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The Indian Novel in English : Context, Form and Language

Mishra, Ganeswar (1978) The Indian Novel in English : Context, Form and Language. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94531) (KAR id:94531)


The object of this thesis is to examine the Indian novel in English within the context of the cultural and literary traditions of India. I have examined three aspects of the Indo-Anglian novel - context, form and language - with reference to its religious and social background; the two dominant indigenous narrative forms, the folktale and the purana; and the Indian languages as used by Indian-language novelists to express an Indian sensibility and ethos.

Most of the Indo-Anglian novelists are firmly rooted in the Hindu tradition. Hovels like Kanthapura and The Man-eater of Malgudi significantly resemble, in their point of view, Hindu religious texts like the Vishnu Purana. Both in their treatment of theme and characterisation, Indo-Anglian novels assume certain values and ideals which are typically Indian. Themes of conflict between father and son (as in The Village), husband and wife (as in The Old Woman and the Cow) or brother and brother (as in The financial Expert) need one's awareness of the joint family as norm; and of an Indian society organised around groups rather than individuals. Appreciation of a character like the holy man, so often portrayed in Indo-Anglian fiction, is not possible without the recognition of the important place virtues like asceticism hold in Indian thought and tradition.

Though the novel is essentially a product of the West and was borrowed by Indian authors in the mid-nineteenth century, it has been considerably influenced by the folktale and the purana. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's Rajmohan's Wife (1864), the first important Indo-Anglian novel, contains significant elements of the folktale. Several modern novelists realise the relevance of traditional forms of narrative in presenting an Indian reality. Eaja Eao’s Kanthapura is a commendable attempt to incorporate a folk form in the body of a novel. *Narayan's novels, though they start and end realistically, tend to be fantastic in the middle, as do Indian folktales. The impact of the purana can be recognised in a novel like Kanthapura or The Man-eater of Malgudi in its mode of presenting the story in the first person, from a Brahminic viewpoint, and in the conflict assuming a profoundly religious overtone.

Because the English language is alien to the Indian social and cultural ethos, the Indo-Anglian novelist does not always succeed in conveying the subtle nuances of Indian life. Works like hectar in a Sieve and Kanthapura show the novelists' failure to express adequately Indian village life in its appropriate idiom. Often they have to interpret Indian social customs, or literally translate Indian-language idioms and proverbs, at the risk of being either obvious or unintelligible to the English reader. Comparison of Indian language novels like Gora (Bengali), Matira Manisha (Oriya) and Uska Bachpan (Hindi) in the original with their translations in English suggests that the difference between the Indian-language and the English texts is considerable.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94531
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2023 14:50 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2023 14:50 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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