FIELDING AS THE FATHER OF ENGLISH NOVEL
Richardson, Fielding, Smollet and Stern are known as the four wheels of the novel. Among them Fielding's contribution to English novel is noteworthy. It is true that even before Fielding, Bunyan, Defoe and Richardson had written novels. But none deserve to be called the father of English novel. It is Fielding who gave a definite form and proper shape to the English novel. He formulated the theory of novel writing. He made invaluable contributions to the development of plot construction and the art of characterisation. He made the novel an effective weapon of social criticism. He tried to advocate a healthy philosophy of life. He imbued his writings with a very solemn purpose. On these grounds Sir Walter Scott rightly calls him the father of English novel.
Plot: Plot before Fielding did not hold much importance. But Fielding revolutionised the concept of plot construction. He employs very coherent and organic plots. He conducts them with utmost skill. The plot of 'Tom Jones' is one of the three best plots ever planned. It is a closely-knit organic plot. In short, his plots are thoroughly architectonic. Thus a well organised plot is one of the main contributions of Fielding.
Comic Epic in Prose: Another contribution of Fielding is his concept of novel as a comic epic in prose. He formulated the theory of novel in his prefaces of Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones. He introduced characters of great variety. He depicted their lives in all its authenticity.
Characterisation: Fielding is the creator of the novel of character. He breathed life into his characters. He peopled the novel with a great crowd of lively and interesting characters. They are compounded of both good and evil elements. Like Shakespeare he portrays all kind of human characters as real human beings.
Realism: Fielding is the first realist of the English novel. Common life is the material of his novels. He brings the whole world, as we see it. He reproduced reality faithfully and accurately. He presents a complete and comprehensive picture of the contemporary society. His realism is epical in its range. Thus Fielding is the founder of modern realistic novel.
Humour: Fielding employed all types of humour in his novels. In Joseph Andrews it is farcical, in Tom Jones ironical and in Jonathan Wild satirical. His humour is exuberant, spontaneous, tolerant and genial. He lashes out his satire at affectation, vanity, pedantry, hypocrisy and vice. But he is always human and humane. Irony is a great weapon of his satire. All the great humorists are influenced by Fielding.
Other Reasons: Fielding is champion in so many other respects. His great contribution is the localisation of the scene. He gives graphic details of Tom's journey to London on the highways. His novels are thoroughly English. His dialogues are lively as well as natural. He was superb craftsman. His art of narration is praiseworthy. He brought a healthy moral vision. He is tolerant of natural human weaknesses but he does not tolerate hypocrisy. He advances a very sound moral philosophy.
Thus Fielding's contribution is noteworthy. He gave to the novel a great scope. Due to his great contributions, Scott called him 'the father of English novel'. About Fielding's contribution Allen says, 'The form the novel took in England for more than a hundred years had its origin in Fielding, and in this respect, Smollett, Scott, Dickens, Thackeray and Meredith all wrote in his shadow'.
About the author:
Dr. Hareshwar Roy, Professor of English at Govt. P.G. College, Satna, Madhya Pradesh, obtained his bachelor and master degrees in English from Patna University Patna, Bihar. He completed his Ph.D. from A.P.S. University Rewa, Madhya Pradesh. His ‘The Diasporic Articulation in the Novels of M.G. Vassanji’ is an incisive book that makes an in-depth study of the novels of M.G. Vassanji who is one of the best known literary members of Indian Diaspora. His research papers (more than 40) have been widely published in reputed literary journals. Currently he is teaching English Literature in Govt. Autonomous P.G. College Satna, Madhya Pradesh. He has attended a number of seminars and conferences. His area of interest is the writing of the writers of Indian diaspora.