing saw nothing in poverty but a squalid, mirthless waste on the outskirts of hideous commercialism and he pictured it without pity and without sympathy. Therefore Gissing emerges as the uncompromising historian of the seamy side of later day Victorian England.


The name of Henry James (1843-1916) stands unique in the realm of fiction not only as first American novelist of repute but also as one who created international situations in English novel for the first time. Born and educated in America, he settled in Europe in 1875 and was naturalised in 1915. His early novels, such as DAISY MILLER (1879), portrayed the contacts of Americans with European life. Then followed a series of studies of English life itself in THE TRAGIC MUSE (1890) and other novels. With the progress in his works the intricacy of his style also increased. He seemed to seek for every fine nuance of feelings and with microscopic clarity he discriminated moods and changes that had not been apparent before. This mature stage can be noticed in THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (1902), THE AMBASSADOR (1903) and THE GOLDEN BOWL (1904). His other novels RODERICK HUDSON (1876), THE AMERICAN (1877), THE EUROPEANS (1878), and THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY (1881) showed that James was supremely well qualified to interpret the international situation so subtly and impersonally that the reader could not tell whether the novel in question was written by an American with knowledge of England and the Continent or by an Englishman with knowledge of both American and European life. `

It must be noted that James put in an unsuccessful attempt of play writing. It should also be noted that this experience of writing for the stage was though unprofitable but it was not without some considerable influence on his style and procedure as a novelist in his later years. He began to write novels from ‘a really detailed scenario, intensely structural, intensely hinged and jointed preliminary frame’. Dialogue now became all important to him. THE AWKWARD AGE (1899) was written almost in dialogue.

Henry James longed for the imagined elegance of the old world, its tradition, its courtesies and its ritual. When he discovered that in reality they did not exist he invented them, until his world became a Bostonian’s platonic idea of what aristocratic life in Europe should be. James enlarged the very conception of novel by his subtle discriminations in sentiment and by the presentation of human relationship.

At this juncture it is important to note that between 1870 and 1880, there appeared new values both in English fiction and in the readers. There was a remarkable increase in the number of people who could read and majority of them were weary of reading voluminous novels. Although the publishers were unable to realise the change at once they gradually found that shorter and cheaper volumes were more profitable.


Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) can be regarded as one of the earliest writers who made publishers aware of these changes in the reading habit of the readers. He had published TREASURE ISLAND without much success in a children’s periodical. When it was reissued in 1883 in a volume form it was immediately popular with the new adult public.

It is also significant to note here that along with short novel came the short story also in England which Edgar Allan Poe had already given a vogue in America. Stevenson was a born writer who gave a high artistic quality to the novel of adventure. TREASURE ISLAND made Stevenson successful and directed the current of his subsequent efforts. It was followed by KIDNAPPED (1886), CATRIONA (1893), THE BLACK ARROW (1888), THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE (1889), DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1886), THE WRONG BOX (1889) etc. Like Scott he was at his best while dealing with his native land. He seems to have retained a belated boyishness and it was not till he wrote WEIR OF HERMISTON (1896) that he showed signs of attaining restraint and self command.

It has to be noted that in all his writings Stevenson remained an artist. He was self conscious in style and exacting in perfection. Nevertheless one has to remember that Stevenson was leading the English novel back towards story telling and to the romance. He devoted attentive care to the art of writing. He knew the quest for exact word and the search for a cadence. His style drew its strength from a very varied and supple vocabulary.

But the new reading public wanted a fiction that was easy and not too long. Hence from this point onwards we can identify two types of fiction writers: those who deliberately or naturally adapted themselves to the public taste and those who followed their art into more difficult places. All the works of writers like Arthur Conan Doyle, Rider Haggard, Mrs Humphrey Ward, Hall Caine, Marie Coreilii, Grant Allen and Edgar Wallace was simple enough though their approach to fiction as an art was varied.

However it must be noted that sometimes popularity disguised an author’s genuine merit. P G Wodehouse’s reception by a vast audience should not obscure the fact that he was not only a writer of most brilliant idiomatic English but that he added profusely to the English vocabulary.


Rudyard Kipling (1856-1936) gained great popularity because his art expressed much that a wide audience in England wished to read. His work appeared at a time when England was becoming increasingly conscious of its imperial position. Kipling, born in India, was able to give the colour and the strangeness of the great country. Like Stevenson, he was a master of both the short story and short novel and this brevity helped him to cater the taste of his day. Nirad C. Choudhury in his Continent of Circe (1965) considers Kipling to be the only English writer who will have a permanent place in English literature with books on Indian themes and who will also be read by everyone who wants to know not only “British” India but also “timeless” India.

He began with PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS (1888) and continued with volumes of short stories and novels like THE LIGHT THAT FAILED (1891) and KIM (1901). Though the Indian scene formed the source of his first popularity he also wrote an original story of school life titled STALKY AND CO. (1899); the well known animal stories of THE JUNGLE BOOK (1894 & 1895); and the Sussex fairy world theme of PUCK OF POOK’S HILL (1906). Kipling’s style was simple and he had a lively imagination.


John Galsworthy (1867-1933) began his literary career as a novelist with THE ISLAND PHARISEES (1904). Later, in a series of volumes beginning with The Man of Property, he portrayed the life of the contemporary upper middle classes. Published as THE FORSYTE SAGA (1906-1921) this series and its sequels became immensely popular in England and on the continent. Like Trollope, Galsworthy made a whole class in society come to life.


While Galsworthy focussed his attention upon the upper middle classes Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) showed the life of the ‘five towns’, the ‘potteries’ of Staffordshire and of the men and women who went out from them to see the world. He has been described as an artist who was tempted towards the commercial world. He did not devote his attention to the industrial working man but to a lower middle class of shopkeepers, clerks and professional people. THE OLD WIVES’ TALE (1908) CLAYHANGER (1910) HILDA LESSWAYS (1911) and THESE TWAIN (1916) made up his central fresco.




English Notes

Friday, September 17, 2010

(series 05)


The 20th century is regarded as an age of fiction with novels on varied subjects by a multitude of writers and a simultaneous growth of the short story. It is actually in this century that English novel came of age and turned truly international. Its scope increased and its canvas became wide with the introduction of multifarious issues and divergent themes.


Across the entire gamut of the 20th century fiction the works of H G Wells (1866-1946) are scattered. He has written short stories and novels based on modern science. From biology and applied mechanics he passed on to the problems of the future of man. A socialist and sociologist, Wells has lived for nearly half a century in a daily intercourse of the mind with the efforts, the disappointments, the hopes, of the search for a better life extended to all. This energy of social reflection becomes the soul of his novel. The novel thus becomes a confession of evil in all its forms and an ample discussion of its remedies. It develops at the same time towards international politics and religious philosophy. During and after the 2nd World War the thought of H G Wells has taken a definite bent in this direction. He figures as a spiritual guide of suffering humanity, the advisor of nations blinded by hostilities, of individuals whom their selfishness is making unconscious. While science has not vanished from the background of his mind he has taken his stand with Carlyle and Ruskin in the exercise of a half mystical apostolate.

In his first scientific romance THE TIME MACHINE (1895) he invented science fiction. His deep knowledge gave an authenticity to his narratives. In quick succession appeared THE INVISIBLE MAN (1897), THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1898), WHEN THE SLEEPER WAKES (1899) and THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (1901). In these early novels Wells appeared to have accepted the world without much criticism and delighted in working out an invention with some regard for scientific possibility. But the novels which followed, THE FOOD OF THE GODS (1904) and IN THE DAYS OF THE COMET (1906) ideas began to intrude. Already a self announced socialist Wells wished to bring some of the precision of science and the order of the laboratory into human life.

In 1905 Wells published A MODERN UTOPIA in which he portrayed a vision of a reasonable world. In his three joyous novels THE WHEELS OF CHANCE (1896), LOVE AND MR. LEWISHAM (1900) and KIPPS (1906) he exploited his almost Dickensian gift for comedy. It is pertinent to note that Wells always asserted that he was a journalist rather than an artist and that he was always satisfied if a novel could be a portmanteau for ideas. ANN VERONICA (1906) portrayed the emancipated woman and THE NEW MACHIAVELLI (1911) interpreted a number of political movements of his times.

In TONO BUNGAY (1909) Wells seems to have mastered this form and exposed the evils of commercial publicity in a novel rich in comedy. In THE HISTORY OF MR. POLLY (1910) he returned to the early joyous manner of KIPPS. In MR. BRITTING SEES IT THROUGH (1916) he recorded the reactions of a sensitive mind to the First World War. Though he continued with fiction in his later career he seems to have made his novels the vehicle of his ideas. In THE WORLD OF WILLIAM CLISSOLD (1926) he seems to have disguised a series of essays in the form of a novel. No one can well understand the 20th century, in its hope and disillusionments, without studying Wells.


The practice of English fiction in the 20th century showed great variety. By common consent one of the most original of these early 20th century novelist was Jozef Korzeniowski, a Pole, born in Ukraine, a captain in the English merchant marine and ultimately a naturalised British citizen known to English readers as Joseph Conrad (1857-1924). Born at Berdiczew, in one of the Ukrainian provinces of Poland long under Tsarist rule, he became a French sailor at seventeen, an English master mariner at twenty nine and one of the greatest of English novelist at forty five. He learned French before English and began his first novel ALMAYER’S FOLLY (1895) on the end papers of Madame Bovary. Then came AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS (1896), THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS (18970, YOUTH (1902), TYPHOON (1903), NOSTROMO (1904), LORD JIM (1906) and THE ARROW OF GOLD (1919). The basis of Conrad’s fiction was the adventure story told with a complex evocation of mood and a constant psychological interest in character. He was so self conscious in his art that his self consciousness intruded. Like Flaubert he sought for perfection. Often he wrote of violence and danger.

While the surface reactions of life were obvious in his novels he sought, like some of the Russian novelists, for the more mysterious moods of consciousness. We may emphasise the profound influence of the French masters and the Russian novelist Turgenev on his literary career. It was his third novel THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS that gave him his first indisputable claim to classic rank. His deeply moving novellas HEART OF DARKNESS and THE END OF THE TETHER were published in collected form titled YOUTH. HEART OF DARKNESS is perhaps the finest short novel in the language.

Conrad has been regarded as the best writer about sea and seamen but he himself disclaimed the classification. Some of his best works are not at all about sea. His most ambitious work NOSTROMO is a political novel, highly organised in Henry James’ manner and set in an imaginary South American republic. THE SECRET AGENT (1907) is a Dickensian study of an anarchist plot in London. UNDER WESTERN EYES (1911) is located in Russia and Switzerland. The combination of Dickensian quality with the intensely serious idea of the novel as a work of art produced his unique fiction.


Forster (1879-1970) can be regarded as the finest survival in English literature as Bertrand Russell was in philosophy of a liberal humanist tradition of the early 20th tradition. Born in London and educated at Tonbridge School and King’s College, Cambridge Forster came under the influence of the philosopher G E Moore and formed friendship with the scholar and humanist Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson. After leaving Cambridge he lived for sometimes in Italy which formed the background of his first and third novel, WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD (1905) and A ROOM WITH A VIEW (1908). Between these two novels of Italian life Forster published THE LONGEST JOURNEY (1907), a novel of English life and the most autobiographical.

HOWARDS END (1910), one of his two masterpieces, once again presents the theme of contrast, this time between two families, the half German Schlegals, who are interested in music and literature and stand for the spiritual values of the author, and the Wilcoxes, the practical, unimaginative business people who have one member in the family, the first Mrs. Wilcox, a woman instinctively respected by the Schlegals. ‘Only connect’ is the key phrase.

In 1912 Forster visited India for the first time and in 1914 he began working on an Indian novel which was to become his second masterpiece. The novel was delayed by the First World War which took him to Alexandria and he paid a second visit to India in 1921 before resuming it. The Hill of Devi (1953) is valuable both as history and as a source book for Forster’s biggest masterpiece A PASSAGE TO INDIA (1924). The novel portrays the post Kipling but pre partition India, a country at a transitional stage in her existence. Full of Forster’s characteristic ironic humour, the novel is fundamentally a tragedy in which the failure to connect and the related failure to establish human relationships between the British and the Indians leads to momentous results.

The Modern English novelist, with two world wars in the background, feels a sense of breakdown. The novelist seems to have no assurance that outward action reveals any significant fact about his characters, nor is he convinced that public gestures provided by society can ever achieve any real communication between individuals. The problem of communication becomes a startling challenge to the novelists sensitive to this sense of breakdown.

The meaningless destruction of the First World War proved to be a shattering experience for the English public and a challenge to the sensitive novelists of the period. To this sense of general breakdown, the major modern English novelists reacted with their distinctive, divided sensibilities. James Joyce (1882-1941) put forth the multiple consciousness projected on the axes of past and present and sought for technical devices which enabled him to present all the possible points of view simultaneously, showing the same person and events at once heroic and trivial, splendid and silly. D H Lawrence (1885- 1930) expressed his firm belief in the instincts and the fantasia of the unconscious and constructed his plots to use social institutions as devices for probing into the difficulties which lay in the way of proper human relationships. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) explored the human psyche and constructed the colour glass by which the magic of the unconscious world is revealed in her novels. Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) reviewed the modern human beings with a primacy of intellect over emotions as such and achieved a musicalisation of fiction by putting together different strands of human experience.

Joyce Cary (1888-1957) succeeded in eliminating himself in his novels so that it became nowhere possible to feel sure what his own opinions were. Graham Greene (1904-91) relied on spiritualism as the link between man and man and between man and God.

There is a tone of passion underlying all these preoccupations of the major modern English novelists. They seem to be out for new narrative styles. The philosophical idea of Bergson regarding time as a continuous flow rather than a series of different points appears to have made suspect the 18th & 19th century narrative fictional styles of carrying themes and characters forward chronologically. The psychological view of human psyche derived generally from the works of Freud and Jung emphasising the multiplicity of human consciousness seems to have made the concerns of the modern English novelists quite unconventional. Individual personality becomes the sum of the individual’s memories. Every man becomes a prisoner of his own private consciousness, his unique train of association resulting in turn from his own unique past. Loneliness is seen as a necessary condition of man and the desire to communicate becomes a deeply embedded human instinct and the desire to escape from loneliness is one of the chief preoccupations.


James Joyce was born in Dublin on 2nd February 1882 and in his later life regarded his birth day as a lucky day in his own scheme of superstitions. The Joyces were respectable middle class Dubliners of nationalist persuasion who kept several servants and a governess. This social nuance of Joyce’s childhood is important for his Anglo- Irish manners. James was the eldest in a family of ten children and the father John Joyce lived well and lived beyond his means. The birth of each child resulted in the mortgage of some property in Cork until there was nothing left. Through his political connections John Joyce secured a position as a Collector of Rents in Dublin. The job made him and his son James Joyce privy to many of the city’s secrets.

James Joyce began his formal education with Jesuit fathers at Clongowes Wood College in 1888 and remained there until 1902. He left Ireland and studied medicine for sometimes in Paris where he met Synge and was the first person to read Riders to the Sea which he later translated into Italian. From 1904 to 1915 he was a teacher of languages in Trieste, later living in Zurich and again in Paris.

He began his literary career with Chamber Music (1907), a collection of songs. Then came DUBLINERS (1914), a book of realistic stories. In 1916 he published his masterpiece A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN (1914-15). This novel forms, in point of style, a transitional stage between the realism of DUBLINERS and the symbolism of ULYSSES.

ULYSSES published in Paris in 1922 and remained banned for many years in America and England for obscenity. Ezra Pound wrote in Le Mercure de France that Joyce had succeeded in ULYSSES where Flaubert had failed in Bowara et Pecuchet, that is in presenting the average man. The scene of the novel is Dublin and if Joyce had wanted to make his Ulysses the average Dubliner he would have made him a Catholic Irishman but Leopold Bloom (whose father come from Hungary) was a Jew. And a Jew in Ireland is the most unaverage man.

Fundamentally ULYSSES is a comic work using the term comic in its widest sense. There is something to be said for calling ULYSSES a comic epic in prose, like TOM JONES; there is also something to be said for describing it as a tragedy, a tragedy of loneliness. The style of ULYSSES has been subject matter of numerous learned theses in England, France and United States. The novel came out with a wide variety of styles. This is perhaps most obvious in the scene where Stephen and Bloom await the birth of a baby. The conception and growth of the child are reflected in Joyce’s imitations of English prose from Anglo Saxon times to the end of the 19th century. Joyce’s most extreme linguistic experimentation is in FINNEGANS WAKE (1939), a book of intense verbal coinage and word play. The novel was completed when Joyce was almost more than half blind. To understand FINNEGANS WAKE the readers need a mental equipment, an extensive knowledge of Dublin and of Irish history, legend, slang and folk lore, some little acquaintance with French, German, Italian, English and the language of dream psychology.

Joyce is supposed to have advised his readers to devote their whole life to the understanding of his works. This reminds us that he was born in the same city as Bernard Shaw, who once recommended his readers to read all his plays at least twice over every year for ten years. Joyce employed allusions and symbols which enriched his meanings once they were interpreted. Stephen Daedalus, the hero of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is the fictional equivalent of Joyce. Thus Joyce can be described as the most original English novelist of the 20th century. He attempted to make a fiction that should image the whole of life, conscious and unconscious, without making any concessions to the ordinary conventions of speech. He broke the ordinary structure of language until it could image these fluctuating impressions. He came to feel that time and space was actually artificial, and that all was related, and that art should be the symbol of that relationship. He had Dublin and the Catholic Church as his background, and from them both he revolted. Both were highly organised unities and to leave them, particularly to leave the church, were emotionally to enter into chaos. Psychologically Joyce was forever attempting to re seek unity in a world that is so disorganised. The greater his attempts to define unity the more do the broken fragments fall in minute pieces through his hands. However his genius is a sincere one and his boldness in invention influenced a number of young writers.


David Herbert Lawrence, born at Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, the son of a miner, was educated at Nottingham University College, where he qualified as a teacher. He taught at Croydon till 1913, when he had to resign because of illness, and thenceforward devoted his life to literature. Much of his poetry is autobiographical and some of his novels also have personal undertones. At the age of twenty he began his first novel THE WHITE PEACOCK (1911). His first masterpiece SONS AND LOVERS (1913) is much more autobiographical and realistic. His next novel THE RAINBOW (1915) is one of his most impressive novels. WOMEN IN LOVE (1921) has been regarded as one of his supreme masterpieces and his most ambitious undertaking in which he portrays a wider variety of English life.

The post war Lawrence has been generally found to be less impressive than the pre war. For the first time his novels, with the exception of the comparatively light hearted THE LOST GIRL (1921), become difficult. AARON’S ROD (1922), KANGAROO (1923), THE PLUMED SERPENT (1926), LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER (1928): all contain admirable things amid a mass of windy rhetoric. The greatest work of this period is the very moving nouvelle THE MAN WHO DIED not published in England till 1931, after his own death.

Lawrence’s first published fiction was in the form of short stories contributed in 1909 to Ford Madox Ford’s English Review and he continued to produce stories of varying length, from mere sketches to nouvelles, during the rest of his life. If his post war novels seemed to be verbose no criticism can be made of such nouvelles as THE FOX (1923) and ST. MAWR (1925) or the best stories in England, My England (1924), The Woman Who Rode Away (1928) and The Lovely Lady (1932). Lawrence was a prolific writer for publication and his works includes poems, plays, travel books, essays, criticism, novels, nouvelles, stories and letters.

Lawrence’s life was an unending and courageous struggle against his own ill health and the prudery of the public. A pioneer in the serious treatment of sexual themes, he inevitably came up against the self appointed guardians of public morals. THE RAINBOW was the first to incur their wrath and was withdrawn soon after its publication. LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER was described as the landmark of evil and Lawrence was portrayed as one who has prostituted art to pornography.

As a novelist Lawrence considered himself superior to the saint, the scientist, the philosopher and the poet since in his opinion novel deals with the complete human being instead of a particular aspect. His main theme is the tensions, joys and sorrows that exist in personal relationships. Blood and instinct for him were the dominating forces of life, superior in strength to the dictates of reason. The result is that his novels lack conventional form. What matters is the internal lives of the characters and not their external actions. His writing has a great emotional impact and gives the feeling of complete fidelity to life. Lawrence’s descriptions of the physical appearance of his characters and their surroundings are direct and sensuous, his prose rhythms and choice of words remind us that he was a poet.

His settings are inspired by the places Lawrence lived in: the Midlands country side in THE WHITE PEACOCK, Australia in KANGAROO, and Mexico in THE PLUMED SERPENT. His imagery is typically drawn from natural and religious sources. Some critics argue that he was not always in touch with reality because the intense level at which his characters live lacks credibility. However it has to be observed that his criticism is justified only if the criterion of naturalism is applied too rigorously. His background was different from that of any other novelist of his time. He knew the miners, their wives, the cramped houses, the huddled life, the cruelties and debasements and the smell of the slag heaps. Modern life thwarted his spirit and he could find no consolation, as Wells had done, in making blue prints for a new world. The disease was one which admitted no intellectual cure, for the modern world seemed to Lawrence to have corrupted man’s emotional life. Even passion had become some niggling by product of intelligence. To discover again a free flow of the passionate life became for him almost a mystical ideal, for there was fulfilment and there was power. He rejected tradition partly because he had never known it, and instead of struggling to remake civilisation, he turned upon it a loathing that culminated in despair. He despised intellect, one of the major instruments allowed to man to seek the reasonable life. His plea that civilisation has degraded man’s life was a pertinent one. He invented a language in which sexual experience could be described and he had a rare eye for every movement in nature.


Beginning with comparatively conventional novels like THE VOYAGE OUT (1915), and NIGHT AND DAY (1919) Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) progressed in accordance with her own theories through the only partially successful JACOB’S ROOM (1922) and MRS. DALLOWAY (1925) to the much more satisfying TO THE LIGHT HOUSE (1927), the novel in which theory is at last successfully wedded to practice to create an impressive work of art. “Examine for a moment,” she had said, “in ordinary mind on an ordinary day receiving a myriad impressions…let us trace the pattern…which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness.” This may appear to be a poet’s task rather than a novelist’s. But Virginia Woolf’s later novels like THE WAVES (1931) and BETWEEN THE ACTS (1941) are more consciously poetic. Most of her novels are on a small scale. This is perhaps because the theory of stream of consciousness and the reaction against the overblown productions of H G Wells demand a small canvas. Her method is to take a plot which has a simple outline but to exploit it with impressionism which seizes upon every detail and to order these details not in a rational arrangement but as they stream through the mind of one of the character. The novel in her hands becomes an interior soliloquy and diffuseness is avoided by the retention of the central theme.


Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), a younger contemporary of D H Lawrence, came out with a similar boldness of expression. Some of his essays in Do What You Will was inspired by his conversation with Lawrence. His early novels CROME YELLOW (1921), ANTIC HAY (1923), THOSE BARREN LEAVES (1925) owe something to Norman Douglas’ SOUTH WIND (1917) and Wyndham Lewis’ TARR (1918).

In Huxley, the great influences of Victorian art and science met: on his father’s side, he was descended from Thomas Huxley who had been Charles Darwin’s champion in the discussions on evolution, and, on his mother’s side, from Matthew Arnold. Heredity played an important role than education for he brought to the English novel the knowledge and analysis of a scientist and curiosity in the form of an artist. Perhaps no other novelist images more clearly the changing temperament of intellectual England since the First World War. His early novels were comic and satiric narratives, prefiguring the complete disillusionment of young Englishmen in the years after the World War. In CROME YELLOW and ANTIC HAY he seemed to revel in the comic exposure of the deceit of life. He gave to a more serious enquiry in THOSE BARREN LEAVES.

However Huxley is not seeking any easy solution to his dilemma and like Lawrence he is tormented by the strange phenomenon of man. Unlike Lawrence he cannot regard sexual experience with any sense of pleasure and certainly not as a medium of illumination. The theme fascinates him but also fills him with disgust. Like Swift he appears to be angered at the jest that makes life thus, but unlike Swift he is aware that this strange beast, man, has also created symphonies, painted pictures and had moments of vision.

These preoccupations lead to the most brilliant and original of his novels POINT COUNTER POINT (1928). He can find no consolations in the brittle illusion of a well ordered mechanical world and satirises such beliefs in BRAVE NEW WORLD (1932). In EYELESS IN GAZA (1936) he expounds his deepened vision and one feels that he has reached at certain impatience with fiction as a medium.


Graham Greene (1904-91) wrote novels as well as short stories, plays, autobiography, essays and criticism for almost sixty years. He was accepted into the Catholic Church in 1926 and thus he impinged upon the literary scene as an English Catholic whose attitudes were moulded by a protestant childhood. He began with THE MAN WITHIN (1929) and his subsequent novels are STAMBOUL TRAIN (1932), IT’S A BATTLEFIELD (1934), ENGLAND MADE ME (1935), A GUN FOR SALE (1936), BRIGHTON ROCK (1938), THE CONFIDENTIAL AGENT (1939), THE POWER AND THE GLORY (1940), THE MINISTRY OF FEAR (1943), THE HEART OF THE MATTER (1948), THE THIRD MAN (1950), THE END OF AFFAIR(1951), LOSER TAKES ALL (1955), THE QUIET AMERICAN (1955), OUR MAN IN HAVANA (1958), A BURNT OUT CASE (1961), THE COMEDIANS (1966), TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT (1969), THE HONORARY CONSUL (1973), THE HUMAN FACTOR (1978), DOCTOR FISCHER OF GENEVA (1980), MONSIGNOR QUIXOTE (1982) and THE TENTH MAN (1985).

Greene’s is a single body of work, in thought and in theme. Each of his novels is definitely indebted to the philosophic trend predominant in post war English literature. All his works expresses a grieving awareness of man’s unmitigated loneliness. His novels are popular and exciting because they contain the basic features of such popular fiction as thrillers, adventure stories and spy stories. Their settings are dangerous or exotic places such as Mexico, West Africa, Congo, Haiti and Argentina. His vivid descriptions of places and people and his fast moving pace are cinematic and most of his novels are turned into movies.

Greene’s settings, characters and themes are fused into complete statements about the springs of human conduct. A great many of his themes--- alienation, desolation, despair--- derive from a neurotic state bordering on classic melancholia. The secondary themes of persecution, the hunter and the fugitive are inspired by his experience in British Secret Service. Because of the quantity and quality of his achievement Graham Greene is widely considered to be the most outstanding novelist of the 20th Century.

In the 1950s emerged a group of novelists called the Angry Young Men (of whom one was a woman Iris Murdoch) comprising William Cooper, Kingsley Amis, John Wain, John Braine, Alan Sillitoe, Stan Barstow and Stanley Middleton protesting against a hollow welfare state and an intolerably cruel society. The bitter experiences during the Second World War and the agony at the explosion of the first nuclear bomb seem to have made these rebels believe that all the standards set for them by their elders were misleading and had to be rejected. A general repudiation of the traditional values becomes an immediate necessity and their new ideal world is not of commitment but of a grim social neutrality. In this morally neutral world psychology and religion become objects to be ridiculed.

The economic programmes brought out by the Labour government of the post Second World War England proclaiming to help the working class particularly were not being fulfilled in practice. The spread of education had promoted a belief in the full range of opportunities opening to all. But when these young men coming from a low income group, left their colleges, they found frustration awaiting them. General industrialisation, unemployment, persistence of class distinction and cultural snobberies--- all made the post- second- world-war society a distracted and diseased one. So the angry young rebels found it to be their duty to point fingers at these bewildering wrongs of the society.

The main preoccupations for the rebels were no longer psychological explorations and religious devotions. These post 1950 English novelists were out to expose the destructive effect of class distinction, cultural snobberies, unearned richness and religious orthodoxies. They sought to formulate a new kind of humanism as replacement for the old and decadent values. The generation gap, hypergamy, the primacy of the provincial background, and the general selection of the protagonist from the lower income group became the dominant features of the English rebels. They created the new idea of an anti hero, opposing everything that can be cried over. They created the small, good hearted rebel protesting against his society with clownish gestures.


The novels of William Cooper present the social ambition of individuals who begin low in the social hierarchy. In his first novel SCENES FROM PROVINCIAL LIFE (1950) he presents job conscious people of a modest income group, struggling to assert their personal supremacies in a provincial background. The story of his next novel THE STRUGGLES OF ALBERT WOODS (1952) centres around a gifted youth of great promise who, early in his boyhood, had fixed on becoming a scientist. In THE EVER INTERESTING TOPIC (1953) Cooper presents the problem of human struggles against the expansive background of a violently driven provincial school of Monteagle. In DISQUIET AND PEACE (1956) he presents the internal struggle of a sentimental Arnold Brown, who gradually finds that nearly all the family units he is passionately attached to, break away from him one by one. His novel YOUNG PEOPLE (1958) unfolds the struggles of four young men in a predominantly provincial setting. SCENES FROM MARRIED LIFE (1961) communicates a new vision of the contemporary society and London with its fog flavoured with sulphur dioxide forms the new dramatic setting.


The novels of Kingsley Amis present protagonists of modest backgrounds playing merry hell with the pretensions of the upper reaches of their society. In LUCKY JIM (1953), Jim Dixon, a lower middle class young man rebels against the snobbery, the hypocrisy, the pseudo culture and the affectation of the culturally elegant people like Professor Welch. In THAT UNCERTAIN FEELING (1955), Amis presents the leisurely narrated story of John Lewis, a man working on a modest post. I LIKE IT HERE (1958) unfolds the entertaining account of the holiday trip of a struggling creative artist. In I WANT IT NOW (1968), Amis presents a pleasant satire on the rich. His other novels are TAKE A GIRL LIKE YOU (1960), ONE FAT ENGLISH MAN (1963), THE ANTI DEATH LEAGUE (1966), THE GREEN MAN (1969), GIRL, 20 (1971), THE RIVERSIDE VILLAS MURDER (1973), ENDING UP (1974), THE ALTERATION (1976), JAKE’S THING (1978), RUSSIAN HIDE AND SEEK (1980), STANLEY AND THE WOMEN (1984) and THE OLD DEVILS (1986).


The predominantly light and farcical tone of Amis gathers an intensity in John Wain whose HURRY ON DOWN (1953) achieved the same kind of status and popularity as LUCKY JIM. His other novels include LIVING IN THE PRESENT (1955), THE CONTENDERS (1958), A TRAVELLING WOMAN (1959), STRIKE THE FATHER DEAD (1962), THE YOUNG VISITORS (1965), A WINTER IN THE HILLS (1974) and YOUNG SHOULDERS (1982). His most famous novel STRIKE THE FATHER DEAD deals with generation gap, a topic that troubles the modern youths.

John Braine presents a still different kind of intensity of tone in his novels. His lower class protagonist Joe Lampton in ROOM AT THE TOP (1957) does not ask for little from life. He is a go getting man who wants the very best for himself and marries above himself by going in for a rich girl Susan Brown, the daughter of a rich business magnate although Mrs. Alice Awgill, a quiet lady dissatisfied with her husband, passionately loves him. His subsequent novels are THE VODI (1959), LIFE AT THE TOP (1962), THE CRYING GAME (1964), STAY WITH ME TILL MORNING (1970), THE QUEEN OF A DISTANT COUNTRY (1972), WAITING FOR SHIELA (1976), ONE AND LAST LOVE (1981), THE TWO OF US (1984) and THESE GOLDEN DAYS (1985).


Iris Murdoch deals with the same human dilemma presented by the other English rebels but with a predominantly psychological point of view. With twenty one novels, few plays, some poems, a number of influential articles, a book on Sartre, a book on her own moral philosophy and a book on Plato’s theory of art to her credit Iris Murdoch has indeed become a writer of international repute. Her novels are UNDER THE NET (1954), THE FLIGHT FROM THE ENCHANTER (1956), THE SANDCASTLE (1957), THE BELL (1958), A SEVERED HEAD (1961), AN UNOFFICIAL ROSE (1962), THE UNICORN (1963), THE ITALIAN GIRL (1964), THE RED AND THE GREEN (1965), THE TIME OF THE ANGELS (1966), THE NICE AND THE GOOD (1968), BRUNO’S DREAM (1969), A FAIRLY HONOURABLE DEFEAT (1970), AN ACCIDENTAL MAN (1971), THE BLACK PRINCE (1973), THE SACRED AND PROFANE LOVE MACHINE (1974), A WORLD CHILD (1975), HENRY AND CATO (1976), THE SEA, THE SEA (1978), NUNS AND SOLDIERS (1980), THE PHILOSOPHER’S PUPIL (1983), THE GOOD APPRENTICE (1985) and THE BOOK AND THE BROTHERHOOD (1987). She raises philosophical issues in her fiction by implication although she maintains that she writes primarily to entertain her readers. The surface attractions of her novels are considerable: narrative pace, lively descriptions of people and places, striking episodes and realistic, entertaining dialogues. She uses symbols and stimulates thought about such problems as intentions, appearance and reality, truth and falsity and the part played in life by contingency and chance.


Allan Sillitoe made his reputation with SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (1958) and went on to write novels like THE GENERAL (1960), KEY TO THE DOOR (1961), THE DEATH OF WILLIAM POSTERS (1965), A START IN LIFE (1970), TRAVELS IN NIHILON (1971), RAW MATERIAL (1972), A FLAME OF LIFE (1974), THE WIDOWER’S SON (1976), THE STORYTELLER (1979), THE SECOND CHANCE (1981), HER VICTORY (1982), DOWN FROM THE HILL (1984) and LIFE GOES ON (1985).

Stan Barstow wrote A KIND OF LOVING (1960); the best of his other novels is A RAGING CALM (1968). His JOBY (1960) deals with the gradually increasing complexities of growing children. Stanley Middleton wrote A SHORT ANSWER (1958),HARRIS’S REQUIEM (1960), A SERIOUS WOMAN (1961), THE JUST EXCHANGE (1962), TWO’S COMPANY (1963), HIM THEY COMPELLED (1964), TERMS OF REFERENCE (1966), THE GOLDEN EVENING (1968), WAGES OF VIRTUE (1969), APPLE OF THE EYE (1970), BRAZEN PRISON (1971), COLD GRADATIONS (1972), A MAN MADE OF SMOKE (1973), HOLIDAY (1974), DISTRACTIONS (1975), STILL WATERS (1976), ENDS AND MEANS (1977), TWO BROTHERS (1978), IN A STRANGE LAND (1979), THE OTHER SIDE (1980), BLIND UNDERSTANDING (1982), ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM (1983), THE DAYSMAN (1984), VALLEY OF DECISION (1985), AN AFTER DINNER’S SLEEP (1986), AFTER A FASHION (1987), RECOVERY (1988) and VACANT PLACES (1989).

Thus it is evident that these post 1950 English novelists come out with the new concept of an anti hero, opposing everything that can be cried over. This small good hearted rebel protests against his society sometimes with clownish gestures. Yet through all these apparently comical gestures runs a thought provoking criticism of the modern welfare state. These protagonists though not fierce revolutionaries represent the hopes and frustrations of the 20th century man. These writers were seriously concerned with the urgent themes and evolve a new ethics of human living. In this new code of conduct there is no place for spurious idealism. There is a subtly projected liberation of human spirit. These writers break the spell of the interior monologues and the spiritual crisis under which the English novel seemed to have lived for such a long period of time in the first half of the 20th century. They turn the novel into the direction of its concern with social reality and common humanity.











ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel Defoe (1659-1731) serves as a link between the great essayists of the earlier years and the great novelists of the later years of the 18th century. He is said to be one of most voluminous writers of the English language. Born at St. Giles, London and educated at Newington, he was a government secret agent and worked for both Whigs and Tories. He had a versatile personality being a speculator, a traveler, a bankrupt and a journalist. In stead of becoming a minister he took to trade. He participated in Monmouth’s rebellion after being a failure in trade. During the closing years of the 17th century he went on a visit to the Continent. His failure in business attracted him towards pamphlet journalism and fiction writing.

The fame of Defoe as a novelist depends on his novels like Robinson Crusoe (1719), Captain Singleton (1720), Moll Flanders (1722), Journal of the Plague Year (1722) and Roxana (1724).

Though Defoe belongs to the first group of fiction writers in English but scholars and critics do not consider him as a novelist in the strict sense of the term. He is considered merely as a writer of adventure stories and moral parables. Sir Ifor Evans regards Richardson as the father of English novel. As far as Defoe is concerned we may apply the term novel in a loose sense.

Defoe draws his materials from the travel books and adventure stories of his days. The adventures of Robinson Crusoe are based on the adventures of Alexander Selkirk and Juan Fernandez. Moreover Defoe’s art was not for the sake of art but for the sake of his readers. Therefore he wrote about amorous relationships and sexual encounters as his readers wanted to read about sin, sex and materialism. This preoccupation certainly limited his art. Meanwhile he is outstanding in characterization, story-telling, humour, pathos, illusion and reality.

As Defoe was unaware of the techniques of novel writing, his plots are not artistically up to the mark. They are rather loosely spun. He imitates human life in its raw shapelessness yet he is successful in achieving certain thematic unity in his works. The underlining themes of his stories are sin, crime and lustful advances. In Moll Flanders and Roxana we have sinful amorous advances towards wealth while the hero of Robinson Crusoe commits the original sin against his father and God. The major themes are followed by repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Defoe is unable to create life like characters. His characters lack dynamism and remain static throughout the story. It is said that his characters are a representation of Defoe himself. He is supreme when he narrates various events and episodes. His stories are realistic and thrilling as well. His descriptions are detailed, realistic and even naturalistic. He fulfills his readers’ demands of facts by supplying them both realistic and imaginative facts. He tried to create an illusion of reality and attempted to achieve verisimilitude. The descriptions of the amorous advances of loose women like Moll Flanders or Roxana and the remains of bones and flesh littered everywhere are ghastly.

The dominating theme of Defoe’s novels is sin committed at different levels. This theme is consequently followed by punishment, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. The protagonist of Robinson Crusoe commits the original sin by disobeying his father’s instructions. God first warns him and afterwards he was reduced to slavery. His continuous hankering after wealth invites God’s wrath who punished him with 28 years of imprisonment on a lonely island. He cries in agony but no one wipes his tears. First he becomes indignant but gradually he bears the indignation of God patiently. Shedding penitential tears he feels blessed and praises God for bestowing him an island where there was no lust of flesh and eye and no pride. The island, which was earlier a hell, later becomes a heaven of ecstasy for him. Roxana and Moll Flanders both commit the sin of embracing the lustful desire to gain affluence.

Defoe is a supreme craftsman of humour and pathos. He had a wide variety of humour. Robinson amuses himself with a cat even though he has been cast in a lonely island. Defoe is able to create variety and pathos. Robinson, cast on a desolate island, is full of remorse. We experience some kind of pathos into the life of Moll Flanders when she feels the pricks of her guilt conscience for her sinful amorous advances during her youth.

Defoe had a proud possession of rich imagination. He has the ability to make fiction look real. His hero Robinson does all the actions related to a sea journey. Defoe takes pains to convince his readers and does so by presenting minute facts. He has a perfect vision and can visualize even a virtue of a person. He presents vivid and picturesque images like those of Keats and Tennyson. His style is plain, straight forward and matter of fact. There is no felicity or embellishment in his sentences. His language is simple and lucid.


AN INTRODUCTION: As a work of fiction Robinson Crusoe can be compared with Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. While The Pilgrim’s Progress is a religious allegory Robinson Crusoe, like Gulliver’s Travels, is a description of sensational voyages and scintillating adventures. The misanthropy and bitter satire of Swift is made against the littleness of mankind which is a little odious vermin for him. A bitter denunciation is camouflaged under the garb of an adventure story in Gulliver’s Travels. Similarly Robinson Crusoe wraps spiritual titillation under the cover of adventure. But unlike Gulliver’s Travels it can be deciphered at different levels. It is an adventure story, a moral treatise, a religious allegory, a spiritual revelation, a study of colonial expansion and a Biblical parable.

THE STORY: Robinson Crusoe, born at York in 1632, is the son of a German father and English mother. The couple had two more sons. One brother of Crusoe died in a war while the other was lost. From his early childhood Crusoe was inclined towards a wandering life. Seeing the world by sailing on the tempestuous seas was his innermost desire. He was advised and reprimanded by his father not to go on voyages and lead a settled life. But keeping apart his father’s admonitions, his mother’s love and his friends’ persuasions one day he went to Hull and at the prompting of his companions he went on board a ship which was bound for London. He did not seek the permission of his father and the blessings of the Almighty.

After reaching Humber the ship was wind tossed by a horrid storm. Robinson now started repenting that he had breached his duty to God and his parents. He was afraid that he was facing the judgment of the Great Providence because of his lapse of duty. He made his resolution that if God spares his life after the storm he would go back to his parents and in future he will never set his foot into a ship. But when the weather becomes favourable he forgot his resolution and was lost into a bowl of wine. The storm raged again much more furiously. Robinson could not resume the penitence he had forgotten. The sailors had started praying. The ship sank and all the passengers were saved by a life saving light boat which took them to Yarmouth safely.

In London Crusoe met the English captain of the ship who offered to accompany him to Guinea. Robinson accepted the proposal. It was on the advice of the captain that Crusoe purchased toys and trifles for business. The voyage was successful from the point of view of knowledge and profit. He came to know many things about navigation and earned 260 pounds as profit. The captain died and Crusoe kept his 200 pounds with the widow of the captain. The ship again sailed for Guinea under the captainship of Mate. When the ship reached Canary Island it was attacked by Turkish pirates. Robinson was taken to Sallee as prisoner. His stay at Sallee was for two years where he pondered over schemes to liberate himself. Once again the thought of his father comes to him and he regarded his slavery as a punishment for his disobedience. One day he got the opportunity to escape from the island.

The Turkish captain had to entertain some guests so he sent Robinson, along with a man and a boy, to the sea for fishing. When they were fishing in the sea, Robinson went towards the man Ishmael (Maley), pretended as if he was stooping for something, took him suddenly by his arms and tossed him overboard into the sea. He persuaded Xury to be loyal to him. Changing the direction of the ship they were 150 miles away from Sallee the next morning. Robinson continued sailing the ship till he ensured that they were too far away to be captured. They anchored in the mouth of a river. They heard the wild animals roaring. Robinson fired at an animal that came near the ship. They went away sailing, stopping on the shores to collect water. They wanted to reach Cape Verde where they were hopeful to get a European ship. After sailing for ten days they reached a place which was inhabited by naked savages. The savages crowded their ship and brought water and food for them. Robinson shot a ferocious animal and offered them to eat it. Robinson and Xury then sailed for eleven more days. Robinson was almost dejected when Xury suddenly saw a ship at a distance. It was a Portuguese ship whose captain was kind enough to take them to Brazil voluntarily. He purchased the barge from Robinson and also took Xury as slave.

Their journey to Brazil was pleasant. The captain introduced Robinson to a man who was the owner of a plantation farm and a sugar house. From this man Robinson learnt a lot about plantation. Planning to be a planter, Crusoe got his money back from the widow of the English captain and purchased land for plantation. He started growing canes and tobacco and felt the absence of Xury as a helper. He started progressing and coming into the fold of middle class. But he proved to be his own destroyer by succumbing to immoderate desires. The planters, associated with him, suggested him to go to Guinea to bring Negroes to work as slaves in their plantation farms. Robinson accepted their proposal and agreed to accompany them if they promise to look after his plantation and would dispose it off as per his wishes in case of his death.

He went on board the ship in the fateful hour on September 1, 1659. After a journey of twelve days a furious sea storm arose. They continued their sail for twelve more days. The storm tossed them and they were about to be swallowed by the sea. The ship struck upon sand and they used their life boats. Suddenly a huge wave came and the boat sank. Robinson, struggling courageously against the waves reached the sea shore. He was thankful of God who saved his life. He was the only survivor on an uninhabited island. He had nothing to eat and had only a knife and a tobacco pipe. He was fearful of being devoured by the wild beasts. Because of tiredness and exhaustion he went to sleep on a tree. After a sound sleep he woke up and was feeling fresh.

The storm had abated when he woke up from his sleep and the sun was shining with all its glory. It was fortunate that the tides drove the ship towards the shore. It was just at a distance of one mile from the coast. Crusoe wanted to get at the ship and to bring the necessary things. When the sea became calm, he reached near the ship and got into its forecastle with the help of a rope. He filled his pockets with biscuits and started eating them. He prepared a raft and loaded it with the available rice, bread, cheese, wine, dried flesh, barley, wheat, carpenter’s tools and various miscellaneous items. His next step was to look for a proper place where he could live. He had no information about the land whether it was an island or a continent; whether inhabited or deserted. Armed with a gun and a pistol he descended from the ship and climbed up a steep hill. He shot a bird with his gun. It was the first shot that had been fired there after the creation of the earth. He made several trips to the ship and brought things like sails, nails, spikes, screws, screw jacks, hatchets, grindstones, iron crows, bullets, shots, clothes, hammocks, bedding and several other items. He also got money from the ship.

Now it was his inner urge to have a residence of his own where he could live and keep his things. He wanted to dig a cave down below the earth and to put a tent above the earth to keep himself away from any kind of threat to his life. Till this time he was living in a low Moorish land near the sea. He longed for a place where fresh water should be available; where he can take shelter from the scorching sun; a place which should be safe and secure from wild beasts; and moreover a place which should be open to the sea so that in case of arrival of any ship he should take his chance. He came near a plain below a rising hill. On one side of the hill there was a hollow that seems to be a door. Robinson decided to fix his tent at this place. He made a fence to stop any intruder. He reached his tent with the help of a ladder, and after getting in he lifted the ladder so that nobody could come inside. He, now, had a strong sense of safety. He treasured all his items inside the tent. In order to protect himself from rain he put a smaller tent inside the big one. He had a hammock to sleep which he brought from the ship. He prepared a cave behind his tent to serve as a cellar. He butchered a she goat and kept its kid. As the kid refused to eat he ate it too. He made a fire place by enlarging his cave.

In spite of all these engagements he started feeling lonely. He complained to God for his loneliness and felt that he had been punished for his sin. Meanwhile he was thankful to God that he saved him and provided with the substances required for life. He was thankful of God for taking his ship near the shore. He had come on the island on 30th September when the sun was shining in its autumnal equinox. He used to cut dates on the wood in order to remember the Sabbath days. In this way he was able to prepare a calendar. He used to read the Bible which he brought from the ship. He also brought two parrots and one dog from the ship and prepared a table and a chair. He made his life comfortable by his industry and application. He recorded all the events and actions in a journal. He stopped writing only when the ink ended.

One day he shook the husk of corn on one side of the tent. A month later he saw a few stalks coming out of the ground. After some more times he saw ten to twelve ears coming out; it was green barley. He thought that God has taken mercy upon him and caused to grow the grain for his survival. His eyes were filled with tears out of thankfulness for God but when he realized the reason for the growing of grain his thankfulness for God vanished. He saved the ears of corn for sowing. He sowed two third of his grain in dry season but the yield was zero. He sowed the remaining grain in February. Because of rain in the month of March and April he had a good crop. By now he had his own country house where he used to go regularly. He made earthen pots to store liquids. He traveled in the island taking his gun and dog along with him. That part of the island which he visited was a pleasant place with a lot of greenery and a large number of parrots. In the meantime the place was dreadful also as it was visited by the savages. From that place he brought a parrot and taught it to utter his name. The place was so full of trees that for sometimes he was roaming aimlessly there. He brooded over the second anniversary of his landing on the island. He was thankful to God for his lonely existence and considered it better than his past life of wickedness and sin. Yet the anguish of his soul got loose and he burst out into tears. He called himself a hypocrite who was feeling happy in such terrible conditions.

He had made a judicious division of his time for hunting, reading scriptures and other duties. He was bound to work for larger tract of time due to lack of tools and equipments. Further more, he badly needed a helper. He enclosed his fields with hedges to keep the animals away. He killed a few birds and hung them to frighten other birds. He was unaware of the know-how of grinding and baking breads but with the passage of time he learnt these things. He made a sieve and an earthen vessel which he used to bake breads. The boat, which he and his companions used in the past, was lying upside down. He pondered if he could turn it, he would have gone to Brazil.

Weary of his loneliness he cut a huge cedar tree and started making a canoe which would eventually carry him out of this desperate situation. Though he was successful in making a huge boat but he was unable to take it to the sea. In a mood of reflection he thanked God who provided him all the things he required for spreading his table in the wilderness. He was of the opinion that here in this island he had neither the lust of flesh nor the lust of the eye. Once again he repented for disobeying his father and God. He was of the view that God has accepted his remorse and repentance and awarded him in plenty. He brooded over the coincidences of his life. He was born on 30th September; went to Hull on the same date; was made a prisoner at Sallee on the same date; was saved from the ship wreck at Yarmouth on the same date; and reached this desolate island on the same date.

He was in dire need of clothes as his attire was badly torn. His naked body will blister in the extreme heat. He tailored a jacket by altering the waist coat he had brought earlier from the ship. He made a cap and a waist coat out of an animal’s skin. He made a small raft and went on a voyage. He launched his boat when the wind was calm but soon he and his boat was engulfed in deep water. The currents were on both the sides, if they joined, Robinson would have gone. A little breeze cheered him for a while. He feared that if he was driven into the vast ocean which is endless he would be lost forever. From the sea he looked back upon his solitary island which was, for him, the most pleasant place in the world. He wished to be there again. A favourable wind started blowing. He spread his sail and a strong wave of wind and water current took his canoe back to the island. He was thankful to God after reaching the island.

Robinson was feeling sad as his boat, on which he went on the voyage, was lying defunct on the other side of the island. He started improving his skills in mechanics. He achieved expertise in carpentry and pottery. Instead of killing goats he started taming them. He enclosed a certain area of land with fence and ensured the safety of his goats. After two years he had a stock of forty three goats. He set up a dairy and got milk, cream, butter and cheese. He spent them over cats, dogs and parrots. He dined like a king and lived like an emperor. He longed for nothing but the company of human beings. He planned to bring back his raft from the other side of the island. Meanwhile he started working on a new canoe. Now he had two dwellings; one was his fort and the other was a country house.

One day when he was going towards his boat he saw foot prints of a man on the shore. He stood still, thunderstruck as if he has visualized a ghost. He looked here and there but found nothing. He returned thinking that it might be the footsteps of the devil but ruled it out soon. Then he thought that it might be the footprints of a savage. He became afraid of the savages that they might devour him or destroy his crops or take away his goats. Surprisingly he was fearful of the sight of a man. He was inspired by the words of scriptures and his dwindling religious feeling was recovered. For sometimes the footprint appeared to him an illusion. Though he came out of his fortified home after three days to look after his crops and to milk his goats, he was still in a state of terror. He went to the shore to confirm whether it was not his own footprint. But the footprint was larger than his footprints. A mood of devastation engulfed him and he thought of destroying his fortress, throwing down the enclosures, freeing his pet animals and crushing his crops so that the savages could not get anything intact at their arrival.

One day while wandering near the shore he saw a boat and later in a state of bewilderment he was confounded to see the parts of human body scattered here and there. The mystery of the footprints came to an end and all the time he was reminded of the brutal sight. He remained concealed in his fortified place for two years. He was grateful to God that cannibals did not ravage his part of the island. He became more and more cautious. He felt indignant at the sight of human flesh and resolved to take revenge but he abandoned the idea of killing those cannibals as God Himself did not punish them and furthermore, they had caused no harm to him. He confined himself within his fortified enclosure and came out only to milk his goats or to look after his crops.

One day he saw the canoes and the cannibals eating human flesh and making themselves merry. He was filled with indignation again and felt that it was not unjust to kill them. So he decided to kill the cannibals on their next visit. He has to wait for thirteen months. It was his twenty fourth year on the island when the cannibals revisited the place.

One day he heard the noise of a bullet shot from a ship. He burnt fire up above the hill as signal to those aboard the ship. He rushed to the shore but to his utter dismay he found that the ship was wrecked. He thought that the passengers on the ship had been either taken to another ship or had been drowned. A few days later he saw the dead body of a boy. He went close to the wrecked ship and found that it was struck between two rocks. He saw the dead body of two men being drowned in the kitchen. He brought wine, shirts, handkerchief, sweetmeats, gold coins and dog from the ship. He longed for company and even desired to go to the island of the cannibals. He had spent twenty five years on the desolate island and led a secluded life.

One day he had a vision that two canoes and eleven cannibals are present on the shore. He saw that a victim ran towards his grove. He saved him and took him to his fortress. His hopes of reaching the shore seemed to materialize. After waking up he was disillusioned to know that he was just having a dream. He wished if the dream could be realized. He waited for this for sixteen months. One day he saw five canoes and thirty cannibals. They were dragging two victims to eat them. They had already started eating one while the other was standing to be baked and eaten next. Suddenly the victim ran away with enormous speed. He was chased by the cannibals. Armed with his gun Robinson came in between the chasers and the chased, knocked down one of the cannibals by his gun. He saved the victim and named him Friday. Out of gratitude Friday vowed sincerity and obedience to Crusoe. After almost twenty five years he heard a man’s voice.

Friday was handsome, attractive and well built. Robinson took him to his place and fed him. Because of exhaustion and tiredness he was soon fast asleep. When he woke up he fell prostrate before Robinson out of gratitude and pledged his faithfulness for him. Robinson taught him to speak ‘master’, ‘yes’ and ‘no’. As Friday was stark naked he provided him with clothes. Being a cannibal Friday relished in eating goat meat but swore not to eat human flesh. He was taught by Robinson and did all the assignments with devotion and sincerity. They loved each other. Robinson once again became hopeful of getting rid of the lonely island and to visit the main land in the company of Friday. He taught Friday about God and scriptures and converted him to Christianity. Under the influence of Robinson, Friday started speaking fluent broken English. Robinson narrated his whole story to Friday and showed him the boat which he and his companions had used earlier. Friday told him that seventeen white men came to his country in the same boat. When Friday saw his country from the hill he was overjoyed and started jumping. Robinson did not like this attitude of Friday and became weary that if he accompanied him to his country he might kill and eat him. But soon his doubts were cleared and he felt ashamed of being doubtful about the integrity of Friday. Robinson resolved to visit the mainland and to meet the seventeen white men.

Robinson had sent Friday to the sea shore to bring a turtle. Friday rushed back terribly scared. He reported about three canoes. Robinson armed himself and Friday and went to the shore. They saw twenty one cannibals and three prisoners. Robinson was in doldrums for sometimes as he was unable to justify the killing of cannibals. But when he saw the European white man as their victim he resolved to kill the cannibals. Together Robinson and Friday killed many cannibals and was successful in releasing the white man. Robinson gave weapons to the white man and some items to eat and drink. The white man’s spirits were revived and he also killed three cannibals. Four of the cannibals started running helter skelter towards the sea. Robinson and Friday pursued them to their canoes where they saw an old man. The let the person loose and their happiness knew no bound when the old man turned out to be Friday’s father. Robinson took the white man and Friday’s father to his fortified home.

Friday’s father removed all the doubts of Robinson regarding the runaway cannibals returning with an army. The white Spaniard informed them that their ship had been stuck between two rocks and they had reached the mainland. Now they planned to bring more Spaniards to the island so that they should make a barge on which they could sail to a European country. They waited for their departure for six months so that enough grain might grow and they could feed their Spanish guests easily. Then the Spaniard and the old man sailed towards the mainland with a ray of optimism and jubilation.

Eight days later Friday was rushing towards Crusoe to inform him about their coming back. He rushed to the shore and saw that the boat was coming from a different direction and not from the mainland. From the hill Robinson saw, with the help of a magnifying glass, an English ship anchored at some distance. He was quite doubtful and was mentally shaken yet he had hope of his rescue. Then he saw eleven men on the boat, three among them were prisoners. Two persons remained on the boat while others went to see the country leaving the prisoners under a tree. One of the three persons was a passenger, the other was a mate and the third was the captain of the ship. Robinson promised the captain to help him to recover his ship if he followed his instructions and in case of recovery of the ship would take them to England. The captain agreed and Crusoe armed the captain’s men with ammunition. The captain and his men killed two mutineers while the others surrendered. Robinson ordered Friday and the mate to bring everything from the boat and to make a hole into the boat so that the new captain and his men might not take the boat. They planned to recover the ship as there were twenty six persons still left on board the ship. Two of the prisoners, who surrendered, were taken into service by Robinson. Now theirs was a seven member squad. There were firing signals from the ship to indicate the return of the boat. There was no response from the other side so most of them came to search their men leaving two persons on the boat. One of the two person who remained on boat, was killed. The other surrendered and joined the group of Robinson becoming its eighth member. As per the strategy adopted by Crusoe, the mutineers entered deep into the island. They wandered for a very long time and became tired and exhausted. When they came back to the shore they were shaking. They were surprised when they did not find two of their men on the boat. They became weary of the land being haunted. The captain killed the chief architect of the mutiny and one more member of the group. The others surrendered their arms and begged for mercy.

Robinson was now of the view that very soon he will come out of his secluded life. He and the captain planned a strategy to seize the ship which was still held by some of the mutineers. They divided themselves into two groups, one led by the Mate and the other led by the captain. They attacked the ship and were successful in killing the other mate, the carpenter and the rebel captain. The remaining people surrendered. The ship was recaptured and a signal of victory was given to Robinson who was waiting anxiously at the shore. The captain was full of gratitude for Robinson. Robinson, feeling his release at hand, was filled with tears. The captain was extremely overjoyed and presented hundreds of gifts to Robinson. They sailed the next day. Robinson left the island on 19th September 1686. He had been on the island for 28 yrs 2 months & 19 days. He reached England on 11th June 1687 after having been away from his country for 35 years. His condition was like a stranger in his own land. The widow had become a widow again for the second time. His parents were dead but his two sisters and two nephews were alive.

He went to Lisbon to meet the Portuguese captain to collect information about his plantation in Portugal. The captain showed his ignorance and told him that he owed a lot of money to Robinson. He gave him 160 moidores, of which 60 moidores were returned to him by Robinson. The captain agreed to help Robinson in relation to his plantation. They signed a document attested by a notary. The captain also sent a letter to a merchant known to him requesting him to help Robinson. Robinson received a letter from the survivors of his trustees, giving him an account of his wealth. Robinson’s heart filled with pleasure as he found his wealth intact. He returned 100 moidores to the captain. They drew a deed according to which the captain would receive 100 moidores annually and after his death his son would receive 50 moidores a year. Robinson sent 100 pounds to the widow and 100 pounds each to his sisters. He asked the Prior to dispose off his 872 moidores. He praised his partner for integrity and was thankful to the trustees. Robinson decided to go back to England by land accompanied by an English guide and some other persons.

They started crossing the mountains on 15th of Nov. All of a sudden three monstrous wolves and a bear appeared in front of them. The wolves attacked them but Friday saved the guide and the horse. He entertained the party and played with a huge bear ultimately shooting it in a strange manner. Meanwhile they saw a dozen wolves feeding upon a horse. After some times they faced a hundred wolves which they had driven away by shooting and shouting. On different places they saw a pack of wolves eating horses and riders. At the entrance of a pass almost three hundred wolves attacked to devour them. Once again Robinson’s skill to plan strategies proved useful. It was because of his scheming that they killed about sixty wolves while the rest fled away. Ultimately they reached the village and then to Toulouse. The people of the place commented that it was a foolish act by the guide to select this dangerous way. However they showed their happiness at their safe arrival.

Robinson decided not to make Brazil his home on religious grounds and sold his plantation to the trustees. He was unable to quench his thirst for adventure for a long time. He was dissuaded by the caring widow to take risks of life. He married and had two sons and one daughter. His wife died and on the request of his sea man nephew he sailed to the East Indies and revisited the island. He took account of the affairs of the island. Now there were women and twenty children present. He solved some of their problems. From Brazil he sent a barge full of many things along with women. He also sent a few English women for the Englishmen present there. When he visited the island once again he saw men and women there doing very well.


Daniel Defoe was not well aware of all the characteristics of the novel proper. So his stories are more a story of adventure and romance than a true novel. Like other tenets of novel writing Defoe is unable to weave his plots in a cohesive manner. The plot structure of Robinson Crusoe is not well knit or so to say loose and ill constructed. A well constructed plot has all its events intricately inter woven. The events of a well constructed plot issue from one another. Such plot moves with harmonious and logical consequences. Not a single event can be deleted as it may disturb the smooth fabric of the whole plot. Such are the plots of Shakespeare, Hardy and Jane Austen. While on the other hand several pages can be taken away from the works of Milton or Dickens without causing any damage to the story. The end of a well knit plot can be visualized at the very beginning or as Eliot says “In my beginning is my end”.

The plot structure of Robinson Crusoe is not as per the conditions mentioned above. It is neither well knit nor intricately woven but episodic and loosely structured. One event starts only after the completion of the previous event. The story will appear unhampered and unwanting even though a whole is taken out from the story. For example if we take out the whole episode of the wolves from Robinson Crusoe even then the story will not be damaged. W H Hudson remarked about the plot of Robinson Crusoe, “no attempt was made towards the organization of the material into a systematic plot.” Professor Secord observes that Robinson Crusoe is an imitation of life in all its shapelessness. But in spite of this shapelessness there is a sort of thematic unity in the novel.

The plot of Robinson Crusoe is harmoniously blended by its theme. Reacting against the criticism of the plot of Robinson Crusoe being shapeless J Paul Hunter says that the plot structure of the novel has a thematic unity and it is set up by the artistic and philosophical rationale. It is true that the novel lacks the architectonic unity or a well shaped structure yet this weakness does not damage the thematic unity of the novel. It is important to quote the observation of Ifor Evans in this regard, “there exists in him a talent for organizing his material into a well conducted narrative, with an effective eye for detail…… Form, in its subtler sense, does not affect Defoe; his novels run on until, like an alarm clock, they run down, but while movement is there the attention is held.”

The underlying theme of Robinson Crusoe is the theme of the prodigal son. In Biblical parable the son flees away taking his share of property to a far off land, spends it, starves, feels lonely, returns, repents and is forgiven by the benevolent father who orders his servant to kill a calf so that they may celebrate. Defoe starts Robinson Crusoe with a Biblical reference: “Had I now had the sense to have gone back to Hull, and have gone home, I had been happy, and my father, an emblem of our blessed Savior’s parable, had even killed the fatted calf for me.”

The other significant themes of the novel are sin, punishment, repentance and forgiveness. Defoe not only imitated the story of the parable but also emulated it. The father who forgives Crusoe is in fact God. Robinson is guilty of committing several sins. He flees from his house without taking permission from his father and without seeking the blessings of God. He commits the sin of hubris. While in Brazil he succumbs to the immoderate desire of rising faster than nature permits. On the island he ventured to go around it on the canoe, thus violating the code of imprisonment. Before punishing for his sin, God warns him when his London bound ship was wind tossed and rose mountain high. Robinson promises to go back but commits the sin of breaking promises and goes on a voyage to Guinea. God inflicts the first punishment upon him. He was punished to be a slave. Escaping from slavery he established himself as a planter and flourished in Brazil. He was forgiven by God but once again he sinned. He goes on an illegal and sinful slave buying expedition to Guinea. He is punished with loneliness on a desolate island. He was extremely grieved and faced with loneliness and hunger. He was wet, had no clothes, nothing to eat or drink. He is faced with the dual fear of hunger and wild beasts. The punishment does not end here. God keeps him alive so that he can realize his sin and repent. God tortures him continuously with the pang of loneliness. When a Spanish ship wrecked near the island Robinson hopes that there may be any survivor who may become his companion. He had a strong longing for human company so he cries: “O that there had been but one or two, nay, or but one soul saved out of this ship.”

In due course God becomes considerate and provided Crusoe with human companionship first of the savage Friday and then of Friday’s father and the Spaniard. But before that he had to suffer more punishments. He becomes very much afraid when he had a dream in which a person emerges from clouds to kill him with his spear. He was terribly shocked when he saw a footprint on the shore. His feeling of fear banishes all his religious hope and his confidence in God is shaken for sometimes. After seeing the footprint he was unable to sleep. He kept himself in close quarters of his fortified house for three consecutive years. And when he ventured out of his residence he felt miserable. He was haunted by an evil conscience and feels that some ghost may appear from the bush and would punish him. Though he moves forwards but looks behind as if somebody is chasing him. He was so much afraid that he starts staring at his own shadow.

Every time he suffers, his realization of committing the original sin grew in extent. He was repentant and felt remorse. When he feels that God has been spreading his table in the wilderness he feels that perhaps God has acknowledged his repentance. His feeling of indignation against God’s dispensation turned to nothingness when he realized that his punishment is lesser in proportion than the extent of sin he had committed. He praised God for being bountiful, thanked Him for being benevolent to him and longs for His blessings. The island which was once an island of despair was now converted into his fort of ecstasy. He felt redeemed and restored. He surrenders himself to the afflictions bestowed upon him and submits his will to the will of God. He not only resigns to the will of God but also offers his sincere gratitude. Thus the theme of sin, suffering, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation has given the plot of Robinson Crusoe a sort of thematic unity.


According to some critics Daniel Defoe cannot create three dimensional or round characters. The character of Robinson Crusoe remains unchanged throughout the story. He was a restless wanderer at the beginning and remained so at the end. Moreover, according to some critics, he is the idealized self of the novelist himself. In spite of being a flat character he is loved and admired by the readers. People have admired him for his adventurous zeal and sympathized with him for his pain and suffering. There are certain considerate traits in his character.

A Wanderer: Robinson has a great affectation for sea. He wants to go on surfing the perilous sea and to roam around the world by undertaking dangerous voyages. His spirit of adventure compels him to disobey his father and to neglect the golden middle path of life. It is this very spirit of adventure that induces him to commit the original sin.

His wandering lust can be well expressed in the lines which he utters when he was unable to resist the temptation of sailing to Guinea: “all these miscarriages were procured by my apparent obstinate adhering to my foolish inclination of wandering abroad, and pursuing that inclination in contradiction to the clearest views of doing myself good in a fair and plain pursuit of those prospects and those measures of life which Nature and Providence concurred to present me with and to make my duty.”

Robinson’s thirst for wandering is not quenched even at the fag end of his life in spite of horrifying dangers on the sea and the terrible loneliness of the islands. For a short while his marriage and the dissuasion of the widow stopped him from undertaking any sea-faring mission. But nothing has the power to check his wander-lust for a long time. Ultimately he sails again to Brazil and to his secluded island.

A Sinner: Apart from disobedience, Robinson is guilty of committing hubris and breaking promises. He suffers from excessive pride. During his voyage to London he faces a terrible sea storm and swears that if he is saved by the grace of great Providence, he will go back to his parents. But after the storm was over he forgets this and engulfed himself in the intoxication of wine. He was shameful that if he goes home his neighbours would mock him for his failure.

The novel expresses his sense of guilt, his repentance for violating the wishes of his father and ignoring the will of God. Time and again he resolves that he will not repeat his wicked act but every time he forgets his vows. Though he regards his present miserable state as punishment for his sin yet he repeats the sin of breaking promises.

A Double Standard: The character of Crusoe is a unique blend of spiritualism and materialism. On one hand he is a voracious reader of the Bible while on the other he hankers after wealth. He becomes religious only at a very later stage and even then when he faces desolation and pain. When a man faces sorrows he lands himself on holy grounds otherwise in his happy days one hardly remembers God. The novel is full of Robinson’s worldliness, materialism and acquisitiveness. While sailing to Guinea for the first time in the story, Robinson collects 40 pounds from his relatives, purchases toys and trifles, sells them in Guinea and makes money worth two hundred and sixty pounds. In Brazil he becomes a planter as he has seen planters flourishing. He asks the widow to send his money. He regrets having lost Xury, not because of any humanistic concern but because had Xury been available he would be of great help to him. Though religious but he favours slavery and employ a slave. He agrees to go on a slave buying mission to Guinea. He harbours rash and immoderate desire of becoming rich by hook or by crook. He stores valuables including gold from the marooned ship though he needs the minimum on the desolate island. Even when he gets his deliverance from the island he delays his freedom by one day in order to collect his materials from his fortified house. Any other person would have rushed to the ship but he bids his time: “upon this I prepared to go on board the ship, but told the captain that I would stay that night to prepare my things.”

Insensible: Robinson had no feeling and affection for his parents. He was restless to go on voyages but never feels restless for his mother and father. There is no nostalgia for home, no longing for his parents. Though he remembers his father but it is because of his sin not because of any love for the old man. He is heartless and ignores the entreaties of his parents. Xury was so loyal to him that he went to fetch water for him risking his own life but Robinson has no consideration for his love and sells him like a slave.

A Partisan: A Hamlet like dilemma is presented before him when he sees the cannibals enjoying human flesh. He wanted to kill them but thinks that this would not be justified. In his opinion the cannibals were justified in killing their victims as the Christians are also killing their prisoners. This moral sense hinders his resolution to kill the cannibals. But the time he saw that the cannibals are killing a white man, he at once resolves to kill them. It is not because of any moral sense but because of racism that he kills those cannibals.

A Coward: Cowardice is another flaw of Robinson’s character. He was afraid of death when his ship was wind tossed by a storm during his voyage to London. When he saw a footprint on the seashore he was so terribly aghast that he did not come out of his place for three days. He was unable to sleep and eat anything due to this fear psychosis. He trembles whenever he apprehends the presence of a man. He was so much fearful that he started staring at his own shadow. He was so much haunted by his evil conscience that sometimes he feels ghostly presence in the bush.

A Contradictory Figure: During his stay at the island for more than 28 yrs Robinson tried emphatically for his release from seclusion but when the opportune time came he not only delayed his escape from the island but also thanked God for sending him on the island where he led a life of repentance and forgiveness which was certainly better than his earlier life of wickedness. He considers himself a hypocrite because he was praising that life which he wanted to escape.

Like the Shakespearean tragic heroes he suffers from a fatal flaw or in Aristotelian term ‘hamartia’. In Robinson’s case it is his wander lust which proved instrumental in his misery. He appears to be a believer of the dictum ‘character is destiny’ and regards himself as his own destroyer. His fatal flaw brings about a ‘catastrophe’ for him and he was devastated.

But all the above mentioned failings and weaknesses on Robinson’s part are infact proved virtuous in due course. Though he is a volatile wrong doer but he always means well. Apart from the negative elements in his character, he appears to be having some positive traits also.

Courageous: As mentioned somewhere above Robinson was a coward. But we must consider that any person under those unavoidable circumstances would have done the same. An ordinary man would have collapsed because of heart failure or might have drowned himself in the sea after experiencing those ghastly feelings. But Robinson faced them with manliness. As he was fond of adventure naturally he must possess a brave heart. True, that he was frightened when he saw the face of death but is there any person in the world who does not feel frightened at the sight of death?

Robinson’s fight with the cannibals, encounter with the wolves and his battle with the mutineers of the ship--- are all examples of his courage and bravery.

Ingenuity: Ingenuity is central to the character of Crusoe. It is because of this characteristic that he was able to harness the apathetic and cruel forces of nature. This ingenuity is expressed by his mechanical, practical and strategic skills.

Knowledgeable: After being liberated from Sallee he was sailing aimlessly over the sea. At this juncture it is his knowledge about geography which proved handy. He is aware that the islands of the Canaries and Cape Verde lie not far off and keeps in his mind that if he sails alongside the coast he will certainly find a European ship that may take him back.

Practical: Though he feels tears in his eyes due to loneliness in the secluded island but he realizes that shedding tears will not be of any use. If he has to survive he must have a practical approach. He is aware that he is struggling against the cruel forces of nature and he has to harness all the available resources. Therefore he goes to the wrecked ship time and again and brings back various valuables and necessities as well.

Mechanical: Robinson is fully aware that in order to harness the limited resources and to face a lone battle, he must have the expertise to do so. Thus by constant practice he developed his mechanical skills by making different things. By his constant efforts he learnt to sow, plough, reap, winnow, grind and bake. He was able to make beautiful baskets. He tried his hands at tailoring and carpentry. He can prepare his caps, umbrellas and attires. Along with being a carpenter he tried to be a wood cutter. He makes tables, chairs and boats. Besides making all these things he made stone mortar, sieve and earthen pots.

Strategic: Robinson is an expert planner and a great strategist. He proved his strategic skills in planning his release from slavery in Sallee. He persuaded Ishmael to bring powder and fired from the gun to keep the sea beasts at bey. He did not catch fish to persuade Ishmael to sail further into into the sea to get fish. Then he pretended to be stooping for something and suddenly tossed Ishmael into the sea. He compelled Xury to be his faithful and sailed towards the strait’s mouth till Ishmael becomes out of sight.

When the mutineers were returning to the ship, Robinson and the sea captain had no hope of regaining the ship. Robinson, at the spur of the moment, devised a plan to bring them back on land so that they must be defeated. He instructed Friday and the Mate to cry loudly to make them believe that their fellows are calling them. Thus these sea men were drawn deep into the island. He commended his men not to pounce back on them but to wait till they separate themselves into smaller groups.

His plan to protect himself and his squad from the dangerous wolves is also an example of his strategic skills.

Presence of Mind: He was successful in surviving, preserving and protecting himself because of his presence of mind. He never loses his presence of mind in case of any impending danger. It is his presence of mind which enabled him to encounter the cannibals, the mutineers and the wolves.

Religious: Because of his imprisonment for 28 yrs on the island he became religious. He thanked God for saving his life. He surrendered himself to the will of God and accepted the afflictions bestowed upon him. He started reading the Bible regularly. He reformed Friday, a cannibal and made him religious and compassionate.

Pathetic: The character of Crusoe is a pathetic figure. He is a tragic character like King Lear. It appears as if he is more sinned against than sinning. His wander lust is certainly the fatal flaw of his character. In spite of instructions and persuasions from his parents he undertakes a sea faring life. But the suffering caused by his wander lust was intense. First he suffers from slavery and then loneliness at the desolate island. He led a miserable life without any companionship. Though he was delivered from the island but it was a dreadful deliverance.

Supplementary Virtues: Robinson has the quality of winning the hearts of people. He is generous and benevolent. He is imaginative and appreciative of integrity. He did not forget even a little act of kindness. He acknowledges kindness and be kind to others. He returns the amount he received from the captain. The time he becomes a possessor of wealth from his plantation he helps the Spanish captain who was his benefactor. He is considerate towards the poor widow whose husband had done well to him and she herself was a very devoted instructor and steward. He comforted her in her poverty by sending one hundred pounds to her. Further he helps his two sisters by sending one hundred pounds each. He is full of praise for his partner for his integrity and honesty and sends a present of Italian silk for his wife and daughter. He appreciates the honesty of the Prior of St. Augustine and sends a letter of thanks to him. He donates 872 moidores to be given to the poor and the monastery. He also writes letters of thanks to his two trustees and acknowledges their justice and honesty. He desires to see his two nephews settled in their life and spends a lot of money on them. He was quite generous towards those living in the island.

All these acts of generosity abate his acquisitiveness. This large heartedness, benevolence and many other acts redeem him for his sin of neglecting the affection of his parents.


Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is a story of suspense, action and adventure. It is, like Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, a hair-raising anecdote of romance and adventure. But, like Gulliver’s Travels, it is also a book having allegorical touches. It is not merely about the apparent journey of the sea but also an inner voyage--- a voyage to the soul. It has the undertones of Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress in which the hero makes the journey towards God.

We may consider Robinson Crusoe as a religious allegory. On the surface level it is merely a tale of adventure but at the inner plain it is a spiritual quest in which the hero explores his real self and God. We may negate the remark of Virginia Woolf who refutes the presence of God in the novel. Infact God is present in almost every page of the book. It is rightly said that where there is sorrow there is holy ground. The affliction and pain suffered by Crusoe on the secluded island brings about a spiritual awakening in his soul. When Robinson finds himself as a prisoner prisoned “with the eternal bars and bolts of the ocean in an uninhabited wilderness” he seeks God, discovers Him and converses with Him.

The novel appears as a puritan drama of the soul. In the course of action Robinson, the protagonist, fumbles, falls and fails but ultimately comes out triumphant. The island of despair was consequently changed into a heaven of ecstasy. The novel has been taken as a spiritual journey in which the hero explores God. Robinson speaks about blessings of God while leaving for London. He decides not to set his foot on any ship if God spares his life. When his life on the ship was in danger he prays to God: “Lord, be merciful to us.”

The captain and the crew prayed to God. The planters, going to Guinea, commit themselves to God when they faced the danger of ship-wreck. When the ship was stranded but Robinson, somehow, managed to reach the sea-shore, he was thankful to God; “Lord! How was it possible I could get on the shore.” The evidences are enough to prove God’s presence in the novel.

Robinson not only seeks the blessings of God but also makes protest against Him. He complained against the dispensation of God when he landed in the desolate island. When he saw a footprint, all his faith in the mercy of God was shaken. This episode unnerved him so much that he had lost his confidence in the benevolence of God. The fear of becoming a victim of the savages lies so heavy upon his heart that he seldom prays to God. It seems that a peaceful condition is much more needed for prayer than an environment of terror.

Robinson once again complained against the dispensation of God when he saw the cannibals enjoying human flesh. His surrender to the great Providence seemed suspended. When all goes well Robinson not only prays to God but also praises Him and be thankful to Him but when he feels afflicted he protests to God. He challenged the justice of God when he was stranded in the island. But soon he resigns himself to the will of God and accepted the afflictions bestowed upon him. He prays God for saving his life. When he saw plants of barley growing in the wilderness he regards them as gifts of God. But as soon as he remembers that he had shaken a bag of chickens’ feed out in that place, the wonder faded away and his thankfulness to God begins to diminish. He was thankful to God as he was not there on the shore when the cannibals came. But in due course his fear of cannibals tarnished all his religious hope and his confidence in God was shaken. During the course of the novel he feels sincerely thankful to God with all his humility that without the deliverances of God he might have become the victim of the cannibals. But only sometimes earlier he says that all his calm of mind and his resignation to God has seemed to be suspended. He becomes indignant to see the cannibals feasting on human flesh. He invaded the sovereignty of God. But soon he resigns himself to God and expresses his belief in God’s holiness and infinite powers.

In this way it appears that Robinson prays to God according to his convenience. Sometimes he praises God for his benefits but when he feels dissatisfied with the turn of events he finds faults with God. Thus like Milton, Robinson is a unique blend of Puritanism and Renaissance humanism. Like a puritan he justifies the ways of God but when he feels indignant he retorts like Milton’s Satan. When his anger cools down he surrenders to the pain given to him by God.

It seems that he is a believer of the dictum ‘they also serve who stand and wait’. He witnesses the blessedness of God everywhere. He is of the view that God has blessed his life by saving him while all his ten companions were drowned. He feels blessed on the desolate island because he was removed from all the vices of the world. He thinks that he has neither any lust for flesh nor the lust of eye and not even the pride of life.

He was of the opinion that even in his miserable condition he has been soothed with “the knowledge of himself and the hope of his blessing”. His condition was far from being miserable in comparison to others. Thus he feels blessed. Enough has been said to prove that Robinson feels blessed by the mercy of God. So his heart overflows with gratefulness and thankfulness to God.

Almost every page of the novel has the feeling of gratitude. Robinson is thankful to God for not landing him on the other side of the island which is frequented by the cannibals. He was thankful to God for providing him everything in the wilderness. He was thankful to God for his deliverance from the miserable island. The captain, for him, was a man sent from Heaven. Robinson believes that an infinite power can search into the remotest corner of the world. He believes that God sends help to the miserable. These examples are evidence that the novel has the feeling of blessedness, gratefulness and thankfulness to God. As a reader we start believing that a mysterious hand is always there to help the miserable.

As the novel is full of religious and spiritual overtones it is quite natural that there should be awe and mystery to overwhelm the readers. This element of mystery is expressed through prophesies, dreams and other mysterious visions.

Robinson’s father professed that if Robinson takes the foolish step of going to the sea and disobeys his parents he would incur the wrath of God and He will not bless him. In due course this prophecy proved true. The ghost of Julius Caesar pursued Brutus till the end and ruined him. Similarly the prophecy made by Robinson’s father was always hanging like a menace over Robinson and robbed his mental peace.

Robinson’s own dream of fighting with the Cannibals and saving the life of a savage proved true. The riddle of the footprints teases not only Crusoe but also the readers. All these elements have a tinge of the supernatural and create an atmosphere of awe.

Thus the novel has God, Providence, prophesies, dreams and visions. These elements make the novel mysterious, spiritual and religious. Defoe had puritan leanings right from his childhood. He had religion in his blood. He seems to have been a bit ashamed of a mere story teller so he has illuminated the adventure story of Robinson Crusoe with the light of religion and spiritualism.


Sin, punishment, expiation, repentance, remorse and reconciliation ---- all goes hand in glove as an important theme of Robinson Crusoe. The last plays of Shakespeare such as Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest have similar overtones. In these plays of Shakespeare we see the characters committing sin, suffering punishment, repenting and then getting reconciled. It seems as if Defoe has been inspired by these Shakespearean romances.

Robinson commits the sin of disobeying the wishes of his parents and the dictates of God. He meets misfortunes at sea and on the island. He regards these misfortunes as his due punishment and repents for doing wrong. He was ultimately reconciled to the afflictions bestowed upon him by Providence.

SIN: Robinson is obsessed with a passion of wandering abroad and to visit around the world in a ship. He is almost obstinate in his wander lust. His parents urged him not to leave them. His father says that if he goes away for a sea faring life without his consent, God will not bless him. But Robinson ignored all persuasions and entreaties of his parents and ran away to London. Thus he committed sin against God and his parents. He never consulted them nor did he send any word to them. He left them without asking their blessings and the blessings of God.

As soon as his ship began to move a furious sea storm raged and the sea waves rose mountain high. Robinson thought that he is overtaken by the judgment of God for leaving his parents in tears. Robinson was terrified as the ship was about to wreck. He swears that if God spares his life, he will return home and will never make any voyage. But as soon as the weather calms down he forgets all his vows in a bowl of wine. After reaching London again he thought about his return but the sin of hubris overtakes him. He was of the opinion that if he returns home his neighbours will laugh at him. Thus he is responsible for committing the sin of disobedience and hubris.

When he sailed for Guinea for the second time he was imprisoned by the pirates. Whenever he suffered afflictions he reflects and asserts that he is overtaken by nemesis. It is his pride in himself which leads to further adventures and prolonged sorrows. The prophecy of his father turned true when he was rendered from a merchant to a miserable slave. His sin is responsible for his misery without any relief and redemption.

He committed another sin when he was flourishing in Brazil. He abandoned the middle path of life and adheres to his foolish inclination of sea faring. He is sinful that he pursued a rather rash desire of rising faster. He aspired to grow fast and thus he becomes the willful agent of his own miseries.

Once again he becomes hostile to his father’s counsel and could not restrain his rambling design. He regards his casting away on the desolate island as the outcome of his sin. He was of the view that he has lost his right of complaining due to his sin: “I ought not to complain, seeing I had not the due punishment of my sins.”

Repeatedly he recollects his sin of disobedience, pride and immoderate desire. He was of the view that most of human miseries flow from not being satisfied with the station God and Nature had assigned. God had placed Robinson in his plantation business but he committed the sin of challenging the will of God. He regards his ‘opposition to the excellent advice of his father’ as his original sin.

PUNISHMENT: Robinson regarded all his afflictions as punishment for his sin. When his ship, bound for London, is faced with turbulent sea waves and his life was in danger, he believed that he is overtaken by the judgment of Heaven. He realizes that what a punch Heaven has given him for what he is expected if he persists the foolish adventure against the mandate of his father and the will of God. He looked back upon the prophecy made by his father when he became a miserable slave at Sallee. He believed that Heaven has overtaken him and he is undone without redemption. When he has been cast upon the desolate island he feels that he has been punished for his sin: “I had great reason to consider it as a determination of Heaven, that in this desolate place and in this desolate manner I should end my life.”

He feels that he is the author of his own woes because he disregarded the advice of his father who emphasized upon embracing the middle station. The same has been repeated throughout the whole novel.

REPENTANCE: It is only after his punishment that Robinson pondered about sin and repentance. He suffered the most severe kind of affliction of wilderness and loneliness. He cursed the day when he disobeyed his father. He was cast upon a secluded island and was completely cut off from the world and was away from humans. He felt repentant for committing the original sin. He regards himself even worse than the prodigal son for not returning to his father. The feeling of guilt storms upon him and he weeps like a child. He repents not for the original sin only but also for leaving the plantation business.

He shed tears of repentance on the wild and desolate island. Not only that he even reconciled himself to fate and accepted his sufferings as a punishment for his sin. He rather feels that his punishment is less in proportion to his sin as he is blessed with food and other things required for life. Therefore he is thankful to God. The feeling of grief becomes lighter and he rejoiced that he has been brought to this place where he is redeemed. Here he feels no lust of eye or flesh and even no pride. The most dreadful punishment which has been fallen upon him has awakened his conscience. The place of despair was changed into a heaven of ecstasy. He feels so because he started believing that he has been allowed by God to repent and then his repentance has been accepted by God. Thus he spoke: “the redemption of man by the Saviour of the world…..of the gospel preached from heaven, namely, of repentance towards God.”

Binding the thread we may say that Robinson commits the original sin, suffers, is punished, repents and is forgiven and gets reconciled to God. The stern Providence relents and smiles on His bountifulness and magnanimity and the forgiven heart of Robinson Crusoe is grateful to his Saviour.


Robinson Crusoe has been regarded as one of the finest allegorical pieces of English literature. It seems that Defoe was inspired by the great allegories of his time. Allegorical literature was popular in England right from 16th century onwards. Defoe must have read Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and Milton’s Paradise Lost. In the war between God and Satan, Milton visualized his own struggle against Charles 11. The allegory which just preceded Defoe was John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress which is certainly an influence and inspiration behind Robinson Crusoe.

Life has been treated as a voyage of human soul, both in The Pilgrim’s Progress and Robinson Crusoe. Life, in both the novels, is probation and earth is not a goal but the starting point of man. In The Pilgrim’s Progress a pilgrim, who is the human soul, makes his spiritual journey towards the House Beautiful. Likewise Robinson makes his voyage on sea. It is natural that allegorical novels are autobiographical in touch. Dickens in David Copperfield and Great Expectations writes about his own miserable life. Defoe paints his own life in Robinson Crusoe. This does not mean that we should search for every major and minor details of the life of the hero and the writer. Not the circumstances but the essence must be explored. We have to explore the heart of the matter.

G H Mair, while praising Robinson Crusoe and exalting it above The Pilgrim’s Progress, writes: “The Pilgrim’s Progress is begun as an allegory, and so continues for a little space till the story takes hold of the author. But the autobiographical form of fiction in its highest art is the creation of Defoe.”

F B Millet traces close similarities between the life of Defoe and that of Robinson: “in fact, so utterly did he merge himself into Crusoe that, when his work was finished, he came to see in the struggle of the York mariner an allegory of his own toilsome and dangerous experiences of life.”

We can decipher many personal experiences of Defoe in the novel. He had led a miserable life which was full of struggles. He was imprisoned because of his political activities. His wife and children faced starvation when he was in jail. We can feel the undertone of his imprisonment in Robinson’s plight at the lonely island. We can read his being pilloried in the punishments inflicted on Robinson on the desolate island, the punishment of fear and hunger. The feeling of starvation is expressed in a very sentimental manner: “I had a dreadful deliverance. For I was wet, had no clothes to shift me, nor anything either to eat or drink or to comfort me, neither did I see any prospect before me but that of perishing with hunger.”

In Robinson Crusoe human life has been treated as a voyage. This is the reason that its hero suffers from wander lust. Defoe, in the life of Robinson Crusoe, foresees his spiritual development and salvation. Robinson commits the sin of disobedience to his father and God. He also succumbed to the sin of pride, sin of rising faster and the sin of running away from the island of imprisonment. Defoe had suffered punishment, tortures and humiliation. This can also be read in the life of Robinson Crusoe. Robinson is punished with slavery, with imprisonment, and fear on the island. He is made to fear the foot print, the dream in which a man descends from the cloud to kill him with a spear and the cannibals. Moreover he is tormented by loneliness. He longs for the company of humans.

The spiritual salvation of Defoe can be imagined in that of Robinson who repents for his wickedness and sins. He prays to God to allow him to repent. He prays that the penitential tears he sheds for God, should be accepted by Him. He was thankful to God that He enabled him to save the soul of the cannibal, Friday. He thanks God that He had sent him to the island where his redemption became possible. The place of dreadful sufferings becomes a heaven of ecstasy. He was of the view that God has dealt with him bountifully as still there is mercy in store for him. He was, now, no more indignant because he thinks that his punishment is less in proportion than his crime. He believes that only the Providential wonders have brought him his daily needs. He is fed as Elijah was fed by the ravens. He now reconciles himself to the pain given to him and was thankful to God for blessing him. He, like the Bishop of Canterbury in Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, mixes his own will to the will of God. His soul is saved and he received the spiritual salvation he longed for. Thus Robinson Crusoe can also be viewed as a spiritual allegory.

If we interpret Robinson Crusoe philosophically we can see it as an allegory of isolation and alienation. Man’s arrival in and departure from the world is marked with loneliness. Life is an empty dream, only an illusion. No one, in fact, has any kind of belonging to others. Relationships or rather human relationships are mere fancy. Life is a mirage and it slips from our hands like sand. For Shakespeare it is a ‘walking shadow’ and a ‘tale told by an idiot’. Ecstasy, in the world, eludes like horizon. True ecstasy can be sought only in the union with God. The solitary, desolate island of the novel symbolizes this loneliness. The island is also symbolic of alienation. A person feels lonesome even in the midst of large crowd. A person is alienated because he has no one to share his ideas and feelings. Moreover one feels lonely when one falls upon the thorns of life and bleeds. No one comes to balm and sooth the man. When we laugh the whole world laughs with us but when we weep we weep alone. The weeping of Robinson on the lonely island was not heard and seen by any one.

Like Bacon, Defoe was practical and like Locke he was empirical. He was a staunch materialist and believed in amassing wealth. Robinson is a true representative of this trait of Defoe. According to Ian Watt he is an economic individualist and Karl Marx, in Das Capital, regard him a capitalist. Robinson undergoes voyages upon voyages not just because of his passion for adventure but also for economic considerations. He earns quite a lot during his first voyage to Guinea. He had an infinite, immoderate desire for rising higher and rising faster. On the island he collected a lot of money from the stranded ship which cannot do any good to him. He stayed his release from the island just to collect his materials which he had treasured. As a matter of fact Robinson Crusoe displays the art of amassing wealth and it can be read also on this level of material advancement.

The British imperialist forces founded too many colonies all over the world. Robinson appears as a true representative of British imperialism. Robinson treats himself as the king of the island. He is a sort of monarch of all what he surveyed. In his later visit to the island he claims half of the island as his property. The story can be read on this level also.

An allegory is a work of art in which two, sometimes more, implications run on equal terms. One thing stands for the other. It can be read on two levels, the one as it is and the other it stands for. However a symbol is just like the innumerable waves formed when a stone is thrown into the water. Symbolic literature can be deciphered on various levels.

We can read Robinson Crusoe at several levels. It is an autobiographical story, a story of adventure, a religious pilgrimage of the soul, a parable of the prodigal son, a moral treatise, a conquest over nature, a story of material advancement and a tale of colonial expansion.




Definition of novel



Novels displayed in a German bookshop in February 2009.

A novel is a long prose narrative that describes fictional characters and events, usually in the form of a sequential story. The genre has historical roots in antiquity and the fields of medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter, an Italian word used to describe short stories, supplied the present generic English term in the 18th century.

Further definition of the genre is historically difficult. The construction of the narrative, the plot, the relation to reality, the characterization, and the use of language are usually discussed to show a novel's artistic merits. Most of these requirements were introduced to literary prose in the 16th and 17th centuries, in order to give fiction a justification outside the field of factual history.

The historical novel was further popularized in the 19th century by writers classified as Romantics. Many regard Sir Walter Scott as the first to have used this technique, in his novels of Scottish history such as Waverley (1814) and Rob Roy (1818). His Ivanhoe (1820) gains credit for renewing interest in the Middle Ages. Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) furnishes another 19th century example of the romantic-historical novel as does Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. In the United States, Nathaniel Hawthorne and James Fenimore Cooper were prominent.

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KU1717791 181605142711 SHAHEEN MOJAHID English 24
KU1717804 181605142774 SHAILA TAHSEEN English 17
KU1717810 181605142775 SHAKIB ALAM English 24
KU1717838 181605142741 SHAZIA WARSI English 16
KU1717865 181605142688 SHIVANGEE S VERMA English 25
KU1717870 181605142776 SHIWANI PURTY English 22
KU1717877 181605142777 SHREESTI KUMARI English 25
KU1717934 181605142778 SOMYA ADITI English 25
KU1717935 181605142779 SONAL GUPTA English 22
KU1717936 181605142742 SONALI KAR English 25
KU1717938 181605142712 SONALI SINGH English 25
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KU1717963 181605142743 SOURAV KUMAR English 12
KU1717971 181605142744 SOURAV ROY English 21
KU1717992 181605142679 SUBHENDU CHAKRABORTY English 18
KU1718003 181605142745 SUDIPTA SEN English 21
KU1718015 181605142746 SUMAN BANERJEE English 18
KU1718025 181605142713 SUMBUL BANO English 20
KU1718071 181605142747 SURAVI MANDAL English 25
KU1718082 181605142748 SUSHMITA CHATTERJEE English 18
KU1718087 181605142749 SUSHMITA MUKHERJEE English 12
KU1718090 181605142781 SUSMITA SHYAMAL English 20
KU1718094 181605142714 SWATI LAHA English 25
KU1718102 181605142782 SYEDA TANZEELA FATMA English 25
KU1718113 181605142783 TALAT AFREEN English 20
KU1718121 181605142690 TARA KARMAKAR English 12
KU1718182 181605142784 VIPUL KUMAR English 1
KU1718208 181605142715 VISHAL SHUKLA English 25
KU1718211 181605142691 VISHWAKARMA KUMAR English 13
KU1718215 181605142785 VIVEK DUTTA English 19
KU1718240 181605142716 ZEENAT MUKTAR English 20
KU1720535 181605142698 CHANCHAL GUPTA English 20
KU1720536 181605142699 DEWLA SOREN English 14
KU1720537 181605142686 MD EZAZ ALI English 12
KU1722135 181605142740 SAMREEN KHAN English 25
Wednesday, 30 May 2018 14:43

Saket Kumar

Date of Birth                           : 17-07-1991

Designation                                : Faculty, Department of English, Karim City College

Date of Joining (on Adhoc)       : 05-09-2017

Teaching Experience                : 1 year 6 months

Highest Qualification               : MA (English)

Areas of Interest                       : Literary History, Fiction and Indian Literature

Area of Specialisation              : History of English Literature

Academic Achievements:                   

First Class in B.A. (Hons.) English


Presented a paper entitled Theme of Partition and Human Values in Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan in the UGC Sponsored National Seminar “Remapping History and (Con)Textualising Literature: The Tragedy of Partition and the Fictional Narratives of Indian Subcontinent” at Karim City College, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, 26th-28th November, 2016.


Research Paper (with ISBN Number):

The Paper presented in Seminar published in Remapping History and (Con)Textualising Literature: The Tragedy of Partition and the Fictional Narratives of Indian Subcontinent (ISBN: 978-93-87281-82-0).

Saturday, 05 May 2018 22:16

National Para Badminton Champianship




2nd National Para Badminton Champianship 2018

Participation held at Banaras

23rd - 25th March 2018


Prashant Kumar




Friday, 04 May 2018 09:54

Alumni Membership Form

Friday, 16 March 2018 17:40

5th Youth Fest KU, Day 2

1st Prize in One Act Play

Friday, 16 March 2018 17:38

5th Youth Fest KU, Day 1

1st Prize in Debate

1st Prize in Mime

2nd Prize in Poster Competition


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