Class 10 History

Novels Soceity and Culture in Colonial World

Uses of Novel

For the colonial administrators, novels provided a good source to understand about the life and social hierarchy in India. They could understand different aspects of the Indian society through novels. Some of the novels were translated into English; by British administrators or Christian missionaries.

Many novels highlighted the social ills and suggested remedies. Many novels told stories about the past so that people could establish a relationship with the past.

People from all walks of life could read novels. This helped in creating a sense of collective identity on the basis of one’s language. Novels also helped people to understand about the culture of other parts of the country.

Pleasures of Reading

Novels became a popular medium of entertainment among the middle class. Detective and mystery novels often had be sent for reprints to meet the demand of readers. Many novels were printed as many as twenty two times.

The novel also helped in spreading the silent reading. As late as the nineteenth century and probably in the early twentieth century, people often read out a text for several people to hear. But gradually, people adapted to read in silence.

Women and the Novel

Novels were viewed as having negative impact on people’s mind. Women and children were often prohibited from reading novels. Some parents kept novels at secret places so that children could not lay their hands on novels. Young people had to read them in secret. Older women took the services of their grandchildren to enjoy listening to a novel.

However, many women turned into writers and wrote poetry, essays and autobiographies. In the early decades of the twentieth century, women in India also began to write novels and short stories. Many women writers had to write the novel in secret because the society did not permit it.

Caste Practices

Many authors began to highlight the plight of lower caste people in their novel. In some of the novels, conflicts arising out of marriage between a lower caste and an upper caste were highlighted. Some people from the lower caste also became authors; like Potheri Kunjambu from Kerala. Many communities got space in the literary scene through novels.

Nation and Its History

In Bengal, many historical novels were about Marathas and Rajputs. These novels portrayed the nation to be full of adventure, heroism romance and sacrifice. The novel thus allowed the colonized subjects to give shape to their desires. Bhudeb Mukhopadhyat’s Anguriya Binimoy (1857) is about Shivaji’s adventures against Aurangzeb.

Bankim’s Anandamath (1882) is a novel about secret Hindu militia which fights Muslims to establish a Hindu kingdom. This novel inspired many kinds of freedom fighters.

Many of these novels also reveal the problems associated with thinking about the nation. We know that India cannot be a nation of only a single religious community.