Introduction

This chapter gives an account of the origin and development of the Novel. Novel is the most popular literary genre at present. It chronologically describes the growth and evolution of this genre and also lists names of many literary masterpieces and their creators. 

Origin of the Novel

Novel as a literary genre became popular during the eighteenth century in England. A novel is a long literary work of narrative fiction which is mostly written in prose. Although popularised during the 18th century, the Novel as a genre dates to as far back as the second century. Although prose is the primary form in which the novel thrives at present, earlier novels were also written in verse form like Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’.

Novel as the Genre of Middle Class

While Murasaki Shikibu’s ‘Tale of Genji’ is considered world’s first novel, ‘Don Quixote’ by Cervantes is considered the first European novel. Unlike the romances and tragedies which had been of interest to the upper class readers, the middle class gravitated towards the novel because it represented life in its real essence. This is why this genre enjoyed immense popularity among the newly educated middle class. 

Novels in Europe

The Pilgrim’s Progress’ by John Bunyan and ‘Oroonoku’ by Aphra Behn were popular English novels during the second half of the 17th century. These were followed by novels of writers like Daniel Dafoe and Jonathan Swift. While Samuel Richardson and Lawrence Sterne became popular novelists of the 18th century, the 20th century saw novels by E.M. Forster and Joseph Conrad. 

Women Novelists

There have been significant novels by women writers like Frances Burney and Ann Radcliffe. Mary Shelley wrote the first sci-fi novel named ‘Frankenstein’. Jane Austen was known for her novels of comedy of manners. The three Bronte sisters produced masterpieces like ‘The Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Jane Eyre’. 

Novels in India

Beginning with ‘Rajmohan’s Wife’, by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya, the Indian novelists have contributed greatly to the growth of novels. Important early Indian novelists included Mulkraj Anand, R.K. Narayan and Raja Rao. The contemporary literary circle is dominated by exceptional Indian novelists like Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh, Kiran Desai and Salman Rushdie.

Elements and Types of Novel

A novel generally has six elements, which are- theme or the central idea, plot, characters, setting, conflict, language or writing style. These elements are common to all kinds of novels like the Realistic novel, Historical novel, Utopian/Dystopian novel, Psychological novel and other sub-genres. 

Conclusion

Due to the novel still being extremely popular among the middle class, this literary genre enjoys wide readership even today. Various sub-genres like Science Fiction Novel, Gothic novel, Picaresque novel and Detective novel have emerged and attracted readers of different literary tastes.