Class 10th history: novels, society and history what is a novel and why were they popular?

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What is a novel and why were they popular?

The novel is a modern form of literature and allows flexibility in the form of writing.

It is born from print and thus more widely circulated and read as compared to manuscripts.

The worlds created by novels were absorbing and believable. The people were transported to another person’s world.

As readership grew, the earnings of authors increased

They allowed the readers the pleasure of reading in public as well as in private and became an important source of entertainment.

New groups of lower middle-class people along with the traditional aristocratic and gentlemanly classes formed the readership for novels.

For the illiterates in rural areas, the group collected to hear one person reading aloud a novel.

The Publishing Market

Initially the novels were expensive and so the publishing market excluded the poor.

Introduction of ‘circulating libraries’ in 1740

Technological improvements in printing.

Hiring out novels by an hour.

Different formats used in novels- Epistolary and serialised.


Explain what is meant by the following types of novels. Also for each type of novel, name one writer and an example

a) Epistolary novel

b) Serialised novel

What was the impact of the increased earnings for authors?

The World of the Novel

Various authors started writing about common man and his plight.

Novels focussing on impact of Industrial Revolution and Capitalism on workers

Authors such as Charles Dickens, Emile Zola and Thomas Hardy wrote about these social changes in Britain.

The novels started using vernacular languages to produce the sense of shared world between diverse people.

Discuss some of the social changes in the 19th century Britain which Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens wrote about.

‘Like the nation, the novel brings together many cultures.’ Elaborate.

The New Woman

The 18th century saw the middle class becoming more prosperous.

Women started reading novels as well as writing them

Mainly wrote about the domestic life drawn from their own experience.

Authors like Jane Austen gave a glimpse of the life of women in that era.

Sometimes, the women authors also wrote about breaking the norms of society. (example Jane Eyre)
The New Woman

At that time, women author were generally associated with romantic novels only. As a result some women authors used a male pen name so as to be taken seriously by the public.

For example, Mary Ann Evans wrote under the pen name of George Eliot.

Novels for the Young

Mainly showed what an ideal man should be like- powerful, assertive, independent and caring.

Had a zing of adventure ( Treasure Island and Jungle Book)

Emphasised on ‘English Courage’-showed how young people witnessed grand historical events and were involved in military action.

Novels for adolescent girls also became popular, such as ‘Ramona’ and ‘What Katy Did’.

Effect of Colonialism on Novels

The novels made the European readers feel that they were a part of a superior community of fellow colonialists.

The colonisers were shown as heroic and honourable- changing the backward native places and developing them.

Some ‘adventure novels’ had a hint of colonialism. ( example Robinson Crusoe)

However, they were some writers who wrote about the darker side of colonialism ( example Joseph Conrad)


What do you think what was the role of women in the earlier times, as projected by authors like Jane Austen?

Who is the author of the book ‘Jane Eyre’? How can you say that this book tried to break away from the norms of the society?

Give examples of any two women authors who wrote under a male pen-name. Can you also give example of one such contemporary woman author?

‘Daniel Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’ is not just an ordinary adventure novel, but a tribute to colonialism’. Elaborate

The Novel Comes to India

The modern form of novels developed in India in the 19th century.

Languages- Bengali and Marathi

The novelists tried to develop a sense of national belongingness and cultural equality.

Translation of novels in different languages helped in increasing the popularity of these novels.

Initially the authors tried to translate English novels into Indian languages. But then realised that the culture was totally different so the Indian readers could not relate to it.

First modern Malayalam novel- Indulekha by Chandu Menon.

Pioneer of modern Hindi Literature- Bharatendu Harishchandra

First proper Hindi novel- Pariksha-Guru by Srinivas Das

Devaki Nandan Khatri’s Chandrakanta contributed a lot in popularising Hindi language.

Premchand also contributed immensely in Hindi Literature. He talked about ordinary people and social issues.

Bengali novels dealt with two kinds of world- one of past and the other dealing with contemporary issues.

In Bengal, the old merchant elite patronised public forms of entertainment whereas the new bhadralok were found to be in private world of reading novels.

The novel rapidly acquired popularity in Bengal.


When and how did the novels develop in India?

Why were English books directly translated in Indian languages not very successful? Give examples of such failed attempts.

Why could Srinivas Das’s novel Pariksha-Guru not win many readers?

What issue does Premchand’s Sewasadan talk about?

Discuss the role of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in promoting Bengali literature.

Novels in the colonial world

What were the uses of the novels for the colonizer and the nationalists?

  1. Vernacular novels were a source of information on native life and customs.

  2. Had description about the domestic life, the beliefs and practices of the people.

  3. Indians used novels to criticize the defects of societies.

  4. Helped in establishing a relationship with the past.

  5. Helped in creating a feeling of national pride among the readers.

  6. Created a sense of collective belongingness on the basis of one’s language.

  7. Also made the readers aware how the style of speaking differed for different people.

The problem of being modern

  1. Mostly novels presented HOW the world should be rather than reality.

  2. Mostly showed an ideal man as the one who is accepting western ideas WITHOUT rejecting traditions and one’s identity.

  3. Example- Chandu Menon’s Indulekha showed how an ideal woman and man should be

Pleasures of reading

  1. Became source of entertainment for the people.

  2. Tamil detective and mystery novels were immensely popular.

  3. Also assisted in the spread of silent reading. Initially written texts were read aloud. Now silent reading was also promoted.

Women and the Novel

  1. Many people were worried about the immoral influence of novels on women and children.

  2. Young people and women began reading them in secret.

  3. Soon, Women began to write poems, essays or autobiographical pieces.

  4. Writing novels allowed women to redefine womanhood inn their novels.

  5. Example- Rokeya Hossein’s Padmarag showed the need for women to reform their condition themselves. Her book Sultana’s dream shows a topsy turvy world in which women take the place of the men.

  6. Some women had to write in secret- Hannah Mullens and Sailabala Ghosh are some examples.

Caste Practices and novels

  1. There were novel based on the South Indian upper caste people (Indulekha) and lower caste people ( Sarawativijayam)

  2. Even Bengal witnessed novels on the lives of peasants and low castes.( Titash)

  3. Over the time, the medium of novels made room for the experiences of communities that had not received much space in the literary scene earlier. For example the Muslim community.


  1. ‘Characters like Indulekha and Madhavan showed readers how Indian and foreign lifestyles could be brought together in an ideal combination’. What were the characteristics of these two leading characters?

  2. Why did some people forbid women and children from reading novels?

  3. Who was Rokeya Hossein and write a note about her writing.

  4. What is the message given in the novel ‘Titash’?

  5. Write the contributions of Muhammad Basheer to Malayalam literature/

The Nation and its History
How novels helped in creating a feeling of nationalism

  1. The novels gave the educate Indians a platform to show the glorious past of the country and not just Puranic stories or the weak India as depicted by the British.

  2. In Bengal, there were many historical novels written about Marathas and Rajputs that produces pan-Indian belonging.

  3. Many of these novels also reveal the problems of thinking about the nation and its problems.

  4. The novels tried to involve characters from the different castes and classes of India.

  5. Example- Premchand’s novels looked towards the future without forgetting the importance of the past.


  1. ‘Tagore’s novels make us rethink abit man-woman relationships and nationalism’. Elaborate.

  2. What is the significance of Premchand’s novel Godan?

  3. Just like Charles Dickens discussed about ill-effects of Industrialization, Premchand’s Rangbhoomi too discusses the same. What is the basis of his novel?

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