Guide to Literary Terms

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Novel

Novel - a lengthy fictitious prose narrative portraying characters and presenting an organized series of events and settings. Novels are accounts of life and involve conflict, characters, action, settings, plot, and theme. This is considered the third stage of the development of imagination fiction, following the epic and the romance.

The term is from the Latin novellus which is a diminutive of novus, meaning “new.”

The term was used during the early Renaissance for any new story. The first great novel of the Western world was that of Spain’s Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote de la Mancha, written from 1605 to 1612. Early novels were often heavily moralistic, intended to teach the reader a lesson about human nature.

Daniel Defoe wrote the novels Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders in Eighteenth-Century England, but the form was firmly established in England later in the same century with Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740). In the Nineteenth Century, Dickens serialized his novels, making them overwhelmingly popular.