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Life and the Novel

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From D.H. Lawrence, “Why the Novel Matters” (1936):

Let us learn from the novel. In the novel, the characters
can do nothing but live. If they keep
on being good, according to pattern, or bad, according to pattern, or even
volatile, according to pattern, they cease to live, and the novel falls dead. A
character in a novel has got to live, or it is nothing.

On the one hand, the novel as a struggle against the cliché,
the idée reçue, in play here just as
it has been directly thematized all the way back through Joyce and Flaubert and
Sterne and Cervantes. The essence of the novel is its staging (embodiment?) of
the resistance to the pattern. And further, without escaping the pattern, DHL
implies that a novel’s not a novel. Why not? It’s imbedded in its very name,

(Transitional question: Who would have thought that merely living would be so difficult that
it would take such a heroic, nay, impossible struggle as this?)

On the other hand, what about this “can do nothing but” part
of the first line? “In the novel, the characters can do nothing but live.” Who puts in place this law, and
who enforces it?

I sense a jutting turn between the first sentence of the
passage and what follows. A retreat… The novel is the form in which the
character can do nothing but live
Interesting that the piece begins with the dissolution of the mind-body
distinction as well.

Written by adswithoutproducts

January 16, 2005 at 12:13 am

Posted in literature

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