The Novel Novel?

Especially after closely studying the 19th Century novel, cell phone novels, the supposed modern transmutation of the traditional novel, is frankly shocking and disturbing. I get that they could be an outlet for young women leaving seemingly meaningless lives to let out their angst and freely discuss their feelings. I get that the plots are comfortably relatable, representative of reality. I get that it could help women with minimal opportunities to gain purpose, even if they are not looking for public recognition. And these are all good things, but isn’t the novel supposed to challenge society and reality? To take the reader away from their own life and into a more sophisticated and interesting world? Aren’t good novels supposed to be original, aesthetically pleasing and well written? I guess the answers to these questions lie in the fact that these “novels” are designed for and read by a completely different audience than the 19th Century novel.

In some ways, however, cell phone novels are actually similar to traditional novels. Just like 19th Century female authors created pseudonyms like “Currer Bell” and “George Eliot,” these cell phone novelists are creating pseudonyms, like “Mone” and “Purple.” The motive of not wanting to “bring unwanted attention” to her family that Mone states is consistent with 19th century motives. However, the difference is that 19th century female authors were forced to hide, sacrificing their identities so that they could publish works that exposed and challenged societal gender roles. It could be argued that these cell phone novelists are reversing these feminist efforts, writing stories in keeping with the oppression of women, trying as much as possible to conform to society and telling their readers stories that they already know. The sad reality is that these women still feel a need to conform to sexist female ideals, and they are not continuing Charlotte Bronte’s fight against traditional gender role conformity. I believe this easy-to-access genre of literature definitely has potential in our increasingly technological society, but by writing undisruptive plots, cell phone novels are definitely not furthering society in the way that 19th century, traditional novels do.

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