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177
Novels, Society and History
Novels,  Society  and  History
Chapter VIII
Novels, Society and History
In the previous chapter you read about the rise of print culture and
how new forms of communication reshaped the way people thought
about themselves or related to each other. You also saw how print
culture created the possibility of new forms of literature. In this
chapter we will study the history of one such form – the novel – a
history that is closely connected to the making of modern ways of
thinking. We will first look at the history of the novel in the West,
and then see how this form developed in some of the regions of
India. As you will see, despite their differences, there were many
commonalites of focus between novels written in different parts
of the world.
Page 2


177
Novels, Society and History
Novels,  Society  and  History
Chapter VIII
Novels, Society and History
In the previous chapter you read about the rise of print culture and
how new forms of communication reshaped the way people thought
about themselves or related to each other. You also saw how print
culture created the possibility of new forms of literature. In this
chapter we will study the history of one such form – the novel – a
history that is closely connected to the making of modern ways of
thinking. We will first look at the history of the novel in the West,
and then see how this form developed in some of the regions of
India. As you will see, despite their differences, there were many
commonalites of focus between novels written in different parts
of the world.
India and the Contemporary World
178
The novel is a modern form of literature. It is born from print, a
mechanical invention.
We cannot think of the novel without the printed book. In ancient
times, as you have seen (Chapter 7), manuscripts were handwritten.
These circulated among very few people. In contrast, because of
being printed, novels were widely read and became popular very
quickly. At this time big cities like London were growing rapidly
and becoming connected to small towns and rural areas through
print and improved communications. Novels produced a number
of common interests among their scattered and varied readers. As
readers were drawn into the story and identified with the lives of
fictitious characters, they could think about issues such as the
relationship between love and marriage, the proper conduct for
men and women, and so on.
The novel first took firm root in England and France. Novels began
to be written from the seventeenth century , but they really flowered
from the eighteenth century. New groups of lower-middle-class
people such as shopkeepers and clerks, along with the traditional
aristocratic and gentlemanly classes in England and France now
formed the new readership for novels.
As readership grew and the market for books expanded, the earnings
of authors increased. This freed them from financial dependence
on the patronage of aristocrats, and gave them independence to
experiment with different literary styles.  Henry Fielding, a novelist
of the early eighteenth century, claimed he was ‘the founder of a
new province of writing’ where he could make his own laws. The
novel allowed  flexibility in the form of writing. Walter Scott
remembered and collected popular Scottish ballads which he used
in his historical novels about the wars between Scottish clans. The
epistolary novel, on the other hand, used the private and personal
form of letters to tell its story . Samuel Richardson’ s  Pamela,  written
in the eighteenth century , told much of its story through an exchange
of letters between two lovers. These letters tell the reader of the
hidden conflicts in the heroine’ s mind.
1.1 The Publishing Market
For a long time the publishing market excluded the poor. Initially,
novels did not come cheap. Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749) was
1 The Rise of the Novel
New words
Gentlemanly classes – People who claimed
noble birth and high social position. They were
supposed to set the standard for proper
behaviour
Epistolary – Written in the form of a series of
letters
Page 3


177
Novels, Society and History
Novels,  Society  and  History
Chapter VIII
Novels, Society and History
In the previous chapter you read about the rise of print culture and
how new forms of communication reshaped the way people thought
about themselves or related to each other. You also saw how print
culture created the possibility of new forms of literature. In this
chapter we will study the history of one such form – the novel – a
history that is closely connected to the making of modern ways of
thinking. We will first look at the history of the novel in the West,
and then see how this form developed in some of the regions of
India. As you will see, despite their differences, there were many
commonalites of focus between novels written in different parts
of the world.
India and the Contemporary World
178
The novel is a modern form of literature. It is born from print, a
mechanical invention.
We cannot think of the novel without the printed book. In ancient
times, as you have seen (Chapter 7), manuscripts were handwritten.
These circulated among very few people. In contrast, because of
being printed, novels were widely read and became popular very
quickly. At this time big cities like London were growing rapidly
and becoming connected to small towns and rural areas through
print and improved communications. Novels produced a number
of common interests among their scattered and varied readers. As
readers were drawn into the story and identified with the lives of
fictitious characters, they could think about issues such as the
relationship between love and marriage, the proper conduct for
men and women, and so on.
The novel first took firm root in England and France. Novels began
to be written from the seventeenth century , but they really flowered
from the eighteenth century. New groups of lower-middle-class
people such as shopkeepers and clerks, along with the traditional
aristocratic and gentlemanly classes in England and France now
formed the new readership for novels.
As readership grew and the market for books expanded, the earnings
of authors increased. This freed them from financial dependence
on the patronage of aristocrats, and gave them independence to
experiment with different literary styles.  Henry Fielding, a novelist
of the early eighteenth century, claimed he was ‘the founder of a
new province of writing’ where he could make his own laws. The
novel allowed  flexibility in the form of writing. Walter Scott
remembered and collected popular Scottish ballads which he used
in his historical novels about the wars between Scottish clans. The
epistolary novel, on the other hand, used the private and personal
form of letters to tell its story . Samuel Richardson’ s  Pamela,  written
in the eighteenth century , told much of its story through an exchange
of letters between two lovers. These letters tell the reader of the
hidden conflicts in the heroine’ s mind.
1.1 The Publishing Market
For a long time the publishing market excluded the poor. Initially,
novels did not come cheap. Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749) was
1 The Rise of the Novel
New words
Gentlemanly classes – People who claimed
noble birth and high social position. They were
supposed to set the standard for proper
behaviour
Epistolary – Written in the form of a series of
letters
179
Novels, Society and History
issued in six volumes priced at three shillings each – which was
more than what a labourer earned in a week.
But soon, people had easier access to books with the introduction
of circulating libraries in 1740. Technological improvements in
printing brought down the price of books and innovations in
marketing led to expanded sales. In France, publishers found that
they could make super profits by hiring out novels by the hour. The
novel was one of the first mass-produced items to be sold. There
were several reasons for its popularity . The worlds created by novels
were absorbing and believable, and seemingly real. While reading
novels, the reader was transported to another person’s world, and
began looking at life as it was experienced by the characters of the
novel. Besides, novels allowed individuals the pleasure of reading in
private, as well as the joy of publicly reading or discussing stories
with friends or relatives. In rural areas people would collect to hear
one of them reading a novel aloud, often becoming deeply involved
in the lives of the characters. Apparently , a group at Slough in England
were very pleased to hear that Pamela, the heroine of Richardson’s
popular novel, had got married in their village. They rushed out to
the parish church and began to ring the church bells!
In 1836 a notable event took place when Charles Dickens’s Pickwick
Papers was serialised in a magazine. Magazines were attractive since
they were illustrated and cheap. Serialisation allowed readers to relish
the suspense, discuss the characters of a novel and live for weeks
with their stories – like viewers of television soaps today!
New words
Serialised – A format in which the story is
published in instalments, each part in a new
issue of a journal
Fig. 2 – Library notice. Fig. 2 – Library notice. Fig. 2 – Library notice. Fig. 2 – Library notice. Fig. 2 – Library notice.
Libraries were well publicised.
Fig. Fig. Fig. Fig. Fig. 1 1 1 1 1 – – – – –     Cover page of  Cover page of  Cover page of  Cover page of  Cover page of  Sketches by ‘Boz’. Sketches by ‘Boz’. Sketches by ‘Boz’. Sketches by ‘Boz’. Sketches by ‘Boz’.
Charles Dickens’s first publication was a collection of
journalistic essays entitled  Sketches by ‘Boz’ (1836).
Fig. Fig. Fig. Fig. Fig. 3 3 3 3 3 –  –  –  –  – Cover page of Cover page of Cover page of Cover page of Cover page of All All All All All The The The The The Year Round. Year Round. Year Round. Year Round. Year Round.
The most important feature of the magazine
All the Year Round, edited by Charles
Dickens, was his serialised novels. This
particular issue begins with one.
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FAQs on NCERT Textbook: Novels, Society & History - History for UPSC CSE

1. What is the role of novels in society and history?
Ans. Novels play a significant role in society and history as they reflect the social, cultural, and political aspects of a particular time period. They provide insights into the lives of people, their beliefs, and their experiences. Novels also reflect the historical events and societal changes that shape the narrative. Through storytelling, novels help us understand different perspectives and gain a deeper understanding of the past.
2. How do novels contribute to our understanding of history?
Ans. Novels contribute to our understanding of history by presenting fictional or semi-fictional narratives that are based on real events or time periods. They provide a more personal and emotional connection to historical events, allowing readers to empathize with the characters and their experiences. Novels often explore the social, political, and cultural context of a specific era, giving readers a vivid portrayal of the past.
3. Can novels be considered reliable sources for studying history?
Ans. While novels can provide valuable insights into history, they should not be considered as completely reliable sources. Novels are works of fiction, and authors often take creative liberties to develop compelling storylines and characters. While they may be based on historical events or settings, the portrayal of these events can be subjective and fictionalized. Therefore, it is crucial to corroborate information from novels with other historical sources to ensure accuracy.
4. How do novels shape society?
Ans. Novels have the power to shape society by influencing people's thoughts, beliefs, and values. They can bring attention to social issues, challenge existing norms, and provoke discussions on important topics. Novels can also inspire empathy and understanding by portraying diverse characters and experiences. By presenting alternative perspectives and narratives, novels have the potential to change societal attitudes and contribute to social change.
5. What are some examples of novels that have had a significant impact on society and history?
Ans. Several novels have had a significant impact on society and history. For example, "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee challenged racial inequality in the United States and sparked conversations about civil rights. "1984" by George Orwell raised concerns about totalitarianism and government surveillance. "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen highlighted gender and class issues in the early 19th century. These novels, among many others, have shaped public discourse and influenced societal change.
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