Why the Novel Matters Summary by D.H. Lawrence


Lawrence’s work Why the Novel Matters was published after in death in 1936. The text throws light on the ability of a novel to help human beings reach and realize their potential and fill their life with possibilities that are restricted by Science, philosophy or religion.

Perception of ‘Being Alive’

The author builds the text by highlighting the perception of ‘being alive’. He appreciates every part and particle of a living person and abrogates the excessive importance given to ideas, philosophy, spirit, and mind.

Lawrence claims that a novelist is better than a man of science, religion or philosophy because he/she can create characters and their lives and thus understand the true value of life and a living person.

He says that the belief that the mind is more important than other body parts like the fingers when their fingers are as alive as the mind. He calls the assertion that the body is a mere vessel for the mind or soul or spirit as ridiculous and irrational.

According to him, life extends from depths of the human mind to the extent of fingertips. However, the inanimate objects like pen, etc are not alive and require the alive hand to infuse life into the work done by them.

He compares the freckles on the skin and the blood in the human body to the mind that controlling them and calls them equally alive.

Novelist & Man of Religion

The importance of the man alive is understood intricately and profoundly by a novelist than men of Theology. Religion depends on the theory of soul and life after death but the novelist is only thinking about the present moment and life in it.

Novelist & Philosopher

The philosopher talks about spirit and infinite knowledge contained in it but for a novelist it the living that contains all the understandable knowledge. Everything else is conjecture and speculation.

While for a philosopher, thoughts and ideas are of paramount importance, for a novelist there are mere disturbances and ‘tremulations’ on the ether and are as dead as ether itself.

Any idea is meaningless until it is received and understood by a live person. It does not have a life of its own. Hence, the man alive is much more important than the lifeless ideas and concepts.

Novelist & Scientist

The scientist does not value living beings and wants to analyze it lying dead and motionless under a microscope. To a scientist, a human being is a sum total of its different parts or organs like heart, liver, etc. However, a novelist courts the living and believes that all the parts make a greater whole i.e. a superior living being.

Importance of Novel

Now, Lawrence describes the importance of a novel. According to him, a novel is a window to life. But any novel or book is as valuable as thoughts until it is read by a human being. He says that the novel is more important than any other book because it is more impactful and influential.

He enlists the Platonic ideals or Mosaic Ten Commandments etc less significant than a novel because they only attract one part of a living being. He calls Bible a great perplexing novel just like Homeric or Shakespearean literature.

Lawrence feels that a novel is able to provide a stimulating story and diverse characters that make it fluid and dynamic. It celebrates change and discourages absolute statements. There is no ultimate formula which is the true reflection of human beings and their growth and unpredictable actions.

This unpredictability and uncertainty breed intrigue and romance. If there is constancy like found in non-living things it is very difficult to make the bond of love and care.

He believes that a man needs desire and purpose to be alive. Mere existing without a goal is as if a man is dead. Love, companionship, wealth, power etc are all reasons for a man to live and not just exist in a dead life.


In the end, Lawrence believes that a novel acts as a guiding post for a man alive. It mirrors the unpredictable nature of human life and the importance of change.

It foreshadows the changeability of human nature and beliefs. It never postulates absolute right or wrong and knows that they can change with surroundings and circumstances. Thus, a novel can help a man to experience a wholesome life and become a complete man alive and makes the novel important.