Tag: Heart of Darkness

Development Of The English Novel In The Twentieth Century

Development Of The English Novel In The Twentieth Century

Writers embracing a bold new style

Moving on from the novels of Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters that characterized the previous century, let’s trace the development of the English novel in the twentieth century and meet writers embracing a bold and less convoluted style of writing. We, as modern authors should thank these writers for paving the way and granting us the freedom to write creatively.

All the authors I cover today are male but I did cover women authors last blog and will again feature writers of the sisterhood.

Joseph Conrad

My first featured author is Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) who was not really English, but Polish. He spoke no English at all in his first twenty years.  He left Poland for life at sea at 17 and became a sailor on British ships, sailing the oceans of the world. Such adventures inspired his brilliant and psychologically fascinating novels; Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness and many others. Heart of Darkness offers a strong discourse about colonial rule in Africa and racism. It provided the inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film, Apocalypse Now. Conrad explores the moral consciousness of his characters and writes often in the first person not as an omniscient narrator. This at the time was a bold change of direction for the novel.

Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald

I devoted a previous blog,  (Novels of the Jazz Age) to the novels of Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald.  Certainly, world events impacted on this generation of writers and musicians. The post-World War One years saw a burst of amazing energy funneled into creativity in the arts and set the scene for experimentation in art forms. These two high living Americans in Paris wrote from their own experiences and capture the disillusionment surrounding war and love in their novels, The Great Gatsby and Farewell to Arms.

H.G. Wells

Along with these two writers, H. G. Wells (1866-1946) made the first real break away from upper class love triangles dominating past English literature. Apart from the brilliant French writer, Jules Verne, Herbert George Wells seems to be the first writer of the English language to embrace Science Fiction. His novel, The Time Machine is still a good read today. Later novels include War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon and The Food of the Gods. Later, despite his mastery of the SF genre, Wells branched out to write tales of social realism, featuring the common man confronted by the industrialization and commercialization of the world. Sidetracked by his own strong views on the modern world, he lost his imaginative touch and returned to the didactic style of the previous century, preaching at his readers, with scant attention to character and plot, about the evils of progress and world government. But he will always be remembered for The Time Machine and is considered the father of Science Fiction.

Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley (1894-1968) also explores the possible future issues of a capitalist and technological society in his dystopian novel, Brave New World.

E.M. Forester

There seemed a bit of a trend amongst writers at that time to use just initials not full name! An even stronger divergence from the traditional way of writing is seen in the prose of E.M Forester and D. H Lawrence.

E.M, Forester (1879-1970) wrote the famous novels, Passage to India and Room with a View, both now excellent films. Both are personal favourites of mine. They feature confused young women who discover after near disaster that it is best to be truthful early on about how you feel. This new intimate treatment of characters opens the way for the raw humanity of D.H. Lawrence.

D.H. Lawrence

Lawrence (1885-1930) was unlike others before him, (despite again using only his initials.) David Herbert Lawrence burst onto the scene like a storm. His earthy, sexual novels shocked many in society. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, published in Italy, was banned in Britain until 1960. As the son of a miner, he had an insight into the humanity of the working class and perfectly captures this living force in his writing. His free form sentences and imagery are as liberating as the explicit content of his work. His love scenes are raw, sensual and incredibly daring for their time but pave the way forward for other writers.

Didactic prose to Subjective Creativity

Thanks to these amazing writers we see the development of the English novel in the twentieth century from  didactic stilted prose to a more personal subjective and creative style.