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Bankim: The Originary Figure of Indian Novel in English

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Bankim: The Originary Figure of Indian Novel in English


Y.V.R. Prasanna Kumar

Research Scholar (M.Phil.), (Part-time), Department of English, S.V. University, Tirupathi. A. P.INDIA 517502


A great deal of Indian writing in English is in the form of novel. In the course of an eventful history, Indian novel in English demonstrated the capacity and resilience for innovations and attained the status of Universal Form. The post-independence India has witnessed a Sea change of Indian fiction in English. The form of Indian novel in English has become more open, more playful, and more concerned.

All the credit aptly goes to the gifted, stupendous, and extraordinary creative genius, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. He, indeed, took all the pains to make novel a genre in Indian writing in English.

He began to write ‘Rajmohan’s Wife,’ the first Indian Novel in English, in the year 1864. It was his initial and tentative attempt as literary genre to fiction based on a Victorian narrative model.

'Rajmohan's Wife' depicts the story of the trails and tribulation of Matangini, the beautiful and selfless wife of a cruel and wicked Rajmohan, who is suspect of her character and does not hesitate even to inflict physical torture on her.

It is typically representative of Bankim's genius as an artist and thinker, and foreshadows his qualities of skilful narration, masterly character portrayal, delightful humour and a vein of social criticism.


'Rajmohan's Wife' established Bankim's place as the father of the Indian novel in English. As the first attempt made by an Indian writer to produce novel in English, it certainly deserves encomiums. What impresses most is its realism. There are of elements of mystery and suspense, nefarious plots and nocturnal adventures, midnight dacoits, secret meetings, surprise discoveries, blackmail and kidnapping. These features are set against the dramatic background of thunders, rains, storms, lightning and rivers in spate. These are not unusual in rural Bengal in the dark days when the veils of the old feudal order associated with the zamindari system were prevalent.

In fact, nothing happens in ‘RAJMOHAN'S WIFE’, which did not happen in nineteenth century Bengal, and to this extent the novel remains a study in realism. The novel is typical of the transition from romance to realism.

Bankim was cognisant of the scheme of his novels, like he was sensitive to his personality. “The rare combination of an incisive intellect and creative imagination, a passionate longing for beauty and equally passionate search for truth makes Bankim so Unique.”

'Rajmohan's Wife' in essence showcases his enthusiasm for the social reformation. “Bankim’s art of novel writing kept analysis of society.” It was more exercise in social realism than in romance; the romantic and moralistic elements in this novel often triumphed over the kind of realism, which distinguishes the novel from all other forms of story telling.


The great tradition in the novel consists in the creation of characters and the creation of worlds. Bankim Chandra was the maker of a tradition as his characters and worlds were his own. He meticulously depicted them. They expose his scholarly wisdom and tell the true story of the master storyteller. He takes his readers to the world of gods with his intrinsically woven stories. His imagination has no boundaries; indeed, he had an uncanny flair for creating characters with full of life and vigour. The values he upholds through his characters and situations in respect of human relations generally and domestic matters particularly are eastern values. His male side characters are more interesting, with all their traits, good or bad. He however, poured out all the warmth and fervour of his imagination on his female characters. They are more impressive. The dynamic force that goes into his skilful plot construction flows mostly from his female characters.

Mantagini, the central character is but one of the symbols of social change, for she typifies the new Indian woman seeking her release from the cruelties and tyrannies of a medieval past. Mantagini, it should be said, is bold creation. She takes upon herself the most hazardous and perilous midnight adventure to save Madhav, her sister's husband, unleashing to him of the nefarious plot of robbery in which her own husband Rajmohan is involved. The girl who is so soft, timid, and gentle, turns heroic all of

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