The Rise of the Novel in the Eighteenth Century Essay
The Rise of the Novel in the Eighteenth Century
The new form, i.e the novel is about certain realistic people living in a certain society and not about fanciful characters, supermen or monsters. On the contrary, the characters are ‘individualized’: which means that every individual, person or character ( ordinary or extraordinary) is independent from other individuals. In the past, individuals or characters in the prose works never stood for themselves: they stood for certain abstracts or qualities :Mr. Greedy, Mr. Angry, Mrs. Domineering, ..etc. With the rise of this literary form, individuals are drawn realistically as independent, regardless of their social status or personal capacity. The characters are analyzed in detail, and shown as complex individuals, affected by social pressures. b) The rise of the middle class: The new middle class in England ( consisting of merchants, lawyers, businessmen, doctors,..etc.) were very educated, but they were unlike the upper classes who were taught in Greek and Latin.
The middle-class people could read in English, so they among the readers of then novels at that time. c) Educated women: Women became educated at that time , and so they were a crucial factor in producing a readership for fiction. They benefited from the rise of the novel because they were not educated in Greek and Latin but in history, English grammar, geography,..etc. d) Better education for the middle classes coincidedwith a period of great leisure for women in the middle and upper classes. This left a vacuum in their lives which demanded to be filled. Men, also, demanded imaginative works because they looked for other interests beyond their jobs. Thus, the novel opened new real worlds. e) The increase and spread of newspapers during the eighteenth century is evidence of this interest.
Many periodicals such as The Spectator and The Tattler were popular. Addison and Steele, the editors of those periodicals created characters such as Sir Roger de Coverley-an individualized character with essay-like short stories. f) Thirst for travel books characterized by realistic incidents and realistic characters during a period where the British Empire was expanding show the people’s need to learn about other people from other cultures and other lands with different traditions and manners..Many of the eighteenth-century novels were written in the form of travel books such as Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels to satisfy this thirst. g) The thirst of the reading public to learn about the manners, and circumstances of other classes and localities. Richardson’s Pamela is a plan to write a series of letters which provide examples of the correct way of behaving in different social situations. h) The novelists, too, felt it was their duty not just to inform but also to teach moral lessons.
This shows the moral usefulness of the novel. Thus while the novelists introduce their readers to new social worlds, and show the manners of others, they provide the best moral way for their readers to behave. This triple aim- to reveal, to educate, and to encourage moral behavior was an important feature of the eighteenth-century novel. i) As a consequence, the novels were detailed , long, and therefore expensive which means that the rich only could buy them. But by the middle of the eighteenth century, there appeared circulating libraries. So, people could borrow novels free of charge. That was a very important development. j) The rise of modern industrial capitalism, also, emphasized the idea of individualism. Because of industrial capitalism, people started to believe that the individual could choose and decide his future because it taught people how to earn and keep money.
Thus, because of those social factors, novelists started to study the individual. In the past, characters were seen as general concepts, without emphasis on their personalities. With the rise of modern industrial capitalism and individualism, the social attitude changed. Novelists started to study the individual’s ehavior, appearance , feelings and materialistic attitude. They chose characters from the real society around them, and who were individualized to the extent that most of them named their novels after the main characters.
Some of the themes to be discussed
The Moral Significance in Robinson Crusoe
(Points to be considered about the theme of moral and spiritual re-awakening)
1- In his novel, Robinson Crusoe, Defoe emphasizes the moral element and “the wisdom of Providence in our life.” 2- Although R. Crusoe blamed his fate and bad luck at the beginning of his adventures, he would gradually believe that his misfortune was “a judgment of Heaven”, or a punishment of God because he disobeyed his father, and went to sea ignoring his advice. 3- When his ship was first overtaken by a strong storm, Crusoe prayed to God that if He spared his life, he would directly go home. However, when the sea became calm again, he forgot his vows.
4- The ship was overtaken once again by another storm, and the captain told him that it was “the hand of Providence” punishing Crusoe for his disobedience and breaking his vows to God. 5- The captain warned him that henceforth he would meet with “disasters and disappointments” if he did not go back to his father. What the captain said proved to be true. 6- On his next voyage to The Canary Islands, Crusoe was kidnapped by pirates and became a miserable slave for two years. 7- On his next voyage to Africa, “the Hand of God” punished him again.
A strong storm struck the ship, and all the other seamen were drowned except Crusoe who found himself in a deserted island. 8- It was not until several horrible incidents took place in the island ( the earthquake, the hurricane, his illness, and the terrible dream), that Crusoe realized for the first time his ‘wrongdoings’, that he lived in wickedness “without desire of good or consciousness of evil.” 9- From now on, Crusoe starts to re-evaluate his life, to pray to God sincerely, and to reappraise his duty to God. Thus, after much soul-searching, he reaches self-discovery and spiritual re-awakening. 10- The novel ends with Crusoe being a mature individual, in full control of his wealth, using it not for pleasure but to help his old friends and relatives.
Industrial Capitalism, Individualism and the Rise of the Novel 1-The rise of the novel during the eighteenth century is greatly associated with the rise of individualism at that time. 2- Individualism stressed the fact that every individual was independent from other individuals, and as a direct result of industrial capitalism, it emphasized that the individual had to choose and decide his future. Modern industrial capitalism, also, taught people how to earn money ,and how increase it. Thus it brought emphasis on the individual and his money. 3- In the past, characters in the romances stood for certain qualities(e.g. Mr. Greedy, Mr. Angry,…etc.) and not for themselves. 4-In the eighteenth -century novel, individual characters are drawn as independent regardless of their social status or personal capacity.
They are portrayed as complex characters, affected by social pressures. 5-Eighteenth –century novelists such as S. Richardson, H. Fielding, and D. Defoe studied the individual’s attitudes, feelings, and motivations. Defoe emphasized individualism by writing a novel that has one central character with independent individual characteristics. Likewise, Richardson and Fielding concentrated on the individual and named their novels after their main characters. 6-The modern industrial capitalism made people pay great attention to money: how to gain it and how to keep it.
In the earlier prose fiction, the main character had moral ideas, and thought only of virtues and good deeds. The eighteenth-century writers became more realistic and dealt with the only interest of the individual at their time, i.e. money. All Defoe’s characters pursue money, and they pursue it very methodically according to the loss and profit of book-keeping. Thus Robinson Crusoe leaves his father’s house and the secure life of the middle class to seek more money. This materialistic point of view began to have a tremendous influence to the extent that idealistic moral values were no longer the core of stories, but the individual and his struggle to gain money.
Points to be stressed about
The Character of Robinson Crusoe
1. Robinson Crusoe is the central round character who learns the moral lesson which Defoe is trying to convey to his readers. 2. From the beginning, Defoe presents him as an individual endowed with a capability for moral development because of his natural possession of moral sensitivity. 3. As events open, he appears as lacking a certain degree of moral insight and self knowledge, but gradually he gains moral and spiritual re-awakening and self discovery. 4. This gradual change can be traced in three stages in his life: a) When the novel opens, Crusoe leaves home in disobedience of his father and without asking for God’s blessings in search for more wealth, neglecting his father’s advice concerning the advantages of the middle class.
Crusoe ,then, goes through four adventures in the sea during which he experiences many misfortunes, and has very narrow escapes from death. At this stage, Crusoe’s character is shown as discontented, rash, romantic ,lacking reason and any sense of moral duty towards God and father. Despite the dangers he faces, he never realizes the moral lesson or that these dangers are a punishment of God for his wrongdoings.
He blames his bad luck, fate, or his companions. b) The second stage in Crusoe’s moral and spiritual development starts with his journey to the coast of Guinea which ends up in his shipwreck, the death of all his fellow sailors and his own survival after he swims to a remote deserted island. During this stage, Crusoe suffers, first, physically to provide for his food, shelter, and security. As he struggles to do this, he shows his great abilities of a resourceful, energetic, and inventive individual, although he has never had any knowledge of mechanics or mathematics. At the same time, however, he has many moral reflections which show his mental stress. c) The final stage of this process of gradual moral and spiritual re-awakening culminates in the episode his illness and dream after the earthquake.
For the first time, Crusoe recognizes that he is the doer of all his misfortunes, and realizes that he is responsible of all his wrongdoings for has neither asked God for help when he is in danger, nor thanked Him when he is rescued. With this admission of guilt, Crusoe moves quickly in the road of moral and spiritual recovery. Thus he sincerely prays to God for help for the first time. After that, he feels not only physical but also spiritual ease and comfort. As he triumphs over the cannibals, saves Friday and the captain of the ship and his crew, and finally saves himself, he reaches complete satisfaction 5. Thus Crusoe is portrayed as a complex round character who reaches his moral and spiritual growth, after many experiences, .