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Reality and Realism: Indian Women as Protagonists in Four Nineteenth Century Novels

Meenakshi Mukherjee
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 19, No. 2 (Jan. 14, 1984), pp. 76-85
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4372842
Page Count: 10
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Reality and Realism: Indian Women as Protagonists in Four Nineteenth Century Novels
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Abstract

It is a critical platitude to say that the Indian novel has a derivative form, imitated from the West. This is only superficially true. A form cannot be superimposed on a culture where there is no appropriate ethos to sustain its content. The reality of the Indian social situation had to be bent to suit the exigencies of realism. The realistic novel came into existence when the tension between the individual and the society acquired a certain intensity. If the social transformation of the nineteenth century had not set in motion certain dialectic forces among the English-educated class, the novel in its realistic form would not have taken roots in India. This paper seeks to isolate some of the attempts to reconcile reality and realism that mark the nineteenth century creative imagination. The paper discusses four novels, all written in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, to analyse different aspects of this problem. Widely different in theme and technique, these novels have some common features: they were written by major novelists in each of the languages; the protagonists are women though the writers are not; they deal with contemporary society or with a period within living memory; and they are realistic in intention.

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