What kind of novel is George Eliot's Romola?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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George Eliot's novel Romola was published in 1862. The genre the novel falls under it that of Historical Realism. In order to understand this genre, one must examine both parts: the Historical and the Realism.

Historical novels allow authors to examine true historical events and mesh them with the fictional world of literature. In a sense, the author tries to breathe new life into happenings of the past through traditional literary elements (like characterizations and conflict). They add specific literary elements to bring the images to life for the reader (for example: metaphors, imagery, personification, and allusions).

Realist novels depicted life as it really was. Authors refused to provide readers with rose-colored worlds which hid the realities of what really happened in life. These novels openly illustrated the reality of the life of the poor, immoral and unethical behaviors, and dangerous realities. The author "acted" as an observer, in a sense, only recording what happens without interfering in the action.

Romola's setting (Italy), subject matter (social issues, poverty, politics, and betrayal), and reference to actual historical figures (Columbus, de'Medici, Charles VIII, and Machiavelli) all support the historical aspects of the novel. The telling of Tito Melema and Romola's lives illustrate the realism.