What is a novel?

Essay by ChickenFeedHigh School, 11th gradeA+, August 2004

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The novel is a fictional literary genre written in prose narrative, often in extensive length and complexity. "It can provide a more faithful image of everyday reality than can be achieved by any other literary form" (Webster). Because novels are long, they can tell more richly detailed tales than can briefer literary forms such as the short story. The novel is the supplest type of literature, and accordingly, the one with the most possibilities. Presenting more than one episode, as found in a short story, it develops plot, characters, and theme slowly. The novelist can also surround the main plot with subplots that add more meat to the story. An addition to its complexity, the novel has numerous shifts in time, place, and focus of interest. In the Bible, the parable of the prodigal son explores ideas of forgiveness but does not investigate the characters of the family members in great detail like novels do.

The novel generates the same tension of a drama, the capacity of an epic poem, the type of annotations found in an essay, and the imagery and rhythm of a lyric poem. Through its considerable length and complexity, the novel, a fictional prose narrative, outshines all other literary forms.