A novel is a fictional story of considerable length written in the vernacular of the author. A novel has a plot that is unfolded by the actions, speech, and thoughts of the characters. The term novel is derived from the word novella. There are three main types of novels; the picaresque novel, the historical novel, and the naturalistic novel. In a picaresque novel the protagonist has a series of episodic adventures in which he or she sees the much of the world and then comments satirically upon it. A historical novel is a novel that embraces not only romance but also works that strive to convey the essence of life in a certain time and place. A naturalistic novel studies the effect of heredity and the environment on human beings. Novels force mankind to examine truth, meaning, and values in five forms. The five forms are inner conflict, conscious conflict, social conflict, human conflict, and spiritual conflict (Seltzer 3). "By shaping experience as only it can, the novel becomes itself one of our most essential experiences because it provides the insight, intelligence, and coherence which life alone never offers. Man therefore uses the novel to learn more about his own life-and this is true whether he's writing one or reading one" (Seltzer 1). It is easier for a novel to define a human than it is for a human to define a novel. Novels are about life. The two are codependent.
The modern novel did not appear until after The Enlightenment. During the periods of the 17th and 18th centuries, people were beginning to open up to the ideas of God, reason, nature, and man. This led to the revolutionary development in art philosophy, and politics. With the flow of new ideas came the flow of literary work. The English novel was forced to appear in the 18th century due to the fact that more people could read and had money to spend on literature (Taormina 1). 18th century novelists include Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, and Jane Austin. Defoe was sometimes called the founder of the modern English novel (Taormina 1). He wrote Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1722). Samuel Richardson wrote many novels. Most of them dealt with moral issues and women. Jane Austen wrote many novels that are still very popular today. "Although she is not an 18th century novelist, Austen has more in common with the novelists of the 18th century than she does with the novelists of the early 19th century. She was the greatest English novelist of manners" (Taormina 2). She wrote Pride and Prejudice (c. 1812) and Emma (1816).
Women and the Novel
When most people think of a novel written by a woman they think of a long drawn out romance story. While there is nothing wrong with a long drawn out romance story; it is stereotypical to put female writers into the romance box. The history of the novel wouldn't be complete without the question of gender. Nothing ever really is complete without a distinction between male or female. Diane Long Hoeveler asks the question, "Can the history of the novel be rewritten so that women writers are given their proper status even though, for the most part, women produced works that have been largely denigrated or buried by historians of the novel?" (Hoeveler 1).
- Long Hoeveler, Diane. "Women and Novelistic Authority. "Academic Search Premier Winter 2004, Vol. 36, Issue 4.
- Seltzer, Alvin. Chaos in the Novel, the Novel in Chaos. New York: Shocken Books, 1974
- Taormina, Agatha. "Origins of The Novel." 2005. 10 Feb. 2006.