Why The Novel Matters
D H Lawrence
Stop and Think
Question 1: What are the things that mark animate things from the inanimate?
Answer: Animate things are full of life, but inanimate things are devoid of life. All things that are live are amazing, and inanimate things are subsidiary to animate things.
Question 2: What is the simple truth that eludes the philosopher or the scientist?
Answer: A philosopher or a scientist thinks that living things are made of many parts and consider some parts more important than other parts. For example, a philosopher thinks that life is soul and body is just a container for that soul. A scientist thinks that life is brain and heart, and considers brain and heart as more important than bone or muscle. According to the author the sum is greater than its parts, so life is more than a mere conglomeration of various organs, like heart, brain, kidneys, and so on.
Question 3: How does Lawrence reconcile inconsistency of behaviour with integrity?
Answer: D H Lawrence argues against the concept of absolutism. He thinks nothing is absolute in this world. Even the change is not absolute. Author thinks favourably about his own integrity. But he is against the idea of integrity working like the tunnel vision. One needs to constantly change in order to be full of life. If someone is a stickler to the rule book, he becomes as static as a lamppost, and a lamppost cannot be alive.
Understanding the Text
Question 1: How does the novel reflect the wholeness of a human being?
Answer: A novel is a book, but a book is not alive. A novel has numerous characters which live life to the hilt. If a character shows a set pattern of behaviour and novel follows a set pattern, both become dead. Since a novel shows myriad colours of life it is as alive as a human being. The novel is composed of characters, plots and sub-plots, and the sum is greater than parts in a novel. Thus, a novel reflects the wholeness of a human being.
Question 2: Why does the author consider the novel superior to philosophy, science or even poetry?
Answer: Philosophy, science and even poetry have their limitations. Philosophy talks about the supreme importance of soul and afterlife. But the author does not like the idea of whatever is beyond life. A scientist thinks about life in terms of various parts of the body. While dissecting the body, the scientist goes on from organ system to organ to tissue to cell and even to molecular level. The scientist thinks that a cell or a molecule is life. But the author thinks that an isolated cell cannot be as full of life as the hand or the foot or the whole body. Even poetry is limited by the canvas it gets to show all the manifestations of life. But a novel, being bestowed with a larger than life canvas is able to do true justice to life.
Question 3: What does the author mean by ‘tremulations on ether’ and ‘the novel as a tremulation’?
Answer: The dictionary meaning of tremulation is trembling. Tremulation or trembling is the effect but not the cause. The author thinks that the spirit is like tremulations on ether. We can think about tremulations as positive or negative vibes from a person, or certain personality traits of the person. Such tremulations may have certain effects on other individuals. A novel is full of tremulations. The vibes from a novel can stir the body and mind of the reader. This is what the author means by ‘tremulation’.
Question 4: What are the arguments presented in the essay against the denial of the body by spiritual thinkers?
Answer: The author has given many arguments against the denial of the body by spiritual thinkers. The spiritual thinkers say that the body is like an empty vessel, without the soul. From this, the author draws a corollary that the body is like an empty bottle from which the wine has been finished. But author does not agree with this, rather thinks that every part of body is full of life, and spirit has no existence. The author thinks that his hand is full of life, which is evident in the manner in which the hand makes complex movements while writing a piece of literature.
Talking About the Text
Question 1: The interest in a novel springs from the reactions of characters to circumstances. It is more important for characters to be true to themselves (integrity) than to what is expected of them (consistency). (A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds – Emerson)
Answer: A novel becomes interesting because it portrays various shades of gray, along with blacks and whites of life. If a novel appears to be preachy, readers tend to lose interest. So, characters in a novel need to be interesting rather than fitting into some sort of straightjacket.
Question 2: ‘The novel is the one bright book of life’.’Books are not life’. Discuss the distinction between the two statements. Recall Ruskin’s definition of ‘What is a Good Book?’ in Woven Words Class XI.
Answer: All books are not novels. This means that some books are not novels. Books, other than novels, do not have life. A book can be anything, right from funny joke-books to dry yellow-pages. A telephone directory can never have life. But a novel springs to life because of the way its characters respond to the environment. That is what makes a novel interesting stuff to read.
Question 1: Certain catch phrases are recurrently used as pegs to hang the author’s thoughts throughout the essay. List these and discuss how they serve to achieve the argumentative force of the essay.
Answer: Following is the list of some catchphrases recurrently used as pegs to hang the author’s thoughts.
- Body: The author begins the essay by highlighting the importance of body for life. While doing so, the author tries to prove the futility of spirit being seen as life.
- Man alive: By using this catchphrase, the author highlights the vitality with which we associate life. The throbbing pulse, blood coursing through veins and motion made by muscles, all of these bring animation to life.
- Tremulation: This word means trembling. The author has used this term to signify the positive and negative vibes emanating from a person. The mutual interactions between tremulations from different individuals make the life so interesting and engrossing.
Question 2: The language of argument is intense and succeeds in convincing the reader through rhetorical devices. Identify the device used by the author to achieve this force.
Answer: Following are the rhetorical devices used by the author to make his arguments intense.
- Allusion: When the author mentions the Bible.
- Amplification: The author has used many words to show that spirit or different organs do not mean life. Examples: wine, afterlife, a book without characters, etc.
- Metonymy: The author has used ‘a bright book of life’ to represent a novel. This is an example of metonymy in which an object is indirectly referred to by some other name.