Types of Novel
Quick revise

Like other kinds of writing, novels come in all kinds of different forms. Some are relatively short with few characters and quite simple plots and some are very complex with many characters and layers to the plot. Novels can also vary very much in terms of the subject matter they deal with and how they deal with it. Here are some forms of novel you might come across.

  • ‘Social novels’ that deal with themes to do with social issues. These kinds of novels usually have a message to convey to the reader. Much writing by D.H. Lawrence comments on social issues and issues relating to the ways that human beings relate to each other.
  • Picaresque novels follow a central character on a journey during which various adventures or incidents take place. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe is an example of this kind of novel.
  • Fictional biography which focuses on the life and developments of one particular character is another kind of novel, such as Dickens’s David Copperfield.
  • Historical novels deal with events set in the past such as Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger or Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd.
  • Humorous novels. Many novels contain elements of humour. Much of Jane Austen’s writing could be said to be humorous, or novels such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières or Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.
  • Tragedies. Some novels deal with tragic themes such as Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native or Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
  • Futuristic novels which are set in some future time such as Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or Huxley’s Brave New World. Very often in this kind of novel the writer uses the futuristic setting or theme to make some social comment on the society of the day.

There are many different kinds of novels. Be aware of the kind of novel you are studying.

Progress check

Think about the novel you are studying and decide what kind of novel you think it is. Remember, though, that often novels do not fit snugly into one category. Think also about the purpose that the writer of your novel had in writing the text.


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