iUniverse blog examines the social justice novel genre
iUniverse blog, after listening to a recent radio serialization of “Ruth” by Elizabeth Gaskell on the excellent BBC Radio 4 Extra station, thought it very fitting to take a look at that difficult but provoking book genre-the social problem novel. The social problem novel is a work of fiction in which a current social problem, such as gender, racial discrimination, or class prejudice, is dramatized through the way the characters in the story are affected by it.
This genre first came to light in the Europe and the United States in the mid-19th century. Ruth (1853) is an early example, which depicts a humane alternative to the “fallen woman’s” usual progress to social ostracism and prostitution during the period. Gaskell, along with Dickens, were two of the leading English Victorian exponents of the genre. Also we should not ignore two great early French authors of social justice novels, Emile Zola’s 20 books that constitute the series Les Rougon-Macquart (1871–93) and the topical Les Miserables (1862) by Victor Hugo.