psychological novel

noun
a novel that focuses on the complex mental and emotional lives of its characters and explores the various levels of mental activity.

Origin:
1850–55

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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psychological novel

work of fiction in which the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of the characters are of equal or greater interest than is the external action of the narrative. In a psychological novel the emotional reactions and internal states of the characters are influenced by and in turn trigger external events in a meaningful symbiosis. This emphasis on the inner life of characters is a fundamental element of a vast body of fiction: William Shakespeare's Hamlet is perhaps the prime early example of it in dramatic form. Although an overtly psychological approach is found among the earliest English novels, such as Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740), which is told from the heroine's point of view, and Laurence Sterne's introspective first-person narrative Tristram Shandy (1759-67), the psychological novel reached its full potential only in the 20th century. Its development coincided with the growth of psychology and the discoveries of Sigmund Freud, but it was not necessarily a result of this. The penetrating insight into psychological complexities and unconscious motivations characteristic of the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy, the detailed recording of external events' impingement on individual consciousness as practiced by Henry James, the associative memories of Marcel Proust, the stream-of-consciousness technique of James Joyce and William Faulkner, and the continuous flow of experience of Virginia Woolf were each arrived at independently.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Anyone expecting a psychological novel from characters so lacking in complexity deserves to be disappointed.
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