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The English novel was essentially bourgeois in its origin and throughout the 18th and the 19th
centuries it was firmly anchored in a social world with the gain or loss of social status as its
favourite theme. The novelist used to make digressions, adress the reader, comment on his own
performance: he was expected to mediate between his characters and the reader, relating in a
more or less objective way significant events and incidents in chronological order.
Naturalism brought nothing new from this point of view and the structure of the novel remained
basically unaltered till the second decade of the 20th century when there was the shift from the
Victorian to the modern novel.
This change was characterised by a gradual but substantial transformation of British society, which
in a few years passed from the comfortable, prosperous world of the Victorians to the inter-war-
years marked by unrest and ferment.
This new “realism”, influenced by French and Russian writers (Marcel Proust, Dostoevsky,

Tolstoy) tended to shift from society to man, regarded as a limited creature.
Two other factors contributed to producing the modern novel: the new concept of time and the
new theory of the unconscious deriving from the Freudian influence.
The novelist rejected omniscient narration and experimented new methods to portray the individual consciousness.
If the distinction between past and present was almost meaningless in psychological terms, then
there was no use in building a well structured plot, in leading a character through a well arranged
chronological sequence of events. It was not necessarily the passing of time that revealed the
truth about characters. It might unfold in the course of a single day, as in James Joyce’s Ulysses
and in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, by observing the character performing a common action, or
by what Joyce called ‘epiphany , that is the sudden revelation of an interior reality caused by the
most trivial events of everyday life.
The stream of consciousness technique or the interior monologue was introduced to reproduce
the uninterrupted flow of thoughts, sensations,memories, associations and emotions in a flux of
word, ideas and images quite similar to the mind’s activity.
It is possible to distinguish at least three groups of novelists of the first decades of the present
century.
• The first group consists of the psychological novelists who concentrated their attention on the development of the character’s mind and on human relationships. The most important are:
Joseph Conrad, whose novels try to go beyond the surface of external phenomena in order to record the mystery of human experience;
D.H.Lawrence, who centred his work on the inner conflicts of working-class people, and the liberating function of sexuality.

• The second group includes the Modernist novelists, who chose subjective narrative techniques, exploring the mind of one or more characters, like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.

• The social and political problems of the Thirties forced the writers’ attention back to the society around them.
The most important writer is George Orwell.
The English novel was essentially bourgeois in its origin and throughout the 18th and the 19th
centuries it was firmly anchored in a social world with the gain or loss of social status as its
favourite theme. The novelist used to make digressions, adress the reader, comment on his own
performance: he was expected to mediate between his characters and the reader, relating in a
more or less objective way significant events and incidents in chronological order.

Naturalism brought nothing new from this point of view and the structure of the novel remained
basically unaltered till the second decade of the 20th century when there was the shift from the
Victorian to the modern novel.
This change was characterised by a gradual but substantial transformation of British society, which
in a few years passed from the comfortable, prosperous world of the Victorians to the inter-war-
years marked by unrest and ferment.
This new “realism”, influenced by French and Russian writers (Marcel Proust, Dostoevsky,
Tolstoy) tended to shift from society to man, regarded as a limited creature.
Two other factors contributed to producing the modern novel: the new concept of time and the
new theory of the unconscious deriving from the Freudian influence.

The novelist rejected omniscient narration and experimented new methods to portray the individual consciousness.
If the distinction between past and present was almost meaningless in psychological terms, then
there was no use in building a well structured plot, in leading a character through a well arranged
chronological sequence of events. It was not necessarily the passing of time that revealed the
truth about characters. It might unfold in the course of a single day, as in James Joyce’s Ulysses
and in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, by observing the character performing a common action, or
by what Joyce called ‘epiphany , that is the sudden revelation of an interior reality caused by the
most trivial events of everyday life.
The stream of consciousness technique or the interior monologue was introduced to reproduce
the uninterrupted flow of thoughts, sensations,memories, associations and emotions in a flux of
word, ideas and images quite similar to the mind’s activity.
It is possible to distinguish at least three groups of novelists of the first decades of the present
century.
• The first group consists of the psychological novelists who concentrated their attention on the development of the character’s mind and on human relationships. The most important are:
Joseph Conrad, whose novels try to go beyond the surface of external phenomena in order to record the mystery of human experience;
D.H.Lawrence, who centred his work on the inner conflicts of working-class people, and the liberating function of sexuality.

• The second group includes the Modernist novelists, who chose subjective narrative techniques, exploring the mind of one or more characters, like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.

• The social and political problems of the Thirties forced the writers’ attention back to the society around them.

The most important writer is George Orwell.

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