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The Novel

Components of the novel.

In a novel, two main levels are identified: one consists of the basic events or actions, together with the characters who perform the actions and the circumstances in which they are performed. This level is the story, or fabula. The other level comprises the techniques and devices used for mediating the story to the reader, the narration. In other words, one thing is the tale itself, one thing is the manner in which it is told. The main components of a novel are:

1)Plot – which must be confused with the story – is the design of a novel, and includes the story as well as the action, the language and the imagery: in other words, it is the way an author chooses to present the story.
A very important part of the plot is the sequencing, i.e. the order in which information is presented. A writer can choose a chronological criterion and present the events in the order in which they happen in the story. Modern fiction tends to use other techniques, like introducing events in medias res: the narration begins half way through the story, so that certain things are taken for granted or the reader discovers them while reading. Alternatively, the narration may begin at the very end of the story, as in The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway, where the events are reconstructed through jumps backwards in time, called “flashbacks”. Novels like Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley also begin towards the end of the story, which the reader learns through the reports of one or more characters, in retrospect. These are just the most frequently used types of sequencing.
2) Characters - A character is an imaginary person involved in the action of the novel. Around character is fully described, has a complete identity as a person, and develops in the course of the novel. Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, or Paul Morel in Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence are round characters. A flat character is built around a single quality or stereotype, and does not change or develop throughout the narrative. Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, or Ebenezer Scrooge, the hard-hearted miser in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens are flat characters.
3) Setting - is the location, es. Dublin in the novels and short stories of James Joyce or the moors in those of Emily Bronte and Thomas Hardy and historical time in which the action takes place. The setting relates significantly to the characters and to the theme of the novel; for example, the physical ambience of Coketown in Dicken’s Hard Times expresses the dull monotony of the lives of the working people, in the same way as the Buchanans’ lavish property in The Great Gatsby by Francis Scott Fitzgerald is an embodiment of their material existence.
4) Theme - is the central idea of a novel; some themes are recurrent, thus proving that certain human patterns of behaviour endure through time: society, adventures, murder, ambition, the threat of the unknown, alienation etc,. Great favourites have always been the theme of quest, love and marriage, the hero’s development from childhood to maturity, the family, the changeability of life, the social machine which oppresses and denies freedom, just to quote the most frequent.

Novels classification

Classifications in literature are always difficult because each literary work of art has its own identity. Some major types of novel, however, have been identified as follows.

The picaresques novel
It deals with a series of separate adventures happening to the hero, who is usually a rogue or a vagabond. The word “Picaresque” seems to come from Spanish “picaro” (rogue), and the first example was Lazarillo de Tormes (1554). In England two novelists of the 18th century wrote picaresque novels: Henry Fielding and Tobias Smollent, but also writers owed much to this tradition. The adventure story developed from picaresque line.

The domestic novel, or novel of manners
It portrays social behaviour, or domestic life, and presents the conversations, the habits, the mentality typical of a historical period, usually the writer’s own time. Jane Austen’s novel are examples of domestic novels.

The historical novel
This type of novel, mainly associated with Walter Scott, is set in the past and describes the people and events of that period. The characters may be real or fictitious; the main events narrated are historical.

The gotic novel
Originating in the 18th century, it aims to arouse terror and is characterized by an atmosphere of mistery and suspense. It is still popular with its appeal to the emotions, and to the fantastic and supernatural elements in it. The trend of the vampire developed from the Gothic, and most famous example is Dracula, by Bram Stoker (1847-1912).

The Bildungsroman (from the German “Building”: formation, cultural training
It describes the development of the hero from childhood to maturity through various trials and obstacles. The contribution of life experience and education to the building of personality has great relevance. Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield and James Joyce’s potrait of the Artist as a young Man are considered examples of bildungsroman

Science fiction
This type of fiction, brilliantly introduced by the French writer Jules Verne, deals with imaginary development in science and technology. Its increasing success seems to indicate that it appeals to popular imagination, while at the same time answering the demand for scientific realism. Among the most famous science fiction writers are H.G Wells (1866-1946) and in America Ray Bradbury (1920), Isacc Asimov (1902-1992), and kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), who distinguished himself for his ability to combine science fiction with social and political satire. The cinema has greatly contributed to the popularity of science fiction, and several films are now considered classics: Star Wats, ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 2001: A space Odissey, Blade Runner, The Matrix, Star Trek, Iron Man jut to quote the most famous.

Fantasy novel
This is a relatively recent narrative genre between science fiction and the fairy tale, which presents the magic and the irrational, without attempting a credible explanation for the events. It seems from the gothic novel and the fantastic tales of the German E.T.A Hoffman (1776-1822) and the American Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). Fantasy developed into two main branches: fanta-horror, mainly represented stories in which terror comes from the unknown and the mysterious, and fiction presenting the atmosphere of the old stories of northern mythology joined to the motif of the struggle between good and evil. The most famous representative is J.RR Tolkein (1892-1973)

Magic Realistic novel
In this kind of fiction fantastic or supernatural events mingle with realistic description of everyday life and social environment. This combination of the fabulous and the realistic creates an intriguing atmosphere, in which the fantastic is presented as if it is part of reality and not a fairy tale. Magic realism characterizes the works of writers like Salman Rushdie (1947) and Angela Marquez (1940-1992), and is also associated with the Latin American Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1928), the German Gunter Grass (1927), and the Italian Italo Calvino (1923-1985)

Utopian and Dystopian fiction
Utopian and Dystopian fiction present imaginary world which are better or worse than our own, respectively. So while Thomas More’s Utopia (1816) describes an ideal perfect society, works like Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley or 1984, written in 1948 by George Orwell, describe nightmarish worlds showing the development of the negative aspects of 20th century society.

Allegorical novel
The term allegory in itself refers to any kind of literature, not strictly of fiction. A novel is said to be allegorical when it conveys a moral meaning beyond the story it apparently tells. The characters and their actions have symbolic relevance. A very famous story in the form of an allegory is The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), written by John Bunyan to describe life as a pilgrimage and a fight against temptations; Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) can be read as an allegory. In the 20th century a famous example of political allegory is Animal Farm (1945) by George Orwell.

Epistolary novel
Then there is the epistolary novel, or novel in the form of letters, the biography and autobiography, the memoir, the detective story and so on. The 19th century saw the flourishing of “serial publications”: a novel appeared in parts, published in a magazine. To capture the interest of the public each installment had to reach a certain number. In some respects this type of publication anticipated our television serials, and likewise the writers were liabel to be influenced by the response of the public and developed the story according to the requirements of their readers.

Psychological novel
In 20th century the evolution in psychologist analysis has influenced the narrative style, leading to the creation of a language which can convey subtle shades of meaning and the complexity and elusiveness of the human mind. James Joyce in particular created a prose style which was defined “stream-of-consciouness techniques” and was considered a turning point in novel writing.

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