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Novels in the Colonial World

Novels were different in the different regions of India.
Chandu Menon, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Premchand were some of the popular regional writers.


Colonial administrators found ‘vernacular’ novels a valuable source of information on native life and customs. This information was useful for them in governing the Indian society, where there was a large variety of communities and castes.

The new novels in Indian languages had descriptions of domestic life of the people. They portrayed the culture, dress code, habits , religious beliefs and practises of the people of that particular region.

Some of these books were translated into English, by British administrators or Christian missionaries.

Uses of the ‘novel’ in India
Novels were used to criticise the defects in the society and suggest remedies.

Writers used the novel to propagate their ideas about society among a wider readership.

Novels were used to establish a link with the past. Thrilling stories of adventures and intrigues of the past were retold in these novels. This created a sense of pride in the minds of the Indians.

The Problem of Being Modern
Novels were also written about the real world, but they did not show things exactly as they were in reality. Social novelists created heroes and heroines with ideal qualities, who their readers could admire and imitate.


Ideal qualities of the heroes and heroines of the novels

  • The heroes could successfully deals with the problems faced by colonial subjects.
  • They were modern at the same time did not give up their traditional values.
  • They had the capacity to accept ideas coming from the West without losing their identity
  • Chandu Menon’ s heroine Indulekha as a woman of breathtaking beauty, high intellectual abilities, artistic talent, and with an education in English and Sanskrit. Madhavan, the hero of the novel, was also presented in ideal colours. These characters were different from the mythological characters of the earlier poetic literature of India. The novelist maintained an even balance between the modern image and the traditional image As they feared that a wholesale adoption of Western values would destroy their traditional ways of living. Characters like Indulekha and Madhavan showed readers how Indian and foreign lifestyles could be brought together in an ideal combination.

    Chandu Menon

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