While reading a novel we should look out for some elements that help us better understand the narrative text. First of all we have to consider where and when the story is set. Place setting can be interior or exterior and time setting usually refers to the time of the day, the season, the year. The “story” is the sequence of events that are not always presented in chronological order. the order chosen by the writer is the plot and he also chooses how to tell his story. Sometimes he uses dialogue, sometimes description or narration. The point of view depends on the kind of narrator. the narrator can be a first person narrator coinciding with the author or a character in the novel and it is used to convey an impression of reality. the third person narrator knows everything about the characters’ thoughts and the events so he is called “omniscient”. When he makes personal remarks or comments he is an “obtrusive” narrator but when he is detached and objective and does not interfere, he is “unobtrusive”. A character can be presented ” directly” through the writer’s description of his physical and psychological features, or “indirectly” through the character’s actions, words and beaviour. Characters can be “flat” or “round”. They are flat when they don’t change their personality through the story; on the contrary, they are round characters when their personality changes as the story develops.
In the 18th century circulating libraries became very important since more and more people could read. Readers mainly belonged to the middle classes so they wanted to read about the practical needs of the different trades, stories of pirates and thieves, books dealing with journeys to distant countries but also political pamphlets and newspapers. For this reason the literature of the 18th century reflected the intellectual progress of the period. Writing became a profession and writers wrote long prose narratives known as novels. novels were about fictional but plausible events and realistic characters which mirrored the life of a middle class man. the writer’s aim was writing in a simple way in order to be understood by everybody and the plots were mostly appealing to the practical -minded tradesman. the message of the novel itself was the sense of reward and punishment linked to the puritan ethics of the middle classes.
The Romantic period was characterized by a suggestive, individual, spontaneous and simple poetry. The romantic poets of the second generation represented the Romantic idea of the poet suffering through the injustices of society and life itself. Shelley was a poet of the second generation and he felt himself greatly involved in the political and social problems of his time. He can rightly be considered as the typical representative of the romantic titan who rebels against the traditional moral codes and tyranny. Shelley’s life also reflected his romantic ideals since as a boy he was a rebel. When he was at school he came to be known as “ mad Shelley” or “ Shelley the Atheist” since ho showed religious scepticism. Later he was also expelled from Oxford because he wrote a pamphlet entitled “ The necessity of Atheism”. He firmly believed in free love and thought and he expressed his ideas both in his essay “ Defence of Poetry” and in the “ Ode to the West Wind”. In his essay Shelley underlined the everlasting importance of poetry, which is the centre of knowledge. He said that poets are the legislators of the world thanks to a special sensibility. He considered the poet like a prophet who could foresee the future and whose doctrines could change the face of the earth and the destinies of mankind. According to him poetry was the expression of imagination and the poet, who had a greater degree of imagination, was the only one who could promote the advent of a civil society. In fact, the poet’s task was that of helping mankind along the way to freedom and regeneration.
Shelley hated social oppression and he rebelled against society because he loved Man and, in his “ Ode to the West wind” , he invoked the violence of the wind to emancipate mankind from tyranny, thus leading it towards a new life through the regenerating power of poetry. Love and Freedom were the key notes of Shelley’s character and he thought that the world could be improved through Love. Shelley was greatly influenced by the revolutionary ideas of his times and his famous Ode to the West Wind can be considered as a prophecy of political renovation. In fact, the symbolic and metaphorical meaning of the wind shows both his belief in a universal spiritual force and his trust in the new spirit of the French Revolution. Through his Ode he wants to convey a message of hope for mankind.