The Twentieth Century Novel: Briefly Discuss

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Dominance of the Novel in Twentieth Century Literature

      In the twentieth century, novels became the dominant literary form in English. It is a very popular literary genre in the modern age. The film, the radio and the T.V. are gaining popularity but novel is the only literary form which competes with them. The modern novelists can claim its importance with enthusiastic response. In the Restoration period, the new comedy by Congreve and Dryden was received with applause; in Victorian age the poet laureate, Lord Tennyson's newly published poems were admired and believed to add great luster to the English literature.

      In the twentieth century, the novel has held the supreme place in the realm of literature, while poetry has lost its position. The change from poetry to novel meets the needs of the modern world. To a semi-educated modern taste, prose fiction was (and still is) more palatable than poetry, which is a more sophisticated taste, while, by its nature, it is more accessible to the masses than drama is. In addition, the novel is admirably suited as a vehicle for the sociological studies which attracted most of the great artists of the period. Aldous Huxley; D.H. Lawrence, and James Joyce were all poets but they have changed from poetry to fiction; their permanent reputation is likely to rest on their novels. We may quote the examples of other fiction writers, Edith Setwil and Virginia Woolf, who have enriched fiction by bringing to it some of the luminous insight of poetry. They were poets but diverted their attention to fiction. Virginia's To The Lighthouse, Orlando and The Waves are experiments which have a strong influence over the poetry and drama and which were treated as the richest genre of English literature. Right from Chaucer to the Victorian age, poetry and drama have played a dominating role.

      The novel in the twentieth century has gained an undoubted ascendancy over all other literary forms, an ascendancy it has maintained until very recent years. Its growing importance has been accompanied by serious study of the art of the novelist and, from a technical point of view, the progress of novel throughout the century, is unequaled in all its previous history.

Characterization in the Twentieth Century Novels

      The nineteenth-century characters do not develop, they are called round, characters. The novelist does not depict unimportant modifications that is, they remain as they are, from the beginning to the end. All the important characters of 19th century literature. Heathcliff, Micawber, Uriah Heep, Amelia Sedley, Fred Bayham, Mr. Proudie remain unchanged. Mrs. Micawber is a very important character of the 19th century. We find her, saying at the end, what she had said in the beginning. In this sense 19th century characters are static, not dynamic. Thus, the chief concern of 19th-century novelists was to create memorable characters, to pursue a moral or to be based on a tale but the modern novelist's objective is to portray the characters realistically or as they are. In this process, he makes a psychological research, in other words, reveals the character from within, dissects his mind and soul; and in conducting this research, they infer that human being is a complex creature, not a simple and innocent one. Man is made of both, virtues and vices. According to Psychology, man is like a river, running sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes clear or turbid; he presents a different format every moment. For instance the Victorian age Women, in the modern novel, are treated as virtues or the reverse, made of golden clay; present savagery or sunlight. Now it is obvious that, on account of the complexities of human personality, the novelist can not portray character in a straightforward manner or as a simple memorable creature. He can not let him be free to act in accordance with the predictions. Thus, the modern characters, being ordinary and analyzed from within, do not enjoy the reputation of being memorable characters.

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