Defining the Romance Novel’s Society

Today we discuss the first of the eight essential elements of the romance novel: the society that serves as its background and that the heroine and the hero will confront during their courtship. 

The key point to remember when you write your story is that the society, as Pamela Regis points out in A Natural History of the Romance Novel, “always oppresses the heroine and hero” (p. 31). It serves as an obstacle to their budding relationship. The society includes the people, the mores, the mentality, and the social strata. 

The society establishes for the reader the “status quo” (ibid.) against which the heroine and the hero will develop their relationship. Interestingly, one of the goals of the relationship is to re-create that society as a result of the couple’s eventual union. 

In Pride and Prejudice, for example, Lizzy and Darcy overcome the status quo of their individual societies to create a “new society” in which their individual pride and prejudice have been overcome. Their marriage takes place despite the obstacles of the society that had tried to thwart it. 

Next week we will discuss the second essential element of the romance novel: the meeting of the heroine and hero.

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Source cited: Regis, Pamela. A Natural History of the Romance Novel. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

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2 thoughts on “Defining the Romance Novel’s Society

  1. What happens in real life and in books is usually totally different. I guess that’s why we like them. I haven’t seen The Time Traveler’s Wife yet, but it promises to be fresh in the area of the romance story.

    February 23, 2010 at 7:16 AM