Explain the characteristics of modern novel with reference to Mrs Dalloway, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Sons and Lovers.

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APortrait of the Artist as a Young Man was written partly as a conscious divergence from the realist style that was dominant in the 19th century. In the realist mode of literature, the author's goal is to create a subjective and accurate representation of reality. In order to create...

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was written partly as a conscious divergence from the realist style that was dominant in the 19th century. In the realist mode of literature, the author's goal is to create a subjective and accurate representation of reality. In order to create a stable and panoramic view of the world of the novel, an omniscient 3rd person narrator is the most common voice chosen by realist novelists. This makes it possible for the author to represent the point of view of a large number of characters and to precisely detail the world of the novel. In this way, the author is posited almost as a god presiding over the world they created.

In sharp contrast, Modernist literature is concerned with the subjectivity of reality and the way individuals navigate and experience the world. Therefore, the narrator tends to be either first person or, as in the case of Mrs. Dalloway, A Portrait of the Artist, and Sons and Lovers, an omnisicient narrator who is very closely aligned to just the character or characters whose subjective thoughts and experiences the narrative is most interested in examining.

Mrs. Dalloway and Portrait of the Artist are both prime examples of the "stream of consciousness" technique that emerged out of this new approach to narrative, in which the characters's thoughts and reactions to experiences are recorded in an uninterrupted flow, including asides and rants that move away from the inciting incident that provoked the initial chain of thought.

Sons and Lovers is different from Mrs Dalloway and A Portrait of the Artist in that it does retain some essential realist elements of the literature preceding it but melds those elements with a fresh Modernist approach to experience. For instance, Lawrence does take care to represent the harsh reality of working class life in industrial England in plain and accurate detail. However, Lawrence does not try to craft a stable and objective representation of truth or reality. Instead, he is interested in the interiority of the characters and how they interpret or make sense of their experiences, including events in which the perspectives of two characters might be both completely irreconcilable and yet completely valid at the same time.

Portrait is certainly the most boldly experimental and avant-garde of the three novels, but all three represent a marked shift in the approach to narrative, and all three were influential in expanding the limits of form and possibility within the genre of the novel.

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The novel 'Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man is regarded as one of the earliest Modernist novels. The author, James Joyce, wrote the novel partly as a response to the older realist style of the 19th century.  Modernist authors like Joyce, Woolf and Lawrence wanted to develop writing as an art form in itself and for it to have more to say to real people rather than a literary elite. Society was changing, class barriers beginning to melt and the world order was to be shaken by wars, nations claiming their land back from colonists (including Ireland and India)  Class, religion, creed,capitalism, culture and social hierarchy were shaken by radical ideologies  and new innovations which made a mockery of previous elitism and bigotry. 

Modernist novels also showed how central characters faced life and were galvanised by that traumatic journey. They were often very honest and spoke from the heart albeit in intellectually challenging ways. New readers were shocked at first and it took time for the genius of novels like 'A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man' and 'Ulysses' to be recognised. The 'stream of consciousness' style of writing was very difficult and challenging for new readers to adapt to and some of the writers were slated or even had their novels or plays banned or censored.

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