Henry Fielding's Achievements on English Novel

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      It has been rightly remarked that, though Defoe and Richardson had been writing novels before Fielding, it was Fielding who gave, to the novel, its proper shape. His achievement and influence on the future of the English novel is important.

      Fielding removed the novel from the world of romance and planted it firmly on the earth by making it an instrument of social criticism. He brought a healthy moral vision which made it possible to make the range of the novel wide.

      For the first time in the history of the English novel, Fielding brought a sense of the importance of plot-construction. He looked at the novel as requiring a well-designed form. Before Fielding, plot did not hold much importance for novelist. The attempt to give a fine classical shape and design to the novel is manifest in later novelists like Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Henry James and Joseph Conrad.

      Fielding brought realism to the art of characterization. In spite of the fact that most of his characters are 'flat' rather than 'round', i. e. simple and not complex, they come out alive on the pages of his novels. It is so, because of the keen observation which Fielding brought to the delineation of characters. He embodied, in his characters, universal human traits. Harold Child observes:

      "Fielding, a master of the philosophical study of character, founded the novel of character and raised it to a degree of merit which is not likely to be surpassed."

      Fielding realized the importance of providing his characters with natural and vivid dialogues. He uses dialogue both for the unraveling of the action and the revelation of character.

      Fielding removed the solemnity and gravity which had hitherto accompanied the novel. Richardson had been incapable of expressing a pure sense of humor. Fielding brought a lively and healthy as well as robust sense of humor to the English novel. Fielding's achievement as a humorist influenced later novelists such as Jane Austen, Dickens, and Thackeray.

      Fielding's achievement also lay in his consideration of the problem of geography in the novels. He points to the position which nature might occupy in the future novel.

      In Fielding, the novelist becomes, for the first time, what a modem writer has called "the true historian of his own times", and by implication, its critic.

      There is an enormous range of suggestions in his works. His literary creation is so rich that "almost every kind of novel exists, potentially, in his four novel." The novel of character, of situation, of plot, the novel of intrigue and adventure, are all present in their basic element in Fielding's novels.

      Three main regions in which Fielding influenced the future of the English novel were plot, characterization, and the comic sense. His characters like Parson Adams, Mrs. Slipslop, Squire Western, etc., influenced later novelists. The characteristic plot of the nineteenth century, with missing heirs and mistaken identity, derives a great deal from Fielding's plots. His comic sense has clearly remained an indispensable part of the English novel. Jane Austen learned from Fielding the art of plot-construction as well as the description of daily life and manners. Thackeray especially shows Fielding's skill in penetrating below the smooth veneer of sophistication to the reality of human nature. Meredith re-awakened the spirit of intellectual comedy as found in the writings of Fielding.

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