Classic English literature
Once Percy Bysshe Shelley said that human history is like a poem written by time upon the memories of man. But sometimes history gets a form of a novel, and hearing about historical events from a novelist may become much more exciting and entertaining than getting facts from a historian. Reading a historical novel allows the reader to avoid prejudice and form own opinion about events and historical figures; understand real causes and backgrounds of what was happening.
It is interesting that Sir Walter Scott was a collector of antiquities. He admired this captured history that once had been put into the object by its author. Scott was enthusiastic about Scotch history, and he tried to tell it in the way that could interest his reader in the real life-story of the whole nation. But at the same time it was important for Scott to give his story a human face, show the connections between facts and particular people, who had own wishes and emotions. This form of description attracts reader's attention, giving pleasure from learning history.
Walter Scott was the first who noticed that history may be a material for the modern novel. He wanted to revive the old, forgotten times to the new life, make them tangible for his reader. Scott creates images of British people of the past centuries. For this purpose he began to study the past as a real historian. Scott pictured life in the various stratums of society of the Middle Ages England: the knight's castles and inns, monasteries and royal chambers, the scene of tournaments and scenes with forest robbers. Scott managed to create the atmosphere of history.
In the novels by Walter Scott, appear as real historical figures and fictional characters. He never makes a real person the main character. This person is honest and brave, generous, capable of self-sacrifice, but not obsessed with great passion.
Picturing real-life conditions and the approach of a large social crisis, Walter Scott reveals problems of national life that led to this historic crisis. Scott explains what causes a division of nation into two camps. A historical hero appears on the stage of the novel only when the reader understands people’s attitude to him. Scott shows how the greatness of historical personalities is generated by contradictions of the epoch. Scott never tells that the character of the era ensues from the nature of its outstanding representatives.
It is important to notice, that the novels by Walter Scott are not just facts with personalities, but interesting logical explanations of facts and human deeds. He draws historical background and captures our attention, giving at the same time an exciting history lesson. Human character arises from his historical origin, and it is a great art to bring the past back to life in order to show it as a prehistory for the present.
Historical novel, according to Scott, plays back the story better than the scientific and historical research, because a matter-of-fact archeology must be completed with psychological content, passions and the views of those people, who create this story - individuals as well as a large flow of people. In order to solve this problem, a historical novel along with the political events should portray the privacy of private individuals, combine a broad political action and a love affair, the real historical person and fictional.
The novel "Lord Jim" by J. Conrad is the story of one man, whom Conrad once saw on the street:”I saw his form pass by – appealing, significant, under a cloud, perfectly silent.” (Conrad, 2013, p.4)
In the author’s note to the “Lord Jim” Conrad is pondering over the narrator in his novel. Using Marlow’s words Conrad is telling his story - a sad tale, based on one real story that once happened to the ship Jeddah carrying pilgrims.
The story is told on behalf of two story-tellers - the main hero, Jim, and the captain Marlow. This literary method provides the reader insight into both Jim's life-story and his inner life. Marlow shows his listeners that Jim was not somebody special, but one of us. Lord Jim challenges himself, seeking his own place in the world. His inner life is put on social and moral trial. Conrad knocks together two worlds physical and spiritual, real and ideal. He pictures a lonely human struggle against the chance, outside world and the deep, metaphysical regularity of circumstances.
We should pay attention to the Marlow's phrase "He's one of us" With these words Marlow wants to emphasize that life circumstances can touch every man. Jim's inner conflict becomes a basis of a complex conflict system including contradiction between prosaic England and the romantic East. With a help of Cornelius words "He's no more than a little child here" (Conrad, 2013, p.238), Conrad emphasizes Jim's naiveté, but doesn't make him extraordinary. He sees in Jim a dramatic and even tragic metaphor of a man resisting the world.
The situation on the ship Patna and the Patusan symbolize the general situation in the world. Conrad puts his hero on the test for conformity with the world. It seems like he's asking a question: "Who is Jim?" Conrad's novel is a kind of a complicate thought of a man.
The story of Patna becomes a decisive turning point in Jim’s life. Conrad shows how one event, which happened to many people, dramatically affects the particular person. He doesn’t concentrate on the episode with pilgrims itself, but on its influence on human mind and fate. Jim leaves in the shade of clouds, mysterious, forgotten, romantic, an unknown conqueror of fame. Conrad pictures Jim as one of people. And though Jim is only a mysterious ghost, he represents a mystery of every human story. This is how Conrad shows that story of one man is more than just facts.
Scott’s and Conrad’s novels portray people in conditions of a specific historical period. This helps to imagine hero's real life circumstances, motives of his deeds and their connection with reality. The novels based on real stories allow imagining social processes that has formed our present life such as it is. And the real artistic talent makes this process of understanding perceptible and visible for readers. These novels awake in readers' hearts the feeling of solidarity in mysterious of birth, labor, joy, hopes and a human uncertain fate. These things connect people with each other and the whole mankind to the world.
Telling about historical events, the author evokes sympathy to all mankind in reader’s heart, a sense of solidarity with all people who have passed their difficult historical path before us. Skillfully written novel about historical events can evoke compassion for the fate of people of the past era.
What unites Walter Scott and Joseph Conrad is the fact that their books are widely read. This means that a large number of people receive information and form their view of history through literature. When historic facts are in the hands of a talented writer, who is interested in the historical past of the whole nation or even a small town, such work becomes an exciting story, which not only helps studying historical events, but also forms the reader's understanding of the epoch spirit and the way of life in the past.
Conrad, J. (n.d.). Lord Jim. www2.hn.psu.edu. Retrieved March 21, 2014, from http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/jconrad/lord-jim.pdf