Question: What are some classic themes of traditional novels?
Answer: “The novel that deals with the Young Man from the Provinces, as Lionel Trilling calls him. It is the novel that presents the abrupt and fortuitous rise to high life of a young fellow of rustic or poverty-stricken origins. Great Expectations by Dickens and Old Goriot by Balzac are classic examples. More modern examples are The Princess Casamassima by James, The Red and the Black by Stendahl and Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk.”
“The novel that presents the Journey to a Promised Land. This thematic pattern can be found in Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck … and Giants in the Earth by Rolvaag.”
“The novel that presents the Innocent Observer of a Corrupt Society. This pattern can be seen in Huckleberry Finn by Twain, What Masie Knew by James, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Joyce.”
“The novel that deals with the Young Woman of Sensibilities Fallen on a Dull Age. Madame Bovary by Flaubert and Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Hardy are classic examples. A more modern example is Lady Chatterley’s Lover by Lawrence.
Robert C. Meredith and John D. Fitzgerald. “Themes in the Traditional Novel.” May 1966.
Comment: The ability to reduce a novel to its bare essentials, as in these examples, is vital to selling a novel to a publisher. RayS.
Title: The Writer’s Digest Guide to Good Writing. Thomas Clark, ed., et al. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 1994.