"Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use." – Mark Twain
Most readers judge a novel regarding their preferences and disliking. They judge it in line with the impression it creates. Their judgment depends on their special discrimination or predisposition. While some readers opt for sweet romantic plots, some crime and suspense thrillers, many readers prefer tragic plots and some light-hearted plots for sheer laughter.
Each class of novel has its category of committed or devoted readers who are ready to put forward a reason justifying their preferences.
Another way of judging novels is on basis of historical principles the merits of a novel may be judged on the basis of the age it has been written.
However, true judgment should always be strictly anchored by some homogeneous literary principles or values. We have to mull over and appraise the literary merits of a novel. To be precise, we should evaluate the recognized elements of a novel – the plot, the characters, style and tone, before deciding whether or not they contribute to the overall impression, expressing any well-fragmented rationale of the writer.
Implausible creations distract from the qualities of a novel. The later novels of Sharatchandra Chatterjee show signs of transiting toward romantic idealism drifting away from the realities of life depicted in his earlier novels and hence fail to create a long-lasting impression in the mind of the readers. When there is a fantasy in the plot, it must be based on the realities of life.
In judging a novel, we have to consider into account the characters and their contributions to the purpose of the novel. Great novelists such as Charles Dickens, Aldus Huxley, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Thomas Hardy, Maxim Gorky, Pearl Sydenstricker Buck, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Albert Camus, Virginia Wolf, Mark Twain, and Ernest Hemingway have always seen life on a wider front; their canvases are mammoth and peopled with assortments of human beings.
To be able to grip the multiplicity of characters effectively, novelists require agility of a high order. They must not only be highly sketched but must also serve the requirements, first of the plot and then the purpose of the novelists. If authors can add insights into the minds of their characters effectively, then they are creating masterpieces.
Finally, a good novel must advocate or put forward a purpose. It must express the viewpoint or conviction of the writer. Other elements being disposed of satisfactorily, the rank of a good novel lies on the purpose it serves alongside the aim or objective it has in view.
Thus a novel with a reactionary objective is downgraded to comparative obscurity and a novel that looks forward is assured an immortal space or permanence.
This is amply borne out if we compare Walter Scott with Charles Dickens, Mulk Raj Anand with Khushwant Singh or R K Narayan with Shobha De.
The novelists who have felt and expressed the influence of social milieu on human characters, and though it has realized the dynamic urge of life have occupied an eternal and more significant place in the minds of the readers compared to their mediocre peers who have remained content with the static world revolving around them.