(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. Novels began exploring the world of women, their emotions and identities, their experiences and problems. '
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 are 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 enabled the poor people to have 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.
(d) The novelists in India wrote for the political cause of nationalism. .
Nationalism implies many concepts which have been brought out in the following examples ofnovels 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 own culture and traditions.
(ii) Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay's Anandamath (1882) is considered one of the most important novels in Indian literature. The plot of this novel was based on the devastating Bengal famine of 1770 and unsuccessful Sannyasi Rebellion. Bankim dreamt of an independent India.
In this dream, he imagined untrained Sannyasi soldiers fighting and beating the highly experienced royal army. This novel became synonymous with the struggle for Indian independence. The National Song of India Vande Mataram was first published in this novel.
(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 the ways in which the Indian upper classes used whatever little opportunities they got from colonial authorities.
Premchand’s novels are filled with all kinds of powerful characters drawn from all levels of 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.
(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 Noam is an epic by Advaita Malla Burman (1914-51), about the Mallas, a community of fisherfolk, who live off fishing in the river Titash.