- a) Social changes in Britain led to an increase in the women leaders because of the following reasons:
- The eighteenth century saw the middle classes becoming more prosperous and hence women had more free time to read as well as write novels.
- Novels had begun to explore the world of women. Their problems, their dilemmas, their identity began to feature in stories. Many novels had the theme of domestic life.
- Novels like Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ and Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ gave women a different perspective of their lives and encouraged them to be contemplative and assertive about their role in the society.
- b) The character Robinson Crusoe represent a colonial mindset because:
- He is shown as a slave trader who, when his ship is wrecked on an island, treats the local coloured people as inferior and primitive creatures.
- The rescued native is made a slave in the story and Crusoe takes it upon himself the task of ‘civilising’ him.
- c) After 1740, the readership of novels began to include the poorer people because:
- The circulation of books improved after the introduction of circulating libraries in 1740.
- Also, technological improvements made them more affordable and accessible to the poor.
- Many publishers in France also started hiring out novels by the hour.
- Unlike other literary forms, novels were many times about ordinary people. They gave a voice to the resentment amongst the poor against industrial capitalism, e.g., Charles Dickens’s ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Hard Times’.
- d) Novelists on colonial India wrote for a political cause because:
- In colonial India, novels were an important avenue voicing one’s political opinions and discontent against British government.
- Through novels, many social reformers, liberal ideologues and writers tried to fight against social evils like caste discrimination, sati, etc.
- Novels like Bankim Chandra’s ‘Anandmath’ and Bhudeb Mukhopadhyay’s ‘Amiguriya Binimoy’ were specifically aimed at revising the colonial image of Indians as a weak race with no past glory or cultural heritage.
- With constant repression emanating from the British colonial apparatus, novels were a relatively safe instrument of political mobilization of the masses. It proved to be an especially effective tool of political action. The novel ‘Anandmath’ actually inspired many to join the freedom movement.
- Use of print technology significantly increased the affordability, accessibility and readership of the novel.
- Improved means of communication like railways increased connectivity and therefore availability and readership.
- Improvement in print technology cut down the production costs and hence brought down book prices further.
- Novels like Charles Dickens’s ‘Hard Times’ and ‘Oliver Twist’ and Emile Zola’s ‘Germinal’ dealt with the themes that were more familiar with the common people. As Europe had entered into the industrial age, the lives of workers in the cities had become a major issue. Their terrible working and living conditions were a matter of great debate and discussion and hence featured in literature. As a result, the readership of such literature, especially novels, increased manifold.
- Eighteenth century saw the rise of the middle class. As a result of economic betterment, women had more time on their hands. As a result, many women had the time to read and many of them also took to writing, e.g., Jane Austen, George Elliot, Charlotte Bronte etc. As a result of this changed social reality, many novels diversified into newer themes like women’s issues and problems, love stories, etc. All these factors increased the readership of novels manifold.
- Since these were times of colonial exploration and expansion, historical adventure novels showing white characters exploring and conquering news lands were seen as celebrating ‘English courage’ and hence were sold like hot cakes.
- a) The Oriya Novel:
- Rama Shankar Ray’s attempts at serialization of his novel ‘Saudamani’ could not be completed.
- Fakir Mohon Senapati, writer of ‘Chaa Mana Atha Guntha’, was the first major Oriya novelist.
- The Oriya novel is often remembered for its trailblazing work on rural issues of land, its possession and power relations related to it.
- The Oriya novel is known for having amalgamated rural issues with urban preoccupations.
- b) Jane Austen’s portrayal of women:
- Jane Austen delved on the lives of women in rural Britain in the 19th century.
- Her novels often portray English women as preoccupied with marriage and money. However, this is an exaggerated portrayal meant for sarcastic effect.
- It compelled people to reflect on the prejudices of men regarding women’s position in the society.
- c) The picture of the new middle class which the novelPariksha-Guruportrays:
- Pariksha Guru was a novel written by Srinivas Das and it reflected on the inner conflicts of the Indian middle class regarding adoption of a more westernized and colonial concept of life and the same time preserving its own cultural heritage.
- In the novel, the characters often make attempts to make peace about their dilemma of choice between western sciences and Indian transcendental wisdom.
- The novel preached the message to the middle class regarding adopting new farming technologies and trading practices. But at the same time, it also warned them against sacrificing traditional middle class values.
Britain entered the industrial age in 19th century. This kicked off many social, political, economic and cultural changes and this naturally for reflected in literature of the time. The novels of Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens are reflective of these in terms of rural and urban settings respectively.
- Through his novel, ‘Mayor of Casterbridge’, Hardy delves on the topic of the ‘new order’ in England, and its effects on the rural power structures and cultural phenomenon.
- It showed that the mechanization and commercialization of agriculture had led to destruction of the old rural culture which once had the independent farmer at its centre.
- The effect of these processes on the power structure and social aspirations of rural society figured majorly in Thomas Hardy’s work.
- Charles Dickens, through his renowned works like ‘Hard Times’, ‘Pickwick Papers’ and ‘Oliver Twist’ tried to show the underbelly of industrial capitalism in the urban setting and its effects on the English society.
- He tried to drive home the point through his narratives that in its fascination with profits, the English society had become insensitive to the value of human life, and especially that of the worker.
- He emphasised that workers’ identities were merely reduced to them being called ‘hands’ and this was a blot on the society’s conscience.
As novels began exploring themes that were directly related to women’s issues and their identity and place in the society, the readership of such novels among women increased manifold. This was met with apprehension and opposition by the conservative elements of society in both Europe as well as India:
- It was felt that after reading such literature, women would forget their traditional duties with regards to the society, the family and the husband and ignore their responsibilities.
- There was hyperbole that if women were allowed to read and follow their intent, they would become assertive, independent. This, many argued would lead to a reversal of roles in the household wherein the women would neglect their duties as wives and mothers and the institution of family would be in complete disorder.
- Some Tamil essays in India went to the extent of suggesting that if women touched novels, their lives would be ruined, they would suffer from ailments and be despised by their dear ones.
- These and other concerns of the society about women reading novels suggest that traditionally both European and Indian society saw women as easily corruptible and that they did not have any place in the public sphere of the society. Ideally, they should have been passive, obedient to the wishes of men in the family and aware of their place.
The novel in colonial India was useful for both the colonizers as well as the nationalists because:
- The colonialists did not necessarily have a realistic understanding of the Indian society and family life, their customs, traditions and institutions. This made administration and policy formation difficult wherein the British often had to reinterpret policy doctrines to more realistic concerns.
- However, the Indian novel proved to be an important source of information for the British government. The Indian novel, in its due course of time, began reflecting the social realities and concerns of the Indian populace at large. As a result, their study proved beneficial for the British.
- Under its garb, the colonizers could proclaim that they had a working understanding of Indian society and hence were justified in their steps to ‘civilize’ the native.
- Novels also helped the nationalists in the sense that the novel provided with the opportunity to reflect on the Indian national identity, its problems, and the challenges ahead.
- Indian novels developed a new literature that helped forged a new national identity, a sense of national belonging and a cultural heritage to be proud of.
- Historical novels like ‘Anuriya Binimoy’ helped encourage a sense of national identity and gave Indians the chance to express their fantastical aspirations. The glorification of India’s past in this manner helped people see that they were one nation and had much to be proud about.
- Novels written by Premchand and Rabindranath Tagore argued for women’s emancipation and helped bring the women in India into the mainstream of the national movement.
- Novels helped the nationalists in the task of highlighting the social and cultural evils in the Indian society. It also roused them to come over these societal shortcomings and rise to the task of society building and attainment of political independence.
Following are the ways in which the issue of caste was included in novels in India:
- The novel ‘Indulekha’ by Chandu Menon was a love story. However, it really dealt with the issue of the marriage practices amongst Hindu Nambuthiri Brahmins and Nayars, who were usually their tenants. The Nambuthiri Brahmins often sought to marry Nayar women. However, in ‘Indulekha’, the female protagonist chooses a educated and intelligent Nayarman as a groom rather than an immoral Nambuthiri Brahmin. In effect, the novel sought to reflect on and present a solution to the upper caste oppression effected through laws and social customs regarding marriage and property.
- Munshi Premchand’s famous novel ‘Rangabhoomi’ has a visually impaired untouchable beggar named Surdas as its protagonist. The very fact that the writer chose such a character from the untouchable caste background as the hero of the story is significant. Through this particular novel, as in many others by Premchand, there is a conscious effort to put into focus the travails of the most marignalised and oppressed section of the society – the so called untouchable castes. The novel also poses some pertinent questions about industrialization, commercialization of agriculture and the power structure within the Indian society.
Following are the ways in which the novels in India attempted to create a sense of pan-Indian belonging:
- The colonial administration often indulged in propaganda that depicted the Indian nation as weak, uncivilized and primitive. They also depicted the social chasms in Indian society in hyperbole. This was done in particular to keep the Indian morale low and to divide the Indians in order to maintain the colonial domination over them.
- However, the new novels that came up in India after the onset of the introduction of print technology tried to portray an India which wasn’t divided and rather had a glorious shared past. This streak of revivalism saw to project India’s past as adventurous and self-sufficient.
- An example of this was Bhudeb Mukhopadhyay’s ‘Anuriya Binimoy’, which sought to view Shivaji as a hero of the nation who stood up against tyranny.
- Novels like Bhankim Chandra’s ‘Anandmath’ depicted India’s past as that of glory and rebellion. This in turn inspired many nationalists to participate in the struggle against British colonialism.
- Premchand’s novels are also known to have brought together various elements in rural society. His novels like ‘Godan’, ‘Sewasadan’ and ‘Rangbhoomi’ painted a realistic yet romantic image of the village and hence gave its readers a sense of belonging with the rural setting.
- There were many other novels which tried to deal with the idea of nation and the concept of nationalism and had themes of social reform in their content. By delving into such issues, novelists sought to generate reflection on these topics and hence contributed to the development of a pan-Indian identity.