In H. Spencer s Principles of Sociology, he likened society to an organism where its functions and characteristics such as growth, expansion, division and the like, he believed, also occurs in the society and social life, thus coining the term social organism. A novel, likewise takes the form of an organism according to Henry James. He argues in the Art of Fiction (a commentary to Walter Besant’s lecture in the royal institution) that a novel is a personal impression of life. The main issue of the article is representation and how writers should treat it.
James clarified that representation takes two forms; one is the direct representation, which according to him is limiting, and another is representation based on a writer’s impression of the experience which he considers what the art of novel is all about. The reality “colored by the writer’s vision” is the reality of the novel. An organism he believes best describe the complexity of a novel because an organism has in itself the individuality and unity of functions. The totality of the organism is dependent upon both the independence and the unity of its parts.
Similarly, Freese in “Henry James and the application of his theory in ‘What Maisie knew’” believes that James viewpoint is that “… it is not possible to examine fiction only by its individual parts because these have to be seen as interacting elements. ”(p. 2) James believes that the uniqueness of every novel is determined by the “liberty of interpretation” afforded by the author. The principles of form being dictated by convention only hamper the creation of the being that is the novel.
The impression of reality, the personal process of making sense of an experience, is the ultimate measure of achieving the reality. Thus, a novel is not just a product but a creative process as in painting and the other arts where each step contributes to the wholeness of the craft. The writer has the power to determine the shape and complexity of the novel and ultimately the reality that the novel contains. All these elements, as in an organism is determined by a creator and his idea of representation.