The Novel Comes Full Circle (kind of)

With the recent advent of the cellular novel in Japan we see that the evolution of the novel has come full circle from the period we have been examining, Britain in the 19th century. We have talked a lot about how female authors in the 19th century, such as Charlotte Bronte and Elizabeth Gaskell, revolutionized literary forms by showing the point of view of commonplace female characters. These authors wrote about the traditional paths and events in the lives of 19th century women, which primarily consisted of marriage plots and socially fueled drama. More than 100 years later the cell phone novels written about by Dana Goodyear in her piece “I [heart] novels” have brought back these traditional storylines. Even though in the time that has elapsed since the end of the 19th century we have seen incredible strides towards equality of men and women, the plot lines of these cell phone novels herald a time when marriage was still the primary goal in a woman’s life. Goodyear writes that the novels “revolve around true love, or, rather, the obstacles to it that have always stood at the core of romantic fiction.” This regression negates all the positive change and hardship that females have experienced in the past 100 years in order to expand their role outside of the home.

In addition to their conventional plot lines cellular novels also reflect the 19th century power of serialization of stories for readers. Just as Tess of the D’Urbervilles was first published serially, these novels are published online in short bursts with suspenseful breaks to keep the reader’s attention until the next posting.

While it is impossible for the novel form to resist change over time, I believe that this change, though reflecting many of the traditional forms we have spoken of in class, it is in fact an immense downgrade in the literary power of the novel. These types of novels require no complicated thought over plot lines or development of characters because they lack profound development of characters. Everything that made our novels especially interesting, most importantly, the emotional attachment and connection to specific characters is completely ignored in cellular novels; an absence I personally will never be able to overcome.

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