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principal bhupinder writes about Social Realism in Fiction
Social Realism is the acute awareness of the social forces that surround the individual, their power to influence the lives of men and the over-all interaction of the individual and society. The dictionary meaning of the term “realism” is an attitude “regarding things as they are, practical outlook on life; representation in art or letters of the real aspects of life; even sordid and repellent”.
The main aim of Realism is to point towards malaise in society. Realism is the literary synthesis which through selection and creation heightens for the reader his understanding of reality. Literature is a reflection of life. Literature is the manifestation of human emotions. Literature has been used by writers to fight against orthodox traditions, hypocrisy, exploitation and fascism. A writer is committed to depict the social changes is the writer influenced by changes in society from time to time, is depicted in fiction.
In the nineteenth century novel Charles Dickens is pre-eminent. Dickens ‘OLIVER TWIST’ is an excellent novel. Appalled by the cruelty of his times, Dickens conveyed a message through fiction to his hard-hearted generation. Dickens tells the story of a virtuous pauper boy who has to submit to perils and temptations. In all his work Dickens is attacking the social condition his times. PICKWICK PAPER, DAVID COPPERFIRLD, BLEAK HOUSE, are depicting the sordid realities of Dicken’s times.
‘VANITY FAIR’ by W.M. Thackeray is an example of clear-sighted realism and a deep detestation of insincerity, Emily Bronte in her single novel ‘WUTHERING HEIGHTS’ created a stark, passionate world reminding us of times of the storm scenes in King lear. ‘WUTHERING HEIGHTS’ depicts a wild and cruel reality, and is original beyond any other novel in her times. Thomas Hardy’s novels depicted sordid realities of life. JUDE THE OBSCURE TESS, THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE are among the famous novel of Hardy. We find in hardy’s novels that fate intervenes in Men’s lives, corrupting their possibilities of happiness and beckoning them towards tragedy. Hardy saw life as cruel and purposeless. His intellect revolted against the optimism of 19th Century materialism. Rudyard Kipling gained great popularity as his novels depicted the reality of British India. He saw India as part of the White Man’s Burden. Kipling could play maliciously with the social life of Shimla. Kipling had seen India as a child, and it is this child’s vision that gives his descriptions of Indian life a distinct flavor. KIM is the most memorable of his novels. E.M Forster’s A PASSAGE TO INDIA showed the romance of the east. Realistic details of events, personal relations and political experiences are the objective basis through which the spiritual theme grows in this novel. D.H. Lawrence depicted man-woman relationships in his novels. LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER depicts a franker description of two lovers than had yet appeared in English fiction. His other novels SONS & LOVERS, THE RAINBOW also depict the realities of the contemporary times.
Aldous Huxley felt that this strange beast man had also created symphonies, painted pictures and had moments of vision. All this led to the most original of his novel “POINT COUNTERPOINT”. George Orwell developed a guilt complex about imperialism. In ANIMAL FARM Orwell portrayed animals taking power and findings in it their own corruption. His great novel 1984 presented a cruel vision of ultimate totalitarian world where all is controlled for power.
Ernest Hemingway was called a ‘FOPPISH PLATO’ by Beach. In his novel ‘A FAREWELL TO ARMS’ Hemingway presents love overshadowed by war and death. In his novel FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS he talks about death as an imminent reality. THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA depicts all the qualities of the Hemingway hero- his undaunted courage, his skill and his will to strive against all odds of story of the man’s changing psychology in the political perspective.
Munshi Prem Chand presented social realities in a vivid manner in his novels, GODAN, RANGBHOOMI, NIRMALAA all these novels depict the social scenario of those times. Upindernath Ashq presented frustration of youth in GIRTEE DIVAREYN. Brindvan Lal Verma depicted a historical character in his novel MRIGNAYANI. In this novel Ninni the rustic tribal woman gets married to Raja Man Singh. This novel was recently telecast. Yashpal is the leading figure in Hindi Literature who depicted Social Realism in his novels. DADA COMRADE is a novel woven around India’s struggle for Freedom. His novel JHOOTASACH presents a vivid picture of India in 1942 and India after partition in 1947. Among other novelists in Hindi literature dealing with social problems are Vishnu Sharma, Om Prakash MA, Aritlal Nagar, Guru Datt. Bhagwati Prasad vajpai, Yagya Dutt Sharma and Kamal Singh Solanki, Jainendra, Agyeya, Ilachandra Joshi etc. Shrikant Verma’s DOOSRI BAR depicts the estrangement between a man and a woman with frankness. Manoo Bhadari’s APKA BUNTIE is a painful story of a helpless child, innocent, sensitive child in the context of social repression. Krishna Sobti’s MITRO MARJANI explodes the myth of Indian Womanhood.
Turning to Indian writing in English we have UNTOUCHABLE by M.R. Anand. It tells about the lives of the outcastes in a realistic manner. Raja Rao’s KANTHPURA is deceptively simple and touching story of a Mysore village’s response to the challenge of Freedom Struggle launched by gandhiji. The village is also a symbol, a representation of Indian reality before 1947. Bhabani Bhattacharya wrote a soul-stirring novel SO MANY HUNGERS depicts compassion and indignations of the exploited people.
R.K. Narayan is a well known writer. The Guide is one of his most complex novels. The narrative is unfolded in a subtle manner making us face to face with realities as experienced by Raja guide. Among his other novels are THE BACHELOR OF ARTS, THE ENGLISH TEACHER and THE FINANCIAL EXPERT. In THE MALGUDI DAYS, Narayan has created a real-to-life village situated in Mysore.
Khuswant Singh has written two novels – THE TRAIN TO PAKISTAN AND I SHALL NOT HEAR THE NIGHTANGLE. A TRAIN TO PAKISTAN is a vivid description of the holocaust faced by to life. It talks about negative and destructive forces unleashed by genie of communal riots. Malgonkar A BEND IN THE GANGES also deals with partition. Chaman Nihal also writes about partition in his novel AZADI.
Nayantara Sahgal has also carved a niche for herself as a realistic novelist. Her novels STORM IN CHANDIGARH, THIS TIME OF MORNING and RICH LIKE US present various aspects of Indian social life in a realistic manner. Sahgal has vividly presented the social lives of leading political figures and influential civil services officers. Ruth Jhawala has become famous because of her novels GET READY FOR BATTLE. HEAT AND DUST, THE HOUSEHOLDER, ESMOND IN INDIA and TO WHOM SHE WILL.
In Urdu, Krishan Chander wrote ANN DAATA a powerful long story told from three different angles. Jigar Moradabadi, the great Urdu poet wrote a ghazal bitterly denouncing the hidden hand of Imperialism behind the tragedy of Bengal. Ismat Chugtai wrote a deeply perceptive small play entitled DHANI BANKEN or (Green bangles) K.A. Abbas wrote AJANTA invoking the after partition in 1947. Only in Urdu, Rajinder Singh Bedi created a little masterpiece EK CHAADAR MAILI SI depicting social reality of a strange custom.
In Bengali literature, Tagore wrote novels, plays and poems on socially relevant themes. His novel GORA has much relevance in the present day context. Bankim Chandra gave a new direction to nationalism through his songs. Madhusudan Datta and Raja Ram Mohan Roy wrote about social problems in their works. In Marathi Vishnu Shastri Chiplunker evoked among people the idea of self-respect and the sense of pride in one’s own language, culture and history. Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s novel SRIKANTA deals with a social problem. His novel CHARITRAHEEN created a stir in literary circles.
In Malayalam novel NELUKETHI by Vasudevan Nair has a theme which relates to disintegrating joint family system and exposure of the hypocrisy that loosely binds an Indian society.
Punjabi Literature also abounds in trends relating to social problems. Sant Singh Sekhon in his novel LAHU MITTI (Blood and Soil) takes as his leitmotif, a Punjabi Farmer struggling with economic realities in his agricultural lands. Surinder Singh Narula’s first novel PEO PUTTAR (Father and Son) is about city of Amritsar in its different phases during religious and political movements in Punjab. Narula’s novel LOK DUSHMAN depicts the struggle between Feudalism and peasantry in PEPSU. Nanak Singh is a prolific writer. He has written novels giving ideas about religious and social reforms (CHITTA LAHU and MATREYI MAA). He has also built up stories around themes like partition of India (KALAKAR MANJHDAR).
Jaswant Singh Kanwal uses novel for exposing social problems afflicting the society. His novels are about direct and intimate experiences of village life. Kanwal’s novel SACH NUN PHANSI and PALI represent social realism. In RAT BAKI HAI he speaks about the exploitation of the farmers.
Amrita Pritam novelette JAI SHREE deals with the problem of dowry and the conservative woman’s desire to acquire wealth even at the cost of self-respect. DOCTOR DEV is a novel based on passions of youth. Love transcends all barriers and social mores cannot chain it. In PINJAR Amrita describes the plight of Punjabi women at the altar of an unwilling marriage.
Narinder Pal Singh is a cosmopolitan novelist. His first novel MALAH is a blend of romance and realism. He deals with historical realism at length in his other novels notably among them are UNTALI WARHE, SENAPATI, KHANION TEKHI WALON NIKI, ET MARG JANA, IK SARKAR BAJHON deals with Anglo Sikh war.
Kartar Singh Duggal has three novels to his credit. ANDRAN is a representation of corrupt and evil life of a feudal lord. His illegitimate son leads a revolt against this lord. NAUN TE MAS is written with the backdrop of partition in 1947. It represents the social trauma faced by the migrating people on both sides of the border. IK DIL VIKAUI HAI is a tragic story of a woman seeking true love in her life.
Gurcharan Singh’s novel VAGDI SI RAVI presents a realistic picture of love between daughter of landlord and her tutor. Other novels presenting social realism are M.S. Sarna’s PEERAN MALLE RATI, S.S Sethi’s KHALI PIALA AND KAL VI SURAJ NAHIN CHAREGA.
Bhai Vir Singh although basically a poet also wrote three novels based upon social realities SUNDRI appeared in 1897, BIJAY SINGH in 1899 and SATWANT KAUR in 1990.
Giani Gurdit Singh’s MERA PIND is a vivid description of life in Indian villages.
In Indian writing in English, Vikram Seth has written realistically about life in America in his work THE GOLDEN GATE. Romen Basu has written about life at United Nations in the novel SANDS OF TIME. Jayashree Chatterjee’s ONE STEP AHEAD is a feminist piece of fiction. Dr. Sharma has written a realistic novel about campus.
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