Thursday, December 16, 2010

Modern Novelists

1.  The Ancestors
The immediate ancestors of the modern English novel, who dominated the earlier part of the twentieth century, were Wells, Bennet, Conard, Kipling and Forster.
(i)  H. G. Wells (1866-1946)
Among the writers of twentieth century Herbert George Wells was the greatest revolutionary, and like Barnard Shaw, he exerted a tremendous influence on the minds of his contemporaries. Wells was the first English novelist who had a predominantly scientific training, and who was profoundly antagonistic to the classics. He insisted that classical humanism should be discarded in favour of science, and that Biology and World History should take the place of Latin and Greek.

Moreover, he had no respect for accepted conventions which he criticised most ruthlessly. He was untouched by sentiment and had no loyalty to the past, with the result that he rejected what was hitherto considered sacred and part of the English cultural inheritance.
The novels of Wells fall into three divisions. First he wrote the scientific romances; next he tried his hand on the domestic novel, with its emphasis on character and humour; and then when he had gained sufficient fame as a writer, he wrote a series of sociological novels in which he showed his concern with the fate of humanity as a whole.
As a writer of scientific romances, Wells stands unrivalled; they are masterpieces of imaginative power. He looks at life on earth from a higher level by projecting himself to a distant standpoint, to the moon, the future, the air, or another planet. In these romances Wells has shown an extraordinary ability to took into the future, and many of his predictions have proved to be true. His first scientific romance was The Time Machine (1895), in which the hero invents a ‘time machine’, which enables him to accelerate the time consciousness and project himself into the future. Here is also described in a most vivid manner the grim picture of the earth divided between a master race and their resentful serfs, the Marlocks, belonging the sub-race. His next work, The War of the Worlds (1898), deals with the theme of the invasion of the earth by the people living on the planet Mars. They spread destruction by the use of a death-ray, but they are ultimately defeated on account of their lack of immunity from bacteria. In this way the earth is saved. The other scientific romances written by Wells were The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), When the Sleeper Wakes (1899), The First Man in the Moon (1901) and The Food of the Gods (1904). These were the most exciting scientific thrillers which ever appeared in English fiction, and in them Wells anticipated various forms of warfare including the atom bomb.
From fantastic romances, Wells then turned to domestic fiction. He was thoroughly familiar with the life in London suburbs, which he described with enthusiasm in Kipps (1905), a comedy of class instincts. The hero Kipps, rises from the position of a draper’s assistant to a man of fortune. The high society accepts him and trains him in its culture, but Kipps feels relived only when he loses his fortune, and relapses to the lower class from where he rose. This novel is full of satire and humour typical of Wells. In Tono Bungay (1909), Wells gives a most remarkable picture of the disintegration of English society in the later nineteenth century and the advent of the new rich class. In Anna Veronica (1909) which is the full-length study of a modern young woman. There is the first attempt in English fiction at a frank and open treatment of sex relationship. In Love and Mrs. Lewisham (1910), and The History of Mr. Polly (1910), Wells gives us realistic, humorous and sympathetic studies of the lower middle class life, with which he was quite familiar.
By this time Wells had gained great reputation as a writer. He then started a series of novels dealing with great social problems confronting the men of his time. This series includes The New Machiavelli (1911), which is a study of political and sociological creeds in the guise of a biography; Mr. Britling sees it Through (1916), a study of the reaction of the people to the First World War; The Undying Fire (1919) which is a religious and satiric fantasy; Mr. Blettsworthy on Rampole Island (1928) and The Autocracy of Mr. Parham (1930), an attack on capitalism.
Wells believed that human civilisation can survive only if people discipline their instincts by means of reason. He also visualised a Words State to which nations must owe allegiance. He was looked upon by the post-war world as teacher, prophet and guide. His greatest weakness was that being too much scientific minded, he lacked spiritual wisdom. He was undoubtedly the most intellectual of the ancestors of the modern novel.
(ii)       Arnold Bennett (1867-1931)
Unlike Wells, Bennett was more concerned with the craft of fiction and was not disposed to preach in his novels. That is why, during his time he was the most popular novelist. He looked at the world as a spectacle and recorded in his novels his impressions with complete detachment. Following the example of French novelists, Maupassant, Flaubert and Balzac, he aimed at recording life—its delights, indignities and distresses—without conscious intrusion of his own personality between the record and the reader. He was a copyist of life, and only indirectly did he play the role of a commentator, an interpreter, or an apologist. On account of these qualities, Bennett may be called the ‘naturalistic’ novelist, though this term can be applied to him only partially. The reason is that the purpose of a purely ‘naturalistic’ novelist is to be as dispassionate and detached as a camera, but Bennet even while desisting from utilizing his novels as an instrument of moral and social reforms was compelled to select certain things as relevant and significant, and reject certain others as irrelevant and insignificant, in order to determine the nature of his picture of life. Moreover, though intellectually he was ‘naturalistic’ temperamentally he was not so. No doubt, he looked at life as a spectacle, but sometimes that spectacle became for him so wonderful thrilling and awesome that he could no longer remain detached as a mere spectator.
The spectacle of life, which Bennett presents in his novels, is not drab or diseased. On the other hand he interprets it romantically as ‘sweet, exquisite, blissful, melancholy. He never regrets that life has lost its glamour and pines for the past glory of Greece and Rome. On the contrary, he finds sufficient grandeur in the modern everyday life of the Five Towns, his native district, which he has made as famous in English fiction as Hardy’s Wessex.
Bennett wrote three most popular novels—The Old Wives Tale (1908), Clayhanger (1910) and Riceyman Steps (1923) which place him high among English novelists. His other novels are Buried Alive (1908), and The Card (1911), which are first-rate humorous character novels; and The Grand Babylon Hotel (1902), which provides good entertainment. In all these novels, the characters spend most of their time in the small area of the Five Towns—the Stafordshire pottery towns. The readers become familiar not only with the principal streets and buildings and landmarks, but also with the men and women who walked the streets. By an accumulation of carefully chosen details, Bennett gives a life-like quality to his novels. Though ugliness and coarseness are also presented in that otherwise pleasant picture, they, however make it more true to real life.
Though Bennett confines himself to a small area—The Five Towns, he sketches in these novels the social and historical background with considerable skill. Moreover, he illumines his books with a sense of beauty and universal sympathy which are indispensable to creative artist. Above all, he writes in a style which is simply delightful. No doubt, Bennett won the hearts of his readers and became the most popular novelist of his time.
(iii)     Henry James (1843-1916)
Henry James, one of the important of elder novelists, was an American naturalised in England. It was, perhaps, because of his foreign origin, that Henry James was untouched by the pessimism of the age, whereas almost all his contemporaries who tried to investigate the human mind showed unmistakable signs of depression. Moreover, his characters have no background, and they move from country to country. The emphasis is more on their mental and emotional reactions.
In his earlier novels such as The Europeans (1879), Henry James is chiefly concerned with the clash between the American and European mind. In his next important novel, What Masie Knew (1897), he gives us an exquisitely delightful picture of the young American girls brought up in the sentimental Victorian surroundings, and introduced to a modern society entirely devoid of sentiment. His later novels also deal with similar simple situations, pregnant with the most complex psychological effects. The Golden Bowl (1905) for instance, deals with the interactions of five characters—the American millionaire and his daughter, the Italian noble whom she marries, her penniless friend who has a love-affair with the Italian, and an elderly friend of both girls. It is the psychological complications both before and after the wedding, of the friends and the father, which provide the whole material of the story. Everything is narrated in a quiet undertone, and it is the nobility and decency which all the characters preserve in their behaviour, which gives a unity to the novel. The love for antique, beautiful things which the American millionaire exhibits in his character, is the theme of Henry James, two other novels—The Spoils of Poynton and The Sense of the Past.
The main contribution of Henry James to the technique of the novel is his use of narrative at second hand. Through this method the story unfolds itself completely in the mental plane. The reader is permitted only vague glimpses even of what the character thinks. Thus James transferred to the psychological novel the methods of the detective novel. As a stylist, James aims at expressing the exact shade of emotion or apprehension which he wishes to convey. The later psychological novelists like Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, were greatly influenced by Henry James’ style as well as the indirect technique of narration.
(iv)      Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
Chief among those who used the technique of Henry James was Conrad, a Pole, who wrote exquisite English. He was gifted with great love for his fellow creatures, and through it he acquired an unusual insight in all that was going on around him. Being a sailor he spent twenty years of strenuous life in the ship or the port. All this experience revealed to him one central problem of human nature, that is, the tension between our higher and lower selves. As his own sailor’s life provided him with the memory of mistakes, humiliations and corrections under authority, he took a sort of morbid interest in people whose souls are harassed and tormented by other. Moreover, as a sailor learns the histories of people at second hand, in hotels, clubs etc. Conrad developed the plots of his novels through  a third person as if in conversation, in which the voice and personality of the narrator becomes extremely suggestive quite apart from the story he is telling.
Conrad was influenced by Henry James’ artistic rectitude and psychological subtlety. He learned the attitude of detachment and an acute observation of environment from the French novelists, Flaubert and Maupassant. From Turgenev and Dostoevsky, Conrad imbided a cosmopolitan outlook, and also a love for portraying characters who are in conflict with themselves, who are frustrated by their own passions and impulses, and who on account of having missed their life purpose become introverts and find their only outlet in crime. But unlike these great novelists, Conrad had neither the experience nor the opportunity to examine such characters as social types or psychological puzzles. His imagination thrived on glimpses which suggested a mystery. For example, Lord Jim, hero of the novel of same name, seems to feel himself always under a cloud.
The themes of Conrad’s novels transcend temporary and material interests. Unlike some of the contemporary novelists he scorned to expose social abuses, or laugh at social prejudices. He lived on his past, which on account of the lapse of years invoked in him nobler qualities, especially his capacity for intellectual sympathy and single-heartedness. He was thus always true to himself and to the characters he created.
The masterpieces of Conrad are The Nigger of the Narcissus (1898), Lord Jim (1900), Typhoon (1902), Nostromo (1904). These series cover an immense range of human activity. We have in them man’s conflict with the internal sea, his avarice for fabulous wealth in a mine, and the tribal wars between savages. The characters in them are not refined or fashionable people; they become slaves to their peculiar idiosyncrasies. They have tormented souls, and often border on tragedy. Conrad’s greatest merit in these novels lies in his descriptive power by which he, like Milton, can make us see the unseen as he can see it. The result is that the readers get an impression that the seenes are described by one who knows how things happen in the modern world, and this gives a touch of realism to the stories. Moreover, Conrad in all his novels exhibits the great ideals of impartiality, practical wisdom, sense of fitness and freedom sentimentality, which earned for him the admiration of his English readers.
(v)       Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
Kipling’s view of life and his range of subjects were rather similar to Conrad’s. Like Conrad, he very much admired the strong, brave, silent man, but unlike Conrad’s his is the slightly wistful admiration of the intellectual, who has wanted very much to be a man of action, and never succeeded in becoming one. He was born in India and after being educated in England he returned to India at the age of seventeen and became the editor of an Anglo-Indian paper. He derived the material for his early stories—Plain Tales from the Hills, Under the Deodars. Soldiers Three from his experiences in India. Of his novels, the important are The Light that Failed (1890), The Naulakha (1892), Captain Courageous (1897), and Kim (1901). The Light that Failed is supposed to be the story of an artist who goes blind and loses his love. The Naulakha deals with the life of a medical missionary in India, and its moral is that woman’s place is in the home. Captain Courageous relates the story of a miserable dull boy who is swept overboard a ship, and is then picked by a fishing schooner and restored to his parents. Kim is a long story in which a well-defined central character travels through circumstances towards a goal.
Though Kipling wrote about India in his tales and novels, yet he never got very deep into India. His knowledge is very superficial and he looks at everything from the point of the view of British rulers. His main importance as a writer lies in his rich vocabulary and technical excellence. Like Defoe, he borrowed from all great writers, and his opening sentences are the most wonderful in literature.
(vi)      John Galsworthy (1867-1933)
Besides being a dramatist, Galsworthy belonged to the front rank of the novelists of his time. He was exactly the contemporary of Arnold Bennet, but unlike him Galsworthy belonged to the upper class, and was most at his ease describing the life of the country gentry or people of inherited wealth living in London. Moreover, unlike Bennet Galsworthy always wrote with a purpose and the reformer in him sometimes got the better of the artist.
Galsworthy found in English society that majority of people clung to old established traditions, while a small minority wanted change. In his novels he tried to hold the balance between opposed ideas or between characters with opposite tendencies. In his preface to The Island Pharisees, Galsworthy contrasts these opposite elements in society. His novels which are collectively called The Forsyte Saga, all deal with the same theme. In the first novel of this group, The Man of Property (1906), he holds the balance between the mechanical mind of Soames Forsyte and the impulsive Irene; in The Country House (1907), which is the most attractive of all his novels, between the unimaginative Squire and his perceptive, compassionate wife; in Fraternity (1909) and in The Patrician (1919) between the tolerant and the advocates of ‘an eye for an eye’. In these early novels, Galsworthy stands on the ‘middle line’, but he enlists the sympathy of the readers for the young in mind, the generous, the rash and the wilful, and on the other hand, he exposes those who are tradition-ridden, and survivors of an old and outworn order.
But the First World War effected a change in the attitude of Galsworthy. He began to regard with respect and even tenderness those elder men who having formed habits stuck to them rigidly. On the other hand, he lost sympathy with the young, restless troublous spirits in whose life he found no aim. This changed attitude is reflected in his later novels—In Chancery (1920), To Let (1921), The White Monkey (1924), The Silver Spoon (1930). In these novels it appears that Galsworthy the pioneer and humanist has been replaced by Galsworthy the moralist and disciplinarian. He himself became a pillar of the institutions he himself criticised in his earlier days. But in spite of this change in his attitude, he gets the credit of awakening the Edwardian England from intellectual lethargy. Moreover, he was a true artist, and a man of generous impulses, who believed that literature has also a social function to fulfil, that is, to reform society.
(vii)     E. M. Forster (1879-1970)
Forster belonged to the group of elder novelists of the twentieth century and occupied an exceptional place in the history of the modern novel. Unlike his contemporaries, Forster had never tried to impose on his readers a new creed or astonish him by some technical novelty. Though he was the most popular of all living novelists, yet his production had been small. His last novel—A Passage to India, was published in 1924, and after that he did not write any new novel except a few volumes of short stories.
Forster’s earliest novel Where Angles Feared to Tread appeared in 1905. It was followed by The Longest Journey in 1907, and A Room with a View in (1908). By this time Forster’s reputation had been firmly established. In 1910 appeared Howards End, a novel of great power and beauty, which attracted great attention. His last great novel, A Passage to India, appeared in 1924.
Forster belonged to the tradition of cultural liberalism at its best. In his early years he admired the liberal tradition of Western civilisation, which had given opportunities for leisure and personal relations. But as time passed, he became more and more aware of the darker side of the picture, and his attitude became gravely reflective. When after the First World War, Fascism and Communism came to the forefront in many European countries, he saw that the way of life which he had favoured might be an oasis rather than an enduring possibility. So he put his weight on the side of Parliamentary democracy, which seemed to him to be the only hope in the modern world of stress and strain.
In all Forster’s novels there is a conflict between good and evil, between what is cruel, philistine and unperceiving, and the good which is lively, entertaining and sensitive. He wants a harmonious development of man in which there is combination of body and spirit, reason and emotion, work and play, architecture and scenery, laughter and seriousness. He believes that the aim of the civilised life is to enhance the quality of personal relation. This can be achieved not by pomp and power and aggressiveness in the personality, but by gentle and quiescent qualities. Feeling that Europe was degenerating to barbarism. Forster became attracted to the Eastern and especially Indian conception of personality, which is free from aggressive possessiveness.
In all the novels of Forster we find an extraordinary lightness of touch, and a sensitive spirit, but he is never weak or sentimental. Death comes suddenly and unexpectedly to the characters of Forster, because his philosophy is that the contemplation of the idea of death is necessary to the good life. Death destroys a man; the idea of Death saves him. Thus Forster, in spite of his great brilliance of incident and dialogue, basically remains a moralist. But his morality is individual, and his philosophy has a mystical background. He insists on the distinction between the civilised and the barbarous, between those ‘who have a room with a view and those who have not.’
Forster possessed gift of rhythmic prose, rarely possessed by a novelist and an ironic spirit which he exercised with the skill of Meredith. As a story-teller he was very powerful. This became clear from his first novel—Where Angels Fear to Tread. Here his theme is the contrast of two cultures—the English and the Italian, with further complications dealing with the contrast of two Italian cultures—idealistic and practical. In The Longest Journey (1907) contrast appears again. It is the novel of friendship, and of a bitterly unhappy marriage, of falsehood and shams, and of the good life. In A Room with a View (1908) Forster reached his full maturity. It was written in the form of a morality play, and deals with the theme of contrast between those who understand themselves and those who are caught in self-deception. In Howard’s End (1910) Forster reached his highest achievement as a novelist. It shows the contrast between those who live in a civilised world and those who do not. This novel, which has a great variety in incident and character, is made by Forster as symbol of his plea that it is the people gifted with insight and understanding on whom civilisation really depends. His last great novel—A Passage to India (1924) is not technically superior to Howard’s End, but here Forster has appealed to a very much larger audience, and has given a genuine picture of Indians and of the English during the British rule. Here he emphasised on personal relations, which had been his theme in all his previous novels. The atmosphere of the story is highly fascinating, and here Forster had presented a fine study of those who seek the good life by removing the barriers of civilisation, of race creed and caste.
In all his novels Forster had expressed and strongly affirmed his faith in the individual, and it is this fundamental element in his philosophy which has given him a place of exceptional honour among the modern English novelists.
2.  The Transitionalists
From the beginning of the First Word War new experiments were made in the field of literature on account of the new forces which resulted from the war, and which broke the old tradition. In fiction James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Adlous Huxley and Somerset Maugham played the prominent part.
(i)  James Joyce (1822-1941)
James Joyce was a novelist of unique and extraordinary genius. He was born in Dublin, but he left Ireland in 1904 to become a European cosmopolitan. Most of his life was spent in retirement in Paris. He was a highly gifted man and was acutely responsive to observed details. By temperament he was an artist and symbolist. He found around him an atmosphere of frustration, aimlessness and disintegration, and thus in order to express himself as a novelist he had to create for himself a different medium. He leant from the psychologists and biologists of his day that our speech occupies the dominant ‘association area’ in the brain. It is like a telegraph exchange which verbalise what we experience and hope or fear to experience. Himself a born linguist, Joyce looked upon language as a sixth sense, that machinery through which the human organism reveals its inner processes, an instinctive and therefore truthful comment on experience. He, therefore, thought that to explore the unconscious record of our psychic and psychological adjustments, would be a fascinating study if taken up by a novelist. As it was an unexplored field, and offered a new world for the artist to conquer, Joyce who was in search of a new medium, took it up, and did the pioneering work in the ‘stream of consciousness’ technique.
The important novels of Joyce are The Dubliners (1914), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), Exiles (1918) and Ulysses. Of these Ulysses is his masterpiece. In all these novels, Joyce makes a study of the artist who frees himself from various shackles and ultimately comes to the realisation of his own true personality. In Ulysses the artist is shown at one with humanity through insight into the psychology of speech, our most intimate faculty, in which all men share and have shared. This book is presented as an epic, the counterpart of Homer’s Odyssey. But whereas Homer dwells on the adventures, and has very little to say about reactions of the adventurer, Joyce lays emphasis on the speeches of the hero, because according to him, speech, not action, is the token of humanity. Our nature reveals itself through our speech, and in order to demonstrate it fully twenty-four hourse are quite sufficient, and there is no need of any change of scene.
Unlike great novels, Ulysses does not present truth to life. In that way it may be considered as a failure, though a magnificent one, because Joyce here has introduced a new technique, which exercises great intellectual appeal to the thoughtful readers. His is a pioneering work, because here he showed to the novelists to explore a new field—‘the stream of consciousness’, which was so far hidden from their view. Thus Ulysses holds an important place in the history of modern novel.
(ii)       Virgina Woolf (1882-1941)
Virginia Woolf, who was the most distinguished woman writer of her generation, made a far more exciting use of the ‘stream of consciousness’ technique than James Joyce. She was greatly impressed by Ulysses, in which Joyce had found an alternative to the well-made plot and external characterisation. She found that this conception of the inner drama of the mind was fraught with tremendous possibilities, and she decided to exploit it to the fullest extent. This method suited her admirably because having a purely literary background, much of her experience had come from books rather than from actual life. Moreover, like Joyce, she had a fine sense of language, and was gifted with a poetic temperament.
Working under the influence of Joyce, and of the French novelist, Proust, who conceived personality as a continued process of decantation from state to state, Virginia Woolf ignored the outer personality regarding it simply as the ‘semi-transparent envelope’, through which she could study the ‘reality’, namely, the thoughts, feelings and impressions as they quickened into life. She herself pointed out, “It’s life that matters, nothing but life, the process of discovering the everlasting and perpetual process.” She depicts in her novels the stuff of life—the thought, feelings, impressions—steeped in the richest dyes of her imagination and turned into images by her poetic sensibility.
In her first novel—The Voyage Out (1913), Virginia Woolf followed the traditional pattern of story—telling. Here she relates the story of a young and inexperienced girl who comes to learn something of life and the relations between the sexes, falls in love and dies of tropical fever before she can realise herself. But the real interest in the novel centres on a vogue awareness that there is a meaning in life. Her second novel, Night and Day (1919), offers an elaborate long drawn-out study of Katherine Hilberry, an intelligent young woman of the middle class and her relation with her mother and four friends. But the main interest lies not on the theme of love, but on the conversations and introspections in which the chief characters are engaged and which gradually reveal their doubts and hesitations as they face the reality of experience.
Her next novel, Jacob’s Room (1922), represents her first serious experiment in the stream of consciousness’ technique. Here she makes an attempt to construct pictorially the personality of a young Englishman from his infancy to the age of twenty-six, when he is killed in the war. Here the sunlit streams of youth are overshadowed by time. Frustration and death, and fires of love are quenched by human faithlessness. In this novel, Virginia Woolf’s quest for the meaning of human experience goes on but the mystery is not yet solved. In Mrs. Dalloway (1925) she explores and recreates the personality of a middle-aged woman, Mrs. Dalloway. Here she sets down the incidents of a day in her life accompanied by visual, mental and emotional impressions. The day in her life is expressed in terms of a long interior monologue, the smooth flowing of the stream of consciousness, which is interrupted by the striking hours of the clock.
Virginia Woolf’s most successful novel in the new ‘stream of consciousness’ method is To the Lighthouse (1927). Here the scene is set on an unnamed island, and the Lighthouse symbolize in some queer way the ‘reality’ which is never experienced. Her next novel. Orlando, which is liveliest of all, relates in a series of vivid scenes and dramatic climaxes the mental experiences of a poet while writing a prize poem. In The Years (1937) Virginia Woolf returned to a much simpler form of fiction. It is the novel of the generations in which the fortunes of a middle-class family from 1880 to the present time are rather sketchily represented. Her last novel Between the Acts (1941), is filled with a sense of her personal failure to wrest meaning from experiences, and the spectacle of the world at war deepens the despair.
(iii)     Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
As a novelist Aldous Huxley is concerned with the search for a workable faith in the bewildering world of today, and being pre-eminently an intellectual, whatever faith he finally accepts must be one justifiable by logical argument, not merely by appeals to feeling or tradition. In order to understand the generation that came to maturity between the First and Second World Wars, the writings of Huxley are the best guide. Though he lacks the imaginative power of Lawrence, and the poetic sensitivity of Virginia Woolf, he is better intellectually equipped than either. He represents the small percentage of the people of his generation who have ideas.
In his early novels Crome Yellow (1921), Antic Hay (1923) and Those Barren Leaves (1925), Huxley presented the dangerously attractive doctrine of hedonism, that is, pleasure is the greatest thing in life. The style of these novels has a seductive charm, and here the author fully exploits his scientific and literary vocabulary. The characters in these novels include middle-aged cultured voluptuaries who ask little more of life than readable books, amusing conversation, art and quiet comfortable life. Of these three novels, Crome Yellow, which is touched with lyricism possesses the greatest charm. Antic Hay which is the liveliest of the three, is a rollicking satire on the life-worshippers. Those Barren Leaves has a number of finely-drawn characters, who are easy-going pagans. They take it for granted that the universe has no meaning and therefore the only thing to do is to enjoy oneself and take no thought for the marrow. But there is one exception—Calamy, who takes a serious view of life and believes that there is an inner life within him which should be properly understood.
In his next novel, Point Counter Point, Huxley studies the frustration brought about by the conflict between passion and reason. Here he shows that man’s foolish attempt to deny the validity of the sense and pretend that he is a spiritual being, has condemned him to wretchedness and self-destruction. There is thus a self-division in human personality. The romantics find that passion divorced from reason makes life a mockery. The rational intellectual with his analytic reason destroys spontaneity and the power to feel and sympathise. Thus there is no escape. The total effect of Point Counter Point is one of bitter disillusionment with society.
In Brave New World (1923) Huxley accomplishes the combination of scientific materialism and hedonism. Here he searches for a new faith in spiritualism and Eastern philosophy. After presenting a future state dominated by science which has discovered how to produce life in the laboratory, Huxley points out that from such a life emotion has been eliminated, and there is no art, culture, religion, love, ideals, loyalty or personality. Into such a world Huxley introduces the Savage John, who represents the old world of religion and cultural values. He asks the people to revolt against spiritual slavery, but they do not understand him, and he is driven to suicide.
In Brave New World, Huxley is clearly on the side of the angels of death so long as he can have the assurance of the reality of the spirit. This respect for the spirit is further developed in his next novel—Eyless in Gaza (1939). Here he reveals a deeper concern for the quality of human personality. In the latter part of this book there is a long sermon on non-attachment and the oneness of life. Huxley derived these mainly from Hindu philosophy with its emphasis on non-attachment and universal pity.
This new philosophy is further developed in Huxley’s succeeding novels—Ends and Means (1938) and Grey Eminence (1940). Here he accepts the existence of supramundane reality. He also believes that we are bound to this world of illusion through desire, which springs from self-hood. These ideas are very much akin to the philosophy of the Bhagwad Gita. Huxley’s last novel—After Many a Summer, deals with the contrast between two conceptions of time, that of the mystic and that of the scientist. The biologist believes that eternity is a mere extension of physical life. The mystic, on the other hand, believes that it is through expansion and intensification of consciousness which is a spiritual activity, that mystic eternity can be experienced here and now.
Huxley did not make any notable contribution to the technique of the novel. His novels in fact are essays and conversations strung together on a slender thread of a plot. But he did for the novel what Shaw did for the drama; that is, he made the novel a form capable of propagating great ideas and thus making an appeal to the intellect rather than the emotions of the reader. He turned fiction into an image of the dynamic world of ideas that underlies the changing outward society.
(iv)      D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
Lawrence was a great and original writer who brought a new kind of poetic imagination to English fiction. To the man in the street Lawrence is still a great ‘sex novelist’. But he himself said, “I, who loathe sexuality so deeply am considered a lurid sexuality specialist’ Lawrence was a passionate Puritan, and his sexual idea was high and lofty. He believed that there can be no satisfying union on the physical plane alone. “Once a man establishes a full dynamic communication at the deeper and the higher centres, with a woman, this can never by broken…very often not even death can break it.” “If man makes sex itself his goal, he drives on towards anarchy and despair, and his living purpose collapses. Sex is the door. Beyond lies an ultimate, impersonal relationship, free of all emotional complications. Beyond lies the service of God.”
If we study the novels of D. H. Lawrence from this point of view, our attitude towards them would be different. His first novel, The White Peacock (1911) struck the lyrical note of much of his best work; his second The Trespasser (1912), was more melodramatic. With Sons and Lovers Lawrence came to his own. In this novel, in which he describes the boy’s life in the miner’s househood and his wonderful relationship with his mother, has been recognised as one of the great pieces of English autobiographical fiction. His next novel The Rainbow (1915) starts in much the same way, but there is far more poetry and beauty in it than in Sons and Lovers. His next novel, Woman in Love (1921), is rather obscene. In The Lost Girl (1920) Lawrence’s feeling for nature appears at its best. In Aeron’s Rod (1922) he discusses the theme of male comradeship and leadership, which is continued in the Australian novels, Kangaroo (1923) and The Bay in the Bush (1924). In Plumed Serpent (1926) Lawrence turns his back on everything that man has achieved since he began his long climb out of dust. In his last great novel. Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928), Lawrence returned to the sex theme.
Regarding the relation between the sexes, Lawrence resents man’s subjection to woman, not woman’s subjection to man. He believes that it is the modern woman’s rebellion against man which lies at the heart of the disease that is killing civilisation. Unless man is supreme, the relation that he develops with the woman is a filial relation, which amounts to incest.
Regarding the modern civilisation, Lawrence believes that man has cut himself off from the living cosmos, which is God. Without the restoration of that contact society will perish. But this cannot be brought about by the mind, which is at the centre of all this mischief. We should have more trust in our flesh and blood rather than in intellect. Man must “let his will lapse back into his unconscious self”, and arrive at “mindlessness” which is akin to the state of Smadhi as explained in Hindu scriptures.
Lawrence was a rebel, and he continued, and perhaps, won the fight for freedom which began with Hardy.
3.  The Moderns
Among the moderns the most important novelist is Somerset Maugham (1874), who is equally famous as a dramatist and short story writer. He believes in working in a narrow life and his method is ‘naturalistic’ as that of Maupassant. His important novels are Liza of Lambath (1897), Of Human Bondage (1915), Cakes and Ale (1930) and The Rozor’s Edge. Liza of Lambath is the completest specimen of Naturalistic novel in English. Here he gives us a picture of life which has long ceased to be, but in spite of this the novel remains remarkably fresh. In Of Human Bondage, Maugham plays the role of the impartial spectator as a boy and Youngman. Though the views expressed by him in it are outdated, yet it has got its value because here the author expressed his honest, unflinching acceptance of his belief in the meaninglessness of life. It is an autobiographical novel, and contains one of the most moving accounts of loneliness in English fiction. Cakes and Ale which is a witty, malicious, satirical comedy, is highly entertaining. In The Razor’s Edge, Maugham seeks the meaning of life, like Aldous Huxley, in Hindu philosophy with its emphasis on detachment and renunciation.
J. B. Priestley (1894) is another important novelist, who revived the sane and vital telling of a story in The Good Companions, which in spite of its having the defect of being too sentimental, is a great novel in the English tradition. His other novels are Let the People Sing, Daylight on Saturday and Bright Day.
Though there are a large number of minor modern novelists, the well-known among them are the followings;
(a)       Charles Morgan, who is philosophical in his approach. His important novels are Portrait in Mirror, The Fountain, Sparkenbroke, The Vayage, The Judge’s Story;
(b)       Clive Staples Lewis, who presents in his novels his ethical and philosophical views. Chief among his books are Problem of Pain, The Screwtapa Letters, The Great Divorce and Miracles;
(c)       Herbert Ernest Bates, who has evolved a use of English which will be effective in the development of prose style. His important novels are A House of Women, Spella Ho, Fair Stood the Wind for France, The Cruise of the Bread Winner, The Purple Plain;
(d)      Frederick Lawrence Greene who shows in his novels the inevitability of the power of human emotions which twist men round the designs they play for their own lives. Behind this is a pattern of life on a structure of religion against which human life is thrown in relief. All Greene’s important novels are related to a life after death, and his views about both the worlds are firm. His well-known novels are On the Night of the Fire, The Sound of Winter, a Fragment of Glass, Mist on the Waters;
(e)       In Graham Greene’s novels ‘culture’ is a living force. He believes that man is essentially good, but flamed by evil. His important novels are The Man Within, Stamboul Train, England Made Me, Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory and The Heart of the Matter;
(f)       Frank Swinnerton, who gives in his novels a detached but amiable appreciation of people, and whose treatment of life and its significance are quite satisfying. His well-known novels are Nocturne, The Georgian House and The Doctor’s Wife Comes to Stay;
(g)      Richard Church, who has been mainly concerned with contemporary life. His important novels are High Summer, The Porch, The Room Within, The Sampler and The Other Side.

People who read this post also read :


Post a Comment

Please leave your comments!