Q.1. Describe the special features of novels written for the young, with examples. (2010)
How did novels make themselves relevant to boys?
Ans. For boys: We find a new kind of hero in books written for the young. It is someone who is daring, powerful, independent and assertive. These adventurous people went too far away places in remote East to find adventure. They colonised the world, were heroic and honourable. They adapted themselves to strange surroundings and even more strange ‘natives’, and ended up by civilising and developing them as nations. In fact, colonising territories was glorified in the novels for young.
Examples: R.L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, published on 1883 and 1894 respectively.
G.A. Henty wrote historical novels for boys. They aroused the excitement and adventure of conquering many lands — lands as far-flung as Mexico, Alexandria, Siberia and many other countries. The heroes met with adventures in foreign, witnessed historical event, and showed “English Courage” in some militant action.
For Girls: For adolescent girls, love stories were written and became very popular. In USA, two women writers became famous :
(i) Helen Hunt Jackson, who wrote Ramona (1864) and
(ii) Sarah Chauncey Woolsey, who wrote What Katy Did? (1872).
Q.2. Discuss the importance of the novels of Thomas Hardy (1810–1928).
Ans. In the 19th century, most of the novel readers lived in cities. The novel connected them with the life and fate of rural communities. Thomas Hardy, an English novelist, wrote about the traditional rural communities of England who were affected by industrialisation. The old rural culture was vanishing due to machines used on land, and labourers brought to work the machines, and produce for the market. This change is reflected in many of Hardy’s novels, specially The Mayor of Casterbridge. He describes the problems and changes created by the new order, and he mourns the loss of the more personalised world.
Q.3. Write short notes on :
(i) Rokeya Hossein
(ii) Hannah Mullens and
(iii) Sailabala Ghosh Jaya.
(i) Rokeya Hossein (1880–1932), a widow and a reformer, she started a girl’s school in Calcutta. Her first novel Sultana’s Dream was a fantasy and written in English. She painted a world where women had taken the place of men. In her second novel, Padmarag encouraged women to improve their condition by their own efforts. No wonder men were suspicious of women writing or reading novels!
(ii) Hannah Mullens was a Christian missionary. She wrote Karuna o Phulmonir Bibaran in 1852. This is considered the first novel in Bengali and she had to write it in secret.
(iii) Sailabala Ghosh Jaya was another popular writer in Bengali. She could write her novels because her husband supported and protected her. We can see from the above examples how women were worried from reading in Bengal as it was in South.
Q.4. Who was Potheri Kunjamba? What is his contribution to the growth of the novel?
Ans. Potheri Kunjamba was a “lower-caste” writer from north Kerala. In his novel Saraswativijayam (1892), he attacked caste oppression. In his novel, a low caste “untouchable” leaves his village to escape the cruelty of his Brahmin overlord. He becomes a Christian, educates himself and comes back to his own village as a sub-judge in a local court. Ironically, a case that he has to judge is about himself only. The villagers suspecting the landlord of killing Potheri bring him to court to be punished. In the end, the sub-judge reveals his true identity. The Brahmin master repents and promises to change his ways. The novel supported the importance of education as the only way to uplift the lower castes.
Q.5. Discuss the changes in the novel after the 1920s, with special reference to the work of Advaita Malla Burman and Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer.
Ans. A new kind of novel appeared in Bengal after the 1920s. The novels depicted the life of peasants and low castes and they were written by writers who belonged to this group of society or community.
Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (1956) is one such novel written by Advaita Malla Burman. Theme of the novel is three generations of Mallas, and the tragedies, the ups and downs in their lives are portrayed. The Mallas were a community of fisherfolk who earned their livelihood by fishing in river ‘Titash’. The hero is Ananta, a child whose parents were separated after their wedding night.
The novel is about the customs, festivals, relationships, friendship of this community. When the river ‘Titash’ dries up, the community of ‘Mallas’ also breaks up. The new influences from the city had already broken up the community and the final blow comes when the river dries. Writers had written about low castes before Burman, but the writers were from upper class, unlike Burman, who belonged to the fishermen community. Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer (1908–1996) wrote about communities which were never mentioned in the novels before.
Basheer himself had led a chequered life. He had hardly had any formal education, and went away from home to join the ‘Salt Satyagraha’ of Gandhiji. He wandered all over India and travelled to Arabia. He had lived with sufis and sanyasis.
He wrote the spoken language style — a style that was simple. His themes were his own experiences. He brought to Malyalam writing themes which were unusual — themes of poverty, insanity and life in prisons — themes not yet written about.
Q.6. Give an example from any novel of the 19th century which depicted the problem of being modern.
Ans. The trouble which the Indians faced under colonial rule was how to safeguard their cultural identity and traditions, while accepting modern colonial culture. This problem was talked by Chandu Menon in his novel Indulekha. His heroine and hero were Western educated, artistic and highly cultured. Besides English they both knew Sanskrit also. Though dressed in Western clothes, the hero, Madhavan, kept a long tuft of hair as was the tradition of his clan — the Nayars. The ideal characters showed how a balance could be kept between Western modernity and traditional Indian culture.
Q.7. Describe some of the pleasures of reading.
Ans. Novels became a source of entertainment. Picture books, magazines, translations from other languages, stories in newspapers and magazines, popular songs composed on recent events — all offered new forms of entertainment. Detective and mystery novels kept Tamil readers enthralled.
The novel also spread silent reading. Novels could be read in silence alone, in the privacy of one’s own room, in public while travelling and even in a crowd. Silent reading was not at all common before the novels became popular. Most of the reading was done aloud, with people listening. One could only daydream in silence.
Q.8. How did the colonial administrators find vernacular novels to be a valuable source of information on native life and customs? Explain with examples.
Ans. Vernacular novels proved very useful for colonial administration. They were a valuable source of information on native life and customs of which they were ignorant. They learnt from the novels about how they dressed, forms of religious worship, beliefs and practices. They could govern a large variety of communities and castes with their help. Missionaries and British administrators translated them. For example, missionaries translated two Bengali novels, Phulmoni and Karuna. Most of the Indian novels were about the defects in society, like the novel Indirabai. It depicted the status of women in society. They gave a glimpse of Indian society and helped the colonial rulers. Chandu Menon, Bankim Chandra and Premchand grappled with social problems in a colonial society.