The Ancestors: The immediate ancestors of the modern English novel, who dominated the earlier part of the 20th century, were Wells, Bennet, Conrad, Kipling and Forster.
(i) Herbert George Wells (1866-1946): Most intellectual, looked upon as a teacher, prophet, guide, revolutionary, insisted in discarding the classical humanism in favour of science and biology and replacement of Latin and Greek by World History, no respect for accepted conventions, untouched by sentiments, no loyalty to the past.
Three divisions: He wrote:
Scientific romance --- unrivalled, masterpieces of imaginative power, look at life from distant point.
- The Time Machine (1895)
Islandand Dr. Moreau (1896)
- The War of the Worlds’ (1898): Theme of the invasion of Earth by Mars.
- When the Sleeper Wakes (1899)
- The First Man in the Moon (1901)
- The Food of the Gods (1904)
Domestic novels --- Thoroughly familiar with the life.
- Kipps (1905): Comedy of class instincts, full of satire and humour.
- Tono Bungay (1909): Disintegration of English society, advent in new class, a satire on commercial advertising.
- Anna Veronica (1909): Study of modern young woman.
- Love and Mrs. Lewisham (1910)
- The History of Mr. Polly (1910): Realistic, humorous, sympathetic studies of lower class.
Sociological novels --- social problems confronting the men of his time
- The New Machiavelli (1911): Story of political and sociological creeds.
- Mr. Britling sees it Through (1916): Reaction of people to World War I.
- The Undying fire (1919): Religious and satiric fantasy.
- Mr. Blettsworthy on
(1928) Rampole Island
- The Autocracy of Mr. Parham (1930): An attack on capitalism.
Greatest weakness: Too much scientific minded, lacked spiritual wisdom.
His Aim: To record life, its delights, indignation and distress.
His Novels: An instrument of moral and social reforms, compelled to select relevant and significant things and reject irrelevant and insignificant to determine the nature of his picture of life, delightful style, characters spend their times in the Staffordshire pottery towns.
Spectacle of life: Not drab or diseased, sweet, exquisite, blissful, melancholy. Never regrets at the loss of its glamour, find grandeur in the modern life.
Background: Social and historical with considerable skill.
Three most popular novels: Novels of people in drab surroundings
- The Old Wives’ Tale (1908)
- Clayhanger (1910)
- Riceyman Steps (1923)
- Buried alive (1908): first rate humorous character novel
- The Card (1911): first rate humorous character novel.
- The Grand Babylon Hotel (1902): Good entertainment.
(iii) Henry James (1843-1916): Untouched of the pessimism of the age.
Characters: No background, move from country to country, emphasis is more on their mental and emotional reactions.
Main Contribution: Use of narrative at second hand.
- The Europeans (1897): Clash between the American and European mind.
- What Masie Knew (1897): Introduction of modern society devoid of sentiment.
- The Golden Bowl (1905): Psychological complications.
- The Spoil of Poynton and The Sense of the Past: Love for antique.
(iv) Joseph Conrad (1857-1924): Wrote an exquisite English, lover of fellow creatures, a sailor, developed the plots through a third person making the voice and personality of the narrator extremely suggestive apart from the story.
Influenced: Henry James: Artistic rectitude, psychological subtlety.
Flaubert & Maupassant: French novelist, attitude of detachment, acute observation of environment.
Turgenev & Dostoevsky: Composition outlook, love for portraying characters who are in conflict with themselves, frustrated by their own passions and impulses.
Themes: Transcend temporary and material interests, scorned to expose social abuses or to laugh at social prejudice.
Characters: Strange people beset by obsession of cowardice, egoism or vanity, not refined or fashionable, slave to their own habits, tormented souls, border on tragedy.
Merit: Lies in his descriptive power that provides touch of realism, exhibits great ideals of impartiality, practical wisdom, sense of fitness and freedom from sentimentality.
- The Nigger of the Narcissus (1898)
- Lord Jim (1900)
- Typhoon (1902)
- Nostromo (1904)
These novels cover an immense range of human activities, man’s conflict with internal sea, avarice for fabulous wealth in mine, tribal wars between savages.
- Almayar’s folly (1895)
- Heart of Darkness (1902)
- The Secret Agent (1907)
- Under Western Eyes (1911)
(v) Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936): Admired as the strong brave, silent man, slightly wistful admiration of the intellectual, knowledge was superficial, excellent techniques and rich in vocabulary.
Derivation of material: From experiences in
- The Light that Failed (1890): Artist---gone blind and lost his love.
- The Naulakha (1892): Morality, woman’s place in the home.
- Captain Courageous (1897): Story of a miserable dull boy.
- Kim (1901): Well-defined central character travelling through circumstances towards a goal.
(vi) John Galsworthy (1867-1933): Belong to upper class so find it easy to describe the life of inherited wealth, a reformer, true artist, dramatist, man of generous impulses.
Function of literature: To reform society.
Theme: Balance between opposed ideas or between characters with opposite tenderness, found in his novels collectively called The Forsyte Saga.
- The Man of Property (1906): Balance between mechanical mind of Soames Forsyte and the impulsive Irene.
- The Country House (1907): Balance between imaginative Squire and his perspective, compassionate wife.
- Fraternity (1909) and The Patrician (1919): Balance between the tolerant and the advocates of ‘an eye for an eye’.
Later novels: First World War changed his attitude, lost sympathy with young, restless, trouble spirits.
- In Chancery (1920)
- To Let (1921)
- The White Monkey (1924)
- The Silver Spoon (1931)
Pioneer, humanist replaced by moralist and disciplinarian pillar of institutions, criticized his earlier days.
(vii) E.M.Forster (1879-1970): Belong to group of elder novelist, moralist, belonged to the tradition of cultural liberalism, admired in early years but later become generally reflective.
Aim of the civilized life: To enhance the quality of personal relation not by pomp and power and aggressiveness but by gentle and quiescent qualities.
Characters: Ordinary persons of middle-class life, moved by accidents.
Characteristics: Conflict between good and evil, between cruel, philistine & unperceiving and the good which is lively, entertaining and sensitive. Humorous development with the combination of body and spirit, reason and emotion, work and play, architecture and scenery, laughter and seriousness. Extraordinary lightness of touch and sensitive spirit, never weak or sentimental, unexpected and sudden death of the characters, distinctions between civilized and barbarism.
- A Passage to
(1924): Gives genuine picture of Indians and English during the British rule, personal relations, barriers of civilization---race, creed and caste. India
- When Angles Feared to Tread (1905): Contrast between two cultures---English and Italian, contrast between two Italian cultures---idealistic and practical.
- In the Longest Journey (1907): Contrast, friendship, unhappy marriage, falsehood and sham, and of good life.
- A Room with a View (1908): Contrast between self-understanding and self-deception, morality play.
- Howard’s End (1910): Contrast between civilized and uncivilized, great variety in incident and character, a symbol of plea that civilization depends on the people gifted with insight and understanding.