The Novel


A Novels, though not as popular as newspapers and magazines, still command a significant part of the publishing market, and everybody is familiar with the glossy paperbacks that line the shelves of bookstores and news agencies the world over. But few people besides the critics are aware of the origins of the novel, or of the different forms it has taken before it reached its present plenitude of styles.

B Nowadays the term "novel" is applied to a wide range of writings that share the characteristic of being extended works of fiction written in prose. In terms of narrative, the novel is distinguished from both the short story and the novelette by being extended and of greater scope than those more compacted forms in that it permits more opportunity for variations in character, as well as more thorough examination of character motive, longer and more complex plots, and deeper exploration of setting. As such, Robinson Crusoe, written in 1719 by Daniel Defoe about a man marooned on a deserted island, is generally credited as being the first novel because of the completeness of the fictional world depicted and believability of the characters, both of which issue from its realistic depiction of the details of surviving in the wild.

C However, Defoe's novel certainly had its precursors. In most European languages the word for novel is "roman" which comes from the medieval "romance". "Novel", on the other hand, is derived from the Italian word "novella" (a new little thing), which was the name for a short tale in prose. Novellas were popular in fourteenth century Italy, where they were published in collections that often garnered quite scandalous reputations. The most well known of these collections is Boccaccio's Decameron, which details the amorous adventures of a selection of different women. The term "novella" is often used now in place of the term "novelette", which refers to a short novel.

D Antecedents of the novel also appeared in the Spanish language. "Picaresque narratives" originated from Spain in the sixteenth century. A typical picaresque tale involved a cheeky rogue who lived off his wits. The difference between this kind of narrative and the novel is that while the novel usually developed some important, central plot or story that built towards a climax, the picaresque usually put the protagonist through a long succession of adventures which had little or no effect on his character. Picaresque fiction is episodic in structure, realistic in manner, but often satiric in aim. Despite these differences, the picaresque narrative was central to the development of the novel, and the great picaresque narrative Don Quixote, written in 1605, is considered the direct predecessor of the novel. Furthermore, there are a number of modern novels which are recognisably of picaresque form. The most famous of these is probably The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) by Mark Twain.

E From these and other precedents sprang Defoe's "novel of incidence", which includes the already mentioned Robinson Crusoe, as well as the slightly later (1722) Moll Flanders. Whereas in Defoe's novels the greater concern lies in what the protagonist will do next and how the story will conclude, in the "novel of character" more emphasis is placed on the protagonist's motives, and how the protagonist as a person will turn out. Also called the "psychological novel", this type of novel was first invented by Samuel Richardson when he wrote Pamela in 1740. This novel, and Richardson's next novel Clarissa (1747-1748), are both also classified under the heading of "epistolary novels", which refers to novels that are comprised entirely of an exchange of letters. Novels of character, and epistolary novels are still written today.

F Since these early distinctions the novel has been divided into many sub­classes. One famous differentiation is that made by Hawthorne in 1851 between the "novel proper" and "prose romance", which is a distinction between a realistic setting, with complex characters rooted in social class, and a romantic setting, in which archetypal characters pursue an ideal in an often mythical or historical world.

G In modern times the novel is, arguably, the most thriving of literary forms. Novels of numerous different forms on a great number of topics have appeared, some of which are shown in the table below.




Bildungsroman (Novel of Education)

Development of the protagonist's mind/character from childhood into maturity

Dickens, Great Expectations Mann, The Magic Mountain

Kunstleroman (Artistic Novel)

Development of the protagonist's artistic mind

Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

Social Novel

Emphasises social and economic conditions

Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Historical Novel

Pays great attention to historical verisimilitude and accuracy

Tolstoy, War and Peace Mitchell, Gone With the Wind

Non-fiction Novel

Novelistic techniques used to graphically describe recent historical events

Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

Magic Realism

Mix of realism with the fantastic and dreamlike

Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Questions 1-4

Choose the appropriate headings for sections B-E from the list of headings below. Write the appropriate numbers i-xii in boxes 1-4 on your answer sheet.

List of Headings


i What is a novel?
ii A predecessor of similar name
iii Modern variations
iv The romantic origins of the novel
v Another precursor
vi The romantic versus the social
vii Picaresque novels
viii Widely read but background relatively unknown
ix A well-known distinction
x The novel of incidence
xi Three early types of novel
xii The first novel


Example Section  A  Answer viii

   Section    B 

2.    Section    C 

.   Section    D 


Example Section  F   Answer ix

Example Section  G  Answer iii


Questions 5-9

Do the following statements reflect the claims of the writer in Reading Passage! In boxes 5-9 on your answer sheet write

YES if the statement reflects the writer's claims
NO if the statement contradicts the writer's claims
NOT GIVEN if there is no information about this in the passage

Books of short prose tales were regularly considered to be of disreputable charac in fourteenth century Italy. 
6. In picaresque narratives the protagonist's character never changes. 
7. Psychological novels are not concerned with story and plot. 
8. Samuel Richardson is best known for having invented the psychological novel.  Novels are one of the most successful types of literature. 


Questions 10-14

Below is a list of different narrative forms, and following the list are FIVE descriptions of narratives.

Choose the narrative form which best fits the descriptions of the narratives, as the example.

NB There are more narrative forms than narrative descriptions so you will not i all of them. You may use any of the narrative forms more than once.

A Picaresque

F Kunstleroman

B Novel of Incidence

G Social Novel

C Novel of Character

H Historical Novel

D Epistolary Novel

Non-fiction Novel

E Bildungsroman

Magic Realism


Example: The story of Venus's unrequited love for Terrence, a millionaire playboy, told through the collection of letters she sends to him. Answer: D

 A dramatic and moving account of one of the ancient world's most famous crimes-Caesar's assassination in ancient Rome; told from the points of view of the various conspirators and rendered with great attention to known facts, even down to breakfasts eaten and clothes worn by Caesar and the conspirators. 

  The story of Verne Malley, a child guitar prodigy of enormous talent, and the mental trials and tribulations he undergoes trying to come to terms with his gift. 

  The adventures of Nutty Thompson, an all Australian sheep shearer and drunk, and the troubles he gets into as he moves from town to town, wool shed to wool shed, and bar to bar. No matter how bad the situation looks, Nutty always manages to escape alive and intact, complete with cheeky grin. 

  The story of Arnold, who earns a reputation as a bully and thug in his early youth, but then as a university student finds himself drawn towards helping victims of violence because of his "inside knowledge" on the subject. Through this kind of work he manages to confront his own inner demons, and find a measure of peace in life. 

  TA vivid portrayal of family life on a Chinese communist collective and the hardships imposed by food and land rationing.