Sample Essay on English Novel in the Nineteenth Century


A novel is a narrative written in prose form revealing characters in a less complex way, and whose actions are derived from a real life. The length varies depending on the topic and the desire of the writer. This paper reports on novels that were written in the nineteenth century. The paper contains the different themes that were common during that time and the literary styles used in those days. It further reviews challenges experienced by writers in those days.


In the 19th century, novel writing was one of the dominant arts in the west. Many writers came to write about interesting topics. There were various kinds of novels; these included the industrial, historical, Bildungsroman, science fiction, New Woman, provincial, regional, sensation, gothic, and detective novel genres. There were many classifications of the novel, among them the fictions. The classifications were based on the source of the story line. The fictitious are types of novels with invented characters and actions. Others are drawn from the author’s real life. This comprises some of the Dicken’s works, such as the Great Expectations. Some of the novels were based on real life, like Daniel Defoe’s works. Shelley Frankenstein derived her writing from dreams and nightmares. The rate of fiction differed from one novel to another. Most of the novels were written in prose form. This facilitated access to the daily accepted existence of things and people. This form of writing was accepted as it brought focus on other issues than itself, hence a transparent form of medium. Through this form, illusion was created. The reader was made to believe that they were reading a true and real story, only to find later that the story was invented. Catherine Morland, for instance keeps the attention of the readers in her writing in the ‘Northanger Abbey’.  Others were written in form of verses: ‘The Golden Gate’ is in verse form.

A novel is a part of literature that reflects an individualist and innovating orientation. The basic method is to give the truth of a person’s experience which is always unique and new. The most unique method is the absence of conventions. Novels are hence full of anti-generic expression. This is the truth that is established through secular truth. It is bound in the line of falsehood of previous imaginations of reality. The novel is considered a form of literature of the middle classes during the modern period. This is because it is full of suspicious ideas which are driven in a realistic way. These ideas face the facts about life. So many novels are based on romance. However romance in the nineteenth century was based on fulfillment of personal wishes rather than reality. The readers get to novel with the desire to know the truth about the deep morals within the society and in art. Instead of representing the real world, reality effect has been represented in the novels in the nineteenth century. The use of signs, conventions and codes bring the aesthetic effects which are brought through inter-textuality.

Movements of writing in the 19th century

The features of the novel during that era differed based on the period of reference. Three varying movements of writing were experienced in the nineteenth century. These were the romantic, the American renaissance, and the realism periods. The romantic period was characterized by the theme of individual journey to freedom. These peoples’ beliefs were based on the wish to shift life from the fraudulent urban regions to the natural countryside. Rural regions were associated with purity, freedom, and clarity. The people who believed in romance highly esteemed intuition and feelings above imagination power and reasoning. They perceived life as idyllic instead of reality.

During the American renaissance in 1840-1860, people were educated on the meaning of being American. The writers of this period desired to evaluate the probabilities related with human capability. This was examined while special attention was paid on personal ego. The desire of the authors in this period was to recognize themselves as Americans and not the British authors. This period was marked by increase in feminism, abolitionism, and requirements for personal improvements. This period was highlighted by life experienced based on intuition rather than reality; the utopian ideology was highly significant in this era.

The realistic movement was 1855-1900. Writers in this era preferred to base their artwork realism to overcome the present problems that were experienced in the American culture. Their desire was to change social challenges at that time. Focus was on the true life as opposed to idealized life upheld in the older periods. Life was portrayed as it was; focus was on the common man who faced the daily trials and tribulations.

Russian Novels

Most of the Russian novels were full of romance mixed with realism. They have therefore been considered as psychological studies. The characters face the reality to life by incorporating melodrama in their behaviors. Serious work by the authors can be seen by the author separating from the characters. At the end these characters have a difficult time in merging their romantic dreams with the real life. Other Russian novels are characterized by the human and cosmic challenges.


American Novels

The American novels were mostly referred to as romances. This is because of the deep romantic language involved in most of these novels. This theme however shifted to realism at the end of the century. Other than being the master pieces, these novels were experimental and superior in style. Topics like marriage and divorce stood out.


This study seeks to prove that the nineteenth century novels were full of creativity. The objective is to evaluate the significant authors, trends, and genres of the period.

Styles of novel writing

There are different writing styles that were employed in this period. These are mainly the prose and the narrative styles.


Many writers employed this technique to captivate their readers. This is because this form of writing is very flexible. The writer can invent a new thing in between and as long as there is flow, the reader may not sense it. This form of writing explores new ways of coming to terms with the present real life situation. The writer is able to change human realities to fit their idea. Novelists have managed to define themselves through this method of writing.


Narrative was another form of novel writing; it distinguished novels from plays. Novelists employed this form to ‘talk the story’. This is irrespective of the drama included. The narrator voices his ideas to bring out an argument, statement or the flow. Pride and Prejudice stands as an example of a novel that employs narration at the beginning. This was written by Austen. This form of writing offers a wide range of voices that competes over interpretations.

Features of a novel

In general, a novel must be longer than any short story. Novels must be long to for the reader to be fully satisfied with the complexity of the subject. Novels in the nineteenth century ran at different lengths. Some were produced in volumes having more than a million words. Other than the length, the space within a book is necessary for fulfillment of the expectations.  There are other novels which seem to be longer than short stories but shorter than the general length of a novel. These are grouped as ‘novellas’.

Characters form the basis of the novel, other than the story line. Readers have long remembered characters in the story more than the subject. This is because characterization plays a bigger role in the flow of the subject. Because of this caption of the readers, the protagonists have formed the title of most novels. Character brings life, richness, and elasticity to novels. This is because the story lies within the characters. Messages in novels are therefore defined by the characters. When a character is so lively and captivating, the reader is able to feel and live by that character. These created characters end up shaping the perception of the readers by the interest they manage to cultivate in the reader’s mind. Through characters in the novels, writers have managed to correspond to human psychology and attitudes. These characters at times act as narrators of the action. Hence they are an essential part in this genre.

Action in the novel refers to the primary movement within the novel over a period of time. Through the characters, actions are displayed and the story is told. Through the actions, the readers’ expectation of real life comes to pass. Readers desire to partake of some life within the novel. A pot is a continuation of related events. A story is the connection of basic incidents within the novel, mostly lined in a sequential order. The plot chronologically places these incidents in order. The French and the Russian novels were mostly full of romantic messages and realistic traditions. Through these pieces of writing the present world can catch a glimpse of the kind of life in the olden times. Through these the readers are made aware of the social classes and social abuses that existed in that time. Conflicts that existed are also highlighted, like the variance between man and nature.


The message from the novels differed from time to time and from people to people. The main themes that were expressed were the themes of romance and realism.

The theme of Realism

Realism is a term that was initially used to contrast the neoclassical painting from the human truth. Modern realism entails discovery of truth through personal senses. Realism has existed for so long. Through realism, the truth is given light and power. Realism is accurate to the life experiences lived on the social and physical setting. It is governed by causes and effects. Through realism life is brought out as it is. This is through the contextual and sequential concrete. It is a form of writing that cuts across the board of literature. Realism brings the reader to near the physical and material existence. Hence it is less likely to be twisted by mystification. The language in realism is the same that is spoken in the real life explanations, accounts and in vocabularies.

However to understand the message of realism, one has to comprehend the idea that any image is collection. Hence the images are either implicit or explicit groups of arrangements. Realism language consists of irony, metaphors and metonyms. These misguide the reader to a reliable and transparent representation of the reality. Others have perceived realism as a dangerous form. This is in view of neutral perception, objectivity and concretion. Realism is said to form and empower the world without giving it an authentic religious dimension.

The theme of Romance

The romantic period was an intellectual era that was brought about partly by the industrial insurgency. The romantics were viewed as rebellious to the scientific rationalization. Romantic literature was a way through which these people rebelled. This form of life was initially felt in Germany before it spread throughout Europe. This rebellion was also a means of breaking away from modern realities. Primarily, the writers freely expressed their feelings during this era. The law that bound people was their feelings. Hence there was more creativity that had never been experienced in the artists’ world.  Originality was very significant, the impression of genius becoming the key. Hence the derivative of genius was least appreciated in this period. The people had a strong belief and concern in nature. This was more profound when the artist was surrounded with it. Nevertheless these people had little trust to the world; hence the close connection to nature which was viewed as morally and mentally well.

Romantic literature addressed the audience openly and individually. This was through the voice of the artist. This made the readers personally identify with the author who happened to be the voice in the novel. This genre was personified in a restless and original spirit which desired to forcefully burst in a conventional and limited way. It was also defined as a restless preoccupation with a continuous inner consciousness; a desire for the unlimited and undefined; a searching for ways to express a ravenous desire for unfeasible goals. Naturally, this period remains largely undefined in the literal history. The themes in romanticism were realized as part of the criticism. Romantic writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne preferred to write on issues like human psychology and occult. Satire was viewed as unworthy and casual form of writing.

Unlike her fellow, novelists, Jane Austen wrote in a conservative manner greatly contrasting with the romantic generation. She maintained a strong sense of decorum and social policies. Among the great writers in France was Francois Chateaubriand. He employed prose in all his work. In others he applied fiction as a style. Most of his novels were based on modern history and modern politics. He largely defended religion and the intermediating spirit. Through his works, the history of romanticism in France is revealed. This was adapted later at the end of the century. It was after the French revolution that the French writers were inspired by foreign writers. In Italy, Romanticism was less appreciated at first although it has a great impact. This form of writing neo-classism was rejected and writers were encouraged to study other foreign writer’s work.

The end of this era was marked by the introduction of realism. This greatly affected literature. The movement began in France before spreading to other nations. Nevertheless romantic styles continued to spread in other fields too. Children’s literature, folk literature and non-classical mythology were essential as they part of the imagination and theories related to racism. In Germany, romanticism was connected to nationalism. This was contrary to the English.

The impact of European romantics on American writers

This movement reached America in the early 19th century. By then, romanticism was a complex and individualistic style. Writers in both regions exemplified high levels of moral interest, personal commitment, and self-revelation; this greatly built on intuitive views. This form was appealing to the American spirit and to those who wanted to break free from religious ties. It embraced individualism and revolted neoclassicism and religious perception. America’s desire for liberty greatly influenced the writers as they could freely express their emotions. Psychological growth in character in terms of excitement was also experienced.


Novels are the longest written literature in prose form. They are written in different styles. They are followed by novellas, flash fiction and short story. The main theme in the nineteenth century was romance, followed by realism. The scientific literature paved way for the introduction of romantic books. These rose up to educate both genders. Through romantic themes, writers had the freedom to express their feelings without any bound. Hence, it was one of the best forms of writings.

This study has reviewed the stylistic devices, themes, and history of the novel. The study thus proves that the nineteenth-century novels were full of creativity.