Friday, March 23, 2012

Elements of the Novel

 Notes on Aspects of the Novel, by E.M. Forster. 

The Story: ". . . we want to know what happens next." "It is the aspect of the novelist's work which asks to be read out loud, which appeals not to the eye . . . but to the ear." ("Yes -- oh, dear, yes -- the novel tells a story.")

The People: " . . . 'the pure passions, that is to say the dreams, joys, sorrows and self-communings which politeness or shame prevent him mentioning' . . . to express this side of human nature is one the chief functions of the novel." [Forster is quoting the French critic Alain]

The Plot: "The plot-maker expects us to remember, we expect him [or her] to leave no loose ends. Every action or word ought to count; it ought to be economical and spare; even when complicated it should organic and free of dead matter."

Pattern and Rhythm: "Everything is planned, everything fits; none of the minor characters are just decorative . . . . they elaborate on the main theme, they work. The final effect is pre-arranged, dawns gradually on the reader, and is completely successful when it comes . . . . the symmetry they have created is enduring."

Forster concludes: "When the symphony is over we feel that the notes and tunes composing it have been liberated, they have found in the rhythm of the whole their individual freedom. Cannot the novel be like that?"

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