The Novel is a long prose narrative of 50,000-100,000 words or more, dramatizing a major character’s experiences. Prose narratives, legends, fables and tales were written and circulated from the earliest times, but serious development of the novel started in 18th century England with the rise of the mercantile middle class. The modern novel as we know it came into being during the Victorian period (1832 – 1901), which is often called the “Age of the Novel” because the writers used realism in their novels and presented all the complexities of everyday life. Henry Fielding defined the novel as “a comic, epic romance in prose.” Comic implies humor, wit and a happy resolution; epic implies a hero who reflects the culture and aspirations of his nation; romance implies amorous and heroic adventures; and prose implies philosophic writing that is not verse.
Novels Often Nominated As The Greatest:
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Ulysses by James Joyce
Novel Forms: There is no clear line between the different forms of the novel. For instance, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is both a gothic novel and a prose romance.
- Picaresque/Episodic- plot is a series of episodes usually satiric in aim. Examples: Mark Twain’s The Adventure of Tom Sawyer; Miguel Cervantes’ Don Quixote
- The Novel of Incident- episodic but more centralized; focus is on what the character will do and how the story will work out. Examples: Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders
- The Novel of Character- focuses on the character’s motive and how he as a person will turn out. Example: Samuel Richardson’s Pamela.
- Epistolary- narrative is carried forward by letters. Example: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
- The Prose Romance- deploys simplified characters, usually discriminated between heroes and villains; plot emphasizes adventure such as a quest for an ideal, the pursuit of an enemy, or the achievement of hopes and dreams. Examples: Walter Scott’s Rob Roy, Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights
- Realistic Romance- similar to Prose Romance but more realistic in nature. Examples: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, George Eliot’s Middlemarch
- Historical Novel- combines historical facts with imagination. Example: Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities
- Gothic Novel- stories with mysterious settings and an atmosphere of gloom and terror. Example: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
- Detective Novel- a mystery; often with a recurring central character. Examples: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series, Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody series
- Newgate Novel/True Crime- novelization of true crimes. Example: Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.
- Fantasy novel – contains elements of magic and/or mythology. Example: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
- Science Fiction – usually a futuristic story, may be light and adventurous or serious and satiric. Example: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World