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Novels, Society and History: 10th SST

Question: Who was Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer? Mention some features of his writing.

Answer: Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer (1908-96) was one of the early Muslim writers to gain a wide popularity as a novelist in Malayalam.Basheer had little formal education. Most of his works were based on his own rich personal experience rather than on books from the past. When he was in class five at school, Basheer left home to take part in the Salt Satyagraha. Later, he spent years wandering in different parts of India, and travelling even to Arabia, working in a ship, living with sufis and Hindu sanyasis, and training as a wrestler. Basheer’s short novels and stories were written in the ordinary language of conversation. With wonderful humour, Basheer’s novels spoke about details from the everyday life of Muslim households. He also brought into the Malayalam writing themes which were considered very unusual at that time – poverty, insanity and life in prisons.

Question: Discuss how the issue of caste was included in the novels in India.
Or
Describe, the theme of the novel . ‘Saraswativijayam’ written by Potheri Kunjambu.
Or
Who is the author of novel “Saraswati vijayam”? Describe the theme of it.
Or
How does ‘Saraswativijayam’ lay stress upon the importance of education for the upliftment of the lower castes?
Or
How did authors from so called low castes gain recognition in the world of literature? Explain with examples of any two such authors.

Answer:

  1. Novels like Indirabai and Indulekha were written by members of the upper castes, and were primarily about the uppercaste characters. But all novels were not of this kind.
  2. Potheri Kunjambu, a ‘lower-caste’ writer from north Kerala, wrote a novel called Saraswativijayam in 1892, mounting a strong blow on caste oppression. This novel shows a young man from an ‘untouchable’ caste, leaving his village to escape the cruelty of his Brahmin landlord.
    He converted himself to Christianity, obtained modem education and returned as the judge in the local court. Saraswativijayam stressed the importance of education for the upliftment of’the lower castes.
  3. From the 1920s, in Bengal too a new kind of novel emerged that depicted the lives of peasants and ‘low’ castes. Advaita Malla Burmaris (1914-51) Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (1956) is an epic about the Mallas, a community of fisherfolk who live off fishing in the river, Titash.
  4. While novelists before Advaita Malla had featured ‘low castes’ as their main character, Titash is special because the author is himself a ‘low caste’.
  5. The central character of Munshi Premchand’s novel Rangboomi, Surdas is. a visually impaired beggar from a so-called ‘untouchable caste.’

Question: Describe the reasons of the popularity of novels among the women.

Answer:

  1. World of women: The most exciting element of the novel was the involvement of women. The eighteenth century saw the middle classes become more prosperous. Women got more leisure to read as well as write novels. And novels began exploring the world of women – their emotions and identities, their experiences and problems. Many novels were about domestic life – a theme about which women ‘Were allowed to speak with authority. They drew upon their experience, wrote about family life and earned public recognition. The novels of Jane Austen give us a glimpse of the world of women.
  2. Women character as independent and assertive: But women novelists did not simply popularize the domestic role of women. Often their novels dealt with women who broke established norms of society before adjusting to them. Such stories allowed women readers to sympathize with rebellious actions. In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, published in 1847, young Jane is shown as independent and assertive. While girls of her time were expected to be quiet and well behaved, Jane at the age of ten protests against the hypocrisy of her elders with startling bluntness.
  3. New conception of womanhood: Another reason for the popularity of novels among women was that it allowed for a new conception of womanhood. Stories of love – which was a staple theme of many novels – showed women who could choose or refuse their partners and relationships. It showed women who could to some extent control their lives. Some women authors also wrote about women who changed the world of both men and women.
  4. Women novelist: There were many women novelist who wrote about family life, autobiographies their personal experiences as women and earned public recognisation. Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Rokeya Hossein, Rashsundari Devi all wrote exclusively on women.

Question: What did the novels in the nineteenth- century India mean to:
(a) Women
(b) Children
Or
What was the attitude of people in India in the 19th century towards women reading? How did women responded to this?

Answer:

  1. Many people got worried about the effects of the novel on readers who were taken away from their real surroundings into an imaginary world where anything could happen. Women and children were advised not to read novels as they were seen as easily corruptible.
  2. Some parents kept novels in the lofts of their houses, out of their children’s reach. Young people often read them in secret. This passion was not limited only to the youth. Older women-some of whom could not read— listened with fascinated attention to popular Tamil novels read out to them by their grandchildren.
  3. But women did not remain mere readers of stories written by men. Soon they also began to write novels.
  4. A reason for the popularity of novels among women was that it allowed for a new conception of womanhood. Stories of
    love-which was a staple theme of many novels-showed women who could choose or refuse their partners and relationships. Some women authors also wrote about women who changed the world of both men and women. .
  5. Rokeya Hossein (1880-1932) in Sultana’s Dream (1905) showed a topsy turvy world in which women take the place of men. Her novel, Padmarag also showed the need for women to reform their condition by their own actions.
  6. Hannah Mullens, a Christian missionary and the author of Karunao Phulmonir Bibaran (1852), reputedly the first novel in Bengali, tells her readers that she wrote in secret.
  7.  In the twentieth century, Sailabala Ghosh Jaya, a popular novelist, could only write because her husband protected her. As we have seen in the case of the south, women and girls were often discouraged from reading novels.

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