Q.1:- Explain the following
(a) Social changes in Britain which led to an increase in women readers.
(b) What actions of Robinson Crusoe make us see him as a typical coloniser?
(c) After 1740, the readership of novels began to include poorer people.
(d) Novelists in colonial India wrote for a political cause.
(a)The most exciting element of the novels of the 18th century was the involvement of women. The 18th century saw the middle classes become more prosperous. Women got more leisure to read as well as write novels. And novels began exploring the world of women—their emotions and identities, their experiences and problems.
The novels of Jane Austen give us a glimpse of the world of women in rural society in early 19th century Britain. They make us think about a society which encouraged women to look for ‘good’ marriages and find wealthy or propertied husbands. The first sentence of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice states, ‘it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
Many novels were about domestic life- a theme about which women were allowed to speak with authority. They drew upon their experiences, wrote about family life, and earned public recognition.
(b) Robinson Crusoe as depicted in the novel, gives an impression of superiority. He trades in slaves, treats coloured people not as equal human beings but as inferior people. He rescues a native and makes him his slave. He does not ask his name but casually calls him ‘Friday’. The natives were seen as primitive and barbaric people by him. This attitude was typical of a colonial master and represents the period to which Crusoe belonged.
(c) After 1740 poor people also joined the readership of novels, as a large number of circulating libraries were introduced which this enabled the poor people an easier and greater access to books. In France books were lent to poor people on hourly payment. This helped poor people to read a well known book without actually buying it. In rural areas, people would collect to hear one of them reading a novel aloud, often becoming deeply involved in the lives of the characters. The worlds created by the novels were absorbing and believable and they were seemingly real.
(d) The novelists wrote for the political cause of nationalism. Nationalism implies many concepts which have been brought out in the following examples of novels written during the colonial era
(i) Pariksha Guru reflects the inner and outer world of the newly emerging middle classes.The characters in the novel are caught in the difficulty of adapting to colonised society, and at the same time, preserving their culture and traditions.
(ii) Bankims Ananadamath (1882) is a novel about a secret Hindi militia that fights Muslims to establish a Hindi kingdom. It was a novel that inspired many kinds of freedom fighters.
(iii) In Bengal, many historical novels were about Marathas and Rajputs. These novels produced a sense of a pan—Indian belonging.
(iv) Potheri Kunjambu, a ‘lower—caste’ writer from North Kerala, wrote a novel called Saraswativijayam in 1892 mounting a strong attack on caste oppression.
(v) Munshi Premchand’s Sewasadan deals mainly with the poor condition of women in society. Issues like child marriage and dowry are woven into the story of the novel. It also tells us about ways in which the Indian upper classes used whatever little opportunities they got from colonial authorities to govern themselves.
(vi) From the 1920s, in Bengal too, a new kind of novel emerged that depicted the lives of peasants and ‘low’castes. Titash Ekti Nadir Naam is an epic by Advaita Malla. Burman (1914-51) about the Mallas a community of fisherfolk who live off fishing in the river Titash.
(vii) Premchand’s novels, for instance, are filled with all kinds of powerful characters drawn from all levels of the society. In his novels, we meet aristocrats and landlords, middle—level peasants and landless labourers, middle class professionals, and people from all the strata of society.