The 18th century, also called “Augustan”, had been a golden age for England, because during this period of political stability, we can see the development of the arts and the birth of new cultural movement: the most important was the Enlightenment, that introduced a materialist vision of the society, in which people believed in the power of the reason.
From the literary point of view, this period is characterized by the rise of the novel, a type of work written in prose, which tells stories close to the everyday life. The protagonists of novels aren’t heroes anymore, but they’re common people, generally from the Middle class (they often were merchants). They had ordinary names and surnames, to give more realism to the story.
Sometimes the protagonist were a picar, or rather a simple and humble person.
The language is very simple: it’s similar to the newspapers’ one, in fact, everybody could understand it; authors decided to use a common language because they wanted that all people would read their works.
The stories develop in outdoor places: in fact, novels usually are travel books, like for example the “Gulliver’s travels”.
Another important feature of the novel is the realism: the stories had to be plausible, and for this reason the characters were ordinary people, and the plot and the story always coincide. The realism was used by authors to involve the readers; in fact, the aim of the novel was (that) readers could identify himself with the protagonist of the story.
Novels usually had an episodic structure: at the beginning, novels were published in newspaper, divided into episodes; later, they were collected and published as unitary works. Still today, if we read a novel of this period, we can divide it into independent episode. Every episode could be read independently from the others: this allowed authors to earn more because even if a reader didn’t read some stories, this fact wouldn’t prevent him from continuing with the reading of the work.
The episodic structure was made through the diary-like form or the epistolary one.
Daniel Defoe was an important English writer; he was from the Middle class, and at the beginning he was a journalist; then, when the episodes of Robinson Crusoe were collected, he became a professional writer.
Daniel Defoe’s most important work is Robinson Crusoe; it is a novel, whose name is the same of the protagonist (to give more realism).
He was a realistic character, but he could be compared with an antihero, because he first thought to himself than to other people, differently from the classic heroes.
According with the Enlightenment, Robinson used the reason to solve his problems, for example when he shipwrecked in the island.