A. The structure of the English novel remained unaltered till the second decade of the 20th century. Its origins were essentially bourgeois and the themes were mainly social according to the values accepted by the society of the time. The novelist was expected to mediate between his characters and the reader, telling significant events in chronological order. B. The shift from the Victorian to the modern novel was caused by a gradual transformation of British society, which in a few years passed from the prosperous world of the Victorians and Edwardians to the inter-war years marked by unrest and ferment. This social situation forced novelists into a position of moral and psychological uncertainty. They had a new role, which consisted in mediating between the solid and unquestioned values of the past and the confused present. C. The modern novelist rejected omniscient narration and experimented with new methods to portray the individual consciousness; the viewpoint shifted from the external world to the character’s mind. The analysis of a character’s consciousness was influenced by the psychoanalytic theories about the simultaneous existence of different levels of consciousness and sub-consciousness. D. Time was subjective and inner: the events are not told in chronological order, present and past are mixed. The story might unfold in the course of a single day, as in James Joyce’s Ulysses and in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, by observing the character performing a common action, or by what Joyce called ‘epiphany’, that is, the sudden revelation of an interior reality caused by the most trivial events of everyday life.

E. The narrative technique that modern novelists mainly employed was the stream-of-consciousness technique or the interior monologue. William James coined the phrase ‘stream of consciousness’ to define the continuous flow of thoughts and sensations that characterise the human mind. This definition was applied by literary critics to the kind of 20th-century fiction which focused on this inner process. Interior monologue is the verbal expression of this psychic phenomenon. In his masterpiece Ulysses, James Joyce brought to perfection the interior monologue, employing two levels of narration: one external to the character’s mind, and the other with the character’s thoughts flowing freely.
F. Some novelists were known in particular as psychological novelists because they centred their attention on the development of the character’s mind and on human relationships. The most important are: Joseph Conrad, whose novels try to record the mystery of human experience; D.H. Lawrence, who wrote about the inner conflicts of working-class people and the liberating function of sexuality; E.M. Forster, whose recurrent theme is the complexity of human relationships, together with the analysis of the contrast between two different cultures. Other novelists, most notably Joyce and Woolf, experimented with narrative techniques, exploring the mind of one or more characters and giving voice to their thoughts. 

The main features of the interior monologue are: verbal expression of the stream of consciousness; frequent lack of chronological order; the narrator may be present; formal logical order may be lost or lacking; the action takes place within the character’s mind; speech may be immediate, without introductory expressions. 

Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) was born in 1882. Her father, Leslie Stephen, was an eminent Victorian man of letters. Thus, she grew up in a literary and intellectual atmosphere and, apart from a few courses at King’s College, London, her education consisted of private Greek lessons and, above all, access to her father’s library, where she read whatever she liked. 

She spent her summers at St Ives, Cornwall, and the sea remained central to her art as a symbol. For Virginia, water represented two things: on the one hand, it represented what is harmonious and feminine; on the other hand, it stood for the possibility of the resolution of intolerable conflicts in death.

The death of her mother in 1895, when Virginia was only thirteen, affected her deeply and brought about her first nervous breakdown. She began to revolt against her father’s tyrannical character and his idealisation of the domesticated woman. It was only with her father’s death in 1904 that Virginia began her own literary life and career. She decided to move to Bloomsbury and, together with her sister, the artist Vanessa Bell, she became a member of the Bloomsbury Group, which included the avant-garde of early 20th-century London. In 1912 Virginia married Leonard Woolf, and in 1915 she published The Voyage Out, her first novel, which still followed a traditional pattern. At this time, she entered a nursing home and attempted suicide by taking drugs. In 1925 the novel Mrs Dalloway appeared, in which Virginia successfully experimented with new narrative techniques, followed by To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928), which was devoted to Vita Sackville-West, a novelist and biographer with whom she had an intense relationship. She was also a very talented literary critic and a brilliant essayist, as her volume of literary essays, The Common Reader (1925), shows. In October 1929 she delivered two lectures at Cambridge which later became A Room of one’s Own (1929), a work of great impact on the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, in which she explored many issues connected with women and writing but above all insisted on the inseparable link between economic independence and artistic independence. The Second World War increased her anxiety and fears. She became haunted by the terror of losing her mind. Finally she could stand it no longer and drowned herself in the River Ouse. She was fifty-nine. 

A modernist novelist: Woolf was interested to the complex inner world of feeling and memory. So the events that traditionally made up a story were no longer important for her; what mattered was the impression they made on the characters who experienced them. In her novels the omniscient narrator disappeared and the point of view shifted inside the characters’ minds through flashbacks, associations of ideas and momentary impressions presented as a continuous flux. Her contribution to modernism is made clear by a statement contained in her essay Modern Fiction (1919): ‘Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions – trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls

differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig-lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning to the end.” Woolf vs Joyce As for James Joyce, also for Virginia Woolf, subjective reality came to be identified with the technique called ‘stream of consciousness’. Woolf never lets her characters’ thoughts flow without control like Joyce’s , and she maintains logical and grammatical organisation. Her technique is based on the fusion of streams of thought into a third-person, past tense narrative. Thus she gives the impression of simultaneous connections between the inner and the outer world, the past and the present, speech and silence. I Woolf’s ‘moments of being’ are rare moments of insight during the characters’ daily life when they can see reality behind appearances. Fluidity is the quality of the language which flows following the most intricate thoughts and stretches to express the most intimate feelings.  The story At 10 am on a Wednesday early in June of 1923, Clarissa Dalloway, the protagonist of the novel, goes to Bond Street to buy some flowers for a party she is giving that evening at her house. While she is in the flower shop, a car drives noisily past and Shifts the attention to the street, where Septimus and Lucrezia Warren Smith are walking; he is an estate agent’s clerk and shell-shocked veteran of the First World War, she is an Italian girl. Septimus’s mental disorder has necessitated the calling in of doctors, first Dr Holmes, and now Sir William Bradshaw, a famous nerve specialist. Clarissa walks back home and there she receives an unexpected visit from Peter Walsh, the man she used to love in her youth. He then leaves Clarissa’s house and goes to Regent’s Park, where he catches a glimpse of the Warren Smiths, who are going to Sir William Bradshaw’s for an interview. The interview lasts three-quarters of an hour and results in Sir William’s arranging for Septimus to go into one of his clinics. At 6 pm, Septimus jumps out of the window of his room, and the ambulance carrying his body passes by Peter Walsh, who is going back to his hotel. All the characters who have been in some way important during the day are present at Clarissa’s party. The Bradshaws arrive and Clarissa hears from them of Septimus’s death, with which she feels a strong connection.

The setting Mrs Dalloway takes place on a single ordinary day in June of 1923, and it follows the protagonist through a very small area of London, from the morning to the evening of the day on which she gives a large formal party. Unlike Joyce, Woolf does not elevate her characters to the level of myth, but shows their deep humanity behind their social mask. They all enjoy the sights and sounds in London, its parks, its changing life, its flavour. Moreover, through what she defined as the ‘tunnelling technique’, she allows the reader to experience the characters’ recollection of their past, thus providing a sense of their background and personal history. Clarissa Dalloway’s party is the climax of the novel and unifies the narrative by gathering all the people Clarissa thinks about during the day.A changing society The novel also deals with the way people react to new situations, and provides insight into some of the most significant changes in the social life of the time, for instance the spread of newspapers, the increasing use of cars and planes, new standards in marital relationships. Woolf also adopts a motif, the striking of Big Ben and of clocks in general, which acts at the same time as a structural connection and symbol. The insistent chiming of clocks reminds the reader of the temporal grid which organises the narrative, of the passing of the time of life and of its flowing into death. So life expresses itself in moments of vision which are at the same time objective (the clocks, the streets, the cars, the flowers) and yet subjectively creative, since they are recreated every moment by active consciousness. The connection between Clarissa and Septimus Clarissa is a London society lady of fifty-one, the wife of a Conservative MP who has extremely conventional views on politics and women’s rights. The influence of a possessive father, the frustration of a genuine love, the need to refuse Peter Walsh, a man who would force her to share everything – all this has weakened her emotional self and split her in two. She is characterised by opposing feelings: her need for freedom and independence and her class consciousness. Her life appears to be an effort towards order and peace, an attempt to overcome her weakness and sense of failure. She needs to make her home perfect to become an ideal human being, but she imposes severe restrictions on her spontaneous feelings. Septimus Warren Smith is an extremely sensitive man who can suddenly fall prey to panic and fear or feelings of guilt. The cause of these feelings lies in the death of his best friend, Evans, during the war. He is a ‘shell-shock’ case, one of the victims of industrialised warfare. 

After the war, Septimus is haunted by the spectre of Evans; he suffers from headaches and insomnia. He cannot stand the idea of having a child; he is sexually impotent. The plot does not connect Clarissa and Septimus, apart from the news of his death at her party. However, they are similar in many respects: their response to experience is always given in physical terms, and they depend upon their partners for stability and protection. There is a fundamental difference, however, which has given rise to the theory that Septimus is Clarissa’s double. He is not always able to distinguish between his personal response and external reality. His psychic paralysis leads him to suicide, where as Clarissa never loses her awareness of the outside world as something external to herself. In the end, she recognises her deceptions, accepts the idea of death, and is prepared to go on. 

Orwell:Born Eric Blair in India in 1903, George Orwell (1903-50) was the son of a minor colonial official. As a small child, he was taken to England by his mother, and was educated first at a preparatory school, St Cyprian’s, in Eastbourne, then at Eton College. He could not stand the lack of privacy, the humiliating punishments, the pressure to conform to the values of the English public school tradition – such as the development of character’, a spirit of competition and a rigid adherence to discipline and to the prevailing moral code. At Eton he began to develop an independent-minded personality, indifference to accepted values, and professed atheism and socialism. On leaving school, he passed the India Office examinations for the Indian Imperial Police, opting to serve in Burma (also called Myanmar), where he remained from 1922 to 1927. In 1927 he went on leave and decided not to return; it was not simply that he wished to break away from British Imperialism in India. Back in London, he started a social experiment: wearing second-hand clothes, he spent short periods living in common lodging-houses in the East End, seeking the company of ‘down- and-outs’. In this way, he directly experienced poverty and learnt how institutions for the poor, such as hostels, prisons, lodging- houses and hospitals, worked. After a period in Paris where he worked as a dishwasher in a hotel, he decided to begin publishing his works with the pseudonym of George Orwell. He chose ‘George’ because it had an Englishness about it, suggesting plain speaking and common sense, and ‘Orwell because it was the name of a river he was fond of, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) was his first non-fiction narrative, in which he described his experiences among the poor; it was followed by Burmese Days (1934), a book based on his time in the colonial service. 

 In 1936 he married Eileen O’Shaughnessy, an Oxford graduate who shared his interests in literature and socialism. In the same year, Orwell was commissioned by a left-wing publisher to investigate conditions among the miners, factory workers and unemployed in the industrial North, where he stayed for two months. His report, The Road to Wigan Pier, was published in 1937. In December 1936 Orwell went to Catalonia with his wife to report on the Spanish Civil War. In Barcelona he joined the militia of the POUM (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification) and fought in the trenches of the Aragon front. In Homage to Catalonia (1938) he recalled this experience as the time of his true conversion to socialism and the ideals of brotherhood and equality. Back in England, the Orwells adopted an infant child and called him Richard.  They both had poor health: George suffered from bronchitis and pneumonia, and Eileen was to die during an operation in 1945. When the Second World War broke out, Orwell moved to London and, in 1941, he joined the BBC, broadcasting cultural and political programmes to India. In 1943 he resigned and became the literary editor of the ‘Tribune’, an influential socialist weekly. He also began writing Animal Farm, which was published in 1945, just when the Iron Curtain was beginning to fall on Eastern Europe, and it made Orwell internationally known and financially secure. Orwell’s last book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, was his most original novel; it was published in 1949 and soon became a bestseller. Orwell died of tuberculosis the following year. The artist’s development Orwell had a deep understanding of the English character, of its tolerance, its dislike of abstract theories and insistence on common sense and fair play. On the other hand, his various experiences abroad contributed to his unusual ability to see his country from the outside and to judge its strengths and weaknesses. He chose to reject his background and to establish a separate identity of his own.  As a consequence, he was receptive to new ideas and impressions. Orwell’s life and work were marked by the unresolved conflict between his middle-class upbringing and education and his emotional identification with the working class. He believed that writing interpreted reality and therefore served a useful social function. This explains why his most successful novels express political themes. However, Orwell believed that the writer should be independent, and that no good writing could come from following a party line.

Social themes Orwell was a prolific book-reviewer, critic, political journalist and pamphleteer in the tradition of Swift and Defoe. Indebted to Dickens in his choice of social themes and the use of realistic and factual language, he conveyed a vision of human fraternity and of the misery caused by poverty and deprivation. He insisted on tolerance, justice and decency in human relationships, and warned against the increasing artificiality of urban civilisation. Above all, he presented a devastating critique of totalitarianism, warning against the violation of liberty and helping his readers to recognise tyranny in all its forms.  The story The novel describes a future world divided into three blocks: Oceania, an Empire of which England, Airstrip One’, is no longer the head but just an and Eastasia, that is, Asia and the Far East. The outpost; Eurasia, including Russia and Europe; regimented, oppressive world of Oceania is ruled by ‘the Party’, which is led by a figure called ‘Big Brother’, and is continuously at war with the other two states. In order to control people’s lives, the Party is implementing ‘Newspeak’, an invented language with a limited number of words, and threatening them through the Thought Police’. Free thought, sex and any expression of individuality are forbidden, but the protagonist, Winston Smith, illegally buys a diary in which he begins to write his thoughts and memories, addressing them to the future generations. At the ‘Ministry of Truth’, where he rewrites historical records to suit the needs of the Party, Winston notices an attractive dark-haired girl staring at him, and is afraid she might be an informant who will prove him guilty of thoughtcrime’. The girl’s name is Julia; she proves to also have a rebellious attitude, and they begin a secret affair. One day O’Brien, a member of the powerful ‘Inner Party’, summons them to his luxury flat and tells them that he too hates the Party and works against it as a member of the ‘Brotherhood’, led by Emmanuel Goldstein. This mysterious group is trying to overthrow the Party. O’Brien gives Winston a copy of Goldstein’s book, the manifesto of the Brotherhood. Winston is reading it to Julia in their room when some soldiers suddenly break in and arrest them. He is taken to the Ministry of Love’, where he finds out that O’Brien is a Party spy. O’Brien tortures and brainwashes Winston for months, but he struggles to resist. At last, O’Brien sends him to ‘Room 101’, the final destination for those who oppose the Party. Here, Winston is forced to confront his worst fear: rats on his head, ready to eat his face. Winston’s will is broken and he is released to the outside world. He meets Julia, but no longer loves her. He has completely given up his identity and has learnt to love Big Brother.

A dystopian novel Set in a grotesque, squalid and menacing London, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dystopian novel. Orwell presents a frightening picture of the future as being under the constant control of Big Brother. There is no privacy because there are monitors called ‘telescreens’ watching every step people take; love is forbidden but there is the ‘Two Minutes Hate’ and the country is in a perpetual state of war. The Party has absolute control of the press, communication and propaganda; language, history and thought are controlled in the interests of the state through the gradual introduction of Newspeak, whose lexis is so limited that people find it impossible to express their own ideas. Any form of rebellion against the rules is punished with prison, torture and liquidation. The novel does not offer consolation but reveals the author’s acute sense of history and his sympathy with the millions of people persecuted and murdered in the name of the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century.  Winston Smith The overwhelming impression made by Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of a sense of loss, a feeling that beauty and truth, and all finer emotions and values, belong to the past. This is symbolised by the protagonist, Winston Smith, the last man to believe in humane values in a totalitarian age. “Smith’, the commonest English surname, suggests his symbolic value; ‘Winston’ evokes Churchill’s patriotic appeals for ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat during the Second World War. Winston is middle-aged and physically weak; he experiences alienation from society and feels a desire for spiritual and moral integrity. In the first two parts of the novel, it is likely that Winston and the narrator are one, and that he expresses Orwell’s views. Themes Nineteen Eighty-Four is a satire on hierarchical societies which destroy fraternity. The dictator is called ‘Big Brother’, but he actually does not watch over his people as a brother should. Watching’ here does not mean “taking care of but controlling’. Memory and mutual trust become positive themes in the struggle where Winston attempts to maintain his individuality. Orwell believed that if man has someone to trust, his individuality cannot be destroyed because his identity arises from interaction, not autonomy or isolation. Decency is mutual trust, tolerance, behaving responsibly towards other people and acting with empathy; it is extremely important for political action and any civic culture. The major theme of memory is linked to a view of morality. An egalitarian post-revolutionary society would not change values or expect them to be different but would put an end to exploitation and draw on the best of the past. Thus Winston attempts to write a diary in which his private memory is defended against the official attempts to rewrite history.

Freud and the psyche The first set of new ideas to have a profound effect on 20M century thought was introduced by Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). He created a structural model of the psyche where he identified three parts: the id, ego and superego. According to this model, the ‘id’ is the set of instinctual impulses lacking organisation; the ‘ego’ is the coordinated, realistic part; and the ‘superego’ has a critical and moralising role since it includes the constraints imposed on the individual by society, education and moral laws. Freud explained that the development of the human psyche is deeply affected by the subconscious; the discovery that man’s actions could be motivated by irrational forces of which he might know nothing, was very disturbing. Freud’s theory also maintained that the superego can profoundly distort man’s behaviour. The effects in the sphere of family life were deep: the relationship between parents and children was altered; the conventional models of relationships between the sexes were re-examined. Freud’s new method of investigation of the human mind through the analysis of dreams and the concept of ‘free association’ also influenced the artists and writers of the modern age.

1905, Freud publishes Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. This work contributed to changing the way that people thought, behaved and learnt about sexuality. Its controversial reputation was not due to the first of Freud’s three essays, which dealt with perversions. Nor did the last of the Three Essays, ‘The Transformations of Puberty’, seem to be shocking at a time when personal needs, desires and social practices only emphasised the omnipresence of sexuality. Rather, the debate that greeted Freud’s work was linked to the second essay, in which he discussed sexuality in infancy and childhood. As a matter of fact, sexuality in infancy and childhood is the central theme of the book. Freud’s discussion of adult sexual aberrations links them to unexpected or abnormal events during childhood. He also understood puberty as the sum of changes acting upon infantile sexuality.

Oceania has a totalitarian government under the leadership of Big Brother, whom nobody has ever seen except on the posters that are hanging everywhere. The government has total control on the life of the citizens, whose private and public behavior is constantly watched through telescreens and helicopters. The Thought Police has the task of controlling and manipulating people’s thoughts and opinions. 

There is also the Ministry of Truth. Winston is a smallish, frail figure, with fair hair, sanguine face, skin roughened by coarse soap, blunt razors and the cold of the winter. He wears blue overalls, the uniform of the Party. He works in the Ministry of Truth.  His name ‘Winston’ has a heroic connotation; it was Churchill’s name. His surname ‘Smith’, very common in England, makes him ‘the man of the street’. He is an ordinary man, a sort of anti-hero. He cannot remember anything about his past. Nothing remains of his childhood. Big Brother is also the parody of a historical figure: Stalin. Orwell uses paradox and Opposite words. So each slogan acquires a satirical meaning. Orwell makes a parody of totalitarianism. He attacks the sense of loss of the finest emotions and values of contemporary Britain. He warns the reader against the danger of total adhesion to a political system and its leader.