Bakhtin's discussion of the chronotope is indeed useful in analysing any piece of literature. Every piece of literature has a setting in both place and time. The author could have written in a time and place separate to the time and place of the novel but what Bakhtin is concerned about is the time and place of the novel in his discussion of the chronotope. Every text has a historical background. As time has evolved, literature has also evolved; What was popular 1000 years ago, might not be as popular today. Upon reading a text we learn about point in history as well as the experience of that certain place in history. Many novels belong to certain generations where certain themes or ideas were particularly popular. A novel can give us an insight into the historical background of that era. It can teach us of the customs and practices of that era. When we read a text, we have an idea of what life was like in that society. Like in Einstein's theory of relativity, we need to know the time and space to understand the historical context because not all places change in a similar manner as time evolves. 'Both in physical and fictional worlds there can be observed an intrinsic connectedness of time and space, because in both realms chronology cannot be separated from events and vice versa.' (Bahktin's Theory of the Literary Chronotope: reflections, applications, perspectives). Two novels where I found the discussion of the chronotope useful were Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.
The story of Robinson Crusoe happens from 1659 to 1694. It takes place in York, England then Sallee, North Africa, then Brazil, then a deserted island near Trinidad, then England, then Lisbon, then overland from Spain toward England, then England, and finally the island off Trinidad again. In this novel we get an insight into what life was like in many different places across many years, so we almost get an idea of what the world was like from 1659 to 1694 instead of one society. The novel begins in York England and the upper class society where Robinson Crusoe is expected by his father to go to college to study Law. 'My father, who was very ancient, and had given me a competent share of learning, as far as house education, and a country free school generally goes and design'd me for the Law.' From the novel we learn that customs such as slavery and colonialism were prevalent. 'My island was now peopled, and I thought myself very rich in subjects, and it was a merry reflection, which I frequently made, how like a king I looked.' Crusoe has inhabited an island with various people and automatically believes that he is their king and that they are property. He is English, so he thinks himself as worthy of colonising those from a barbaric nation. This has evidently happened before the abolitionist movement.
Contrary to Robinson Crusoe is Northanger Abbey which takes place between January and April 1798 and is set in Bath for the first half and Northanger Abbey for the second half. Unlike Robinson Crusoe we only get a glimpse into what life was like in one specific place across a short period of time. However, the chronotope is still unique. Bath is very much an upper class, patriarchal town with its own customs. The novel draws on the Gothic novels which were popular in the 18th century which adds to its realism. The antagonist is Catherine Morland, who loves to read Gothic novels. 'No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her to be born an heroine.' Catherine is not a traditional heroine which was common in the Gothic novels. She is vulnerable and naive in her interactions with the rich and popular residents in Bath. She is good hearted but not as perceptive as the Thorpe's and Henry Tilney. 'Yes dear Catherine, it is so indeed; your penetration has not deceived you. Oh that arch eye of yours-it sees everything.' The naive and innocent Catherine doesn't know the gossip of the town which Isabella and all the others would assume she does. This good-natured heroine is perhaps unsuited to be among a shallow upper class which was unusual for a heroine in the Gothic novels of the time.
Furthermore, another thing we learn about upper class society's in England in the 18th century is that they were largely patriarchal, and women were inferior to men. The men liked girls' innocence and wanted to know that they had power over women.' There is a portion of them too reasonable and too well informed themselves to desire anything more in women than ignorance.' A chronotope is helpful in terms of being able to visually imagine the experience of the novel. In Northanger Abbey we know that it is an elegant British society. We imagine young people attending balls and house parties, women wearing beautiful dresses and the houses being very large and clean. Manners and etiquette are obviously very important to members of this society. All righteous people would dress very similarly to each other. All houses would have similar layouts. It is expected that all houses would have a drawing room, a dining room, a kitchen, many bedrooms and a long garden. Also, we can imagine Northanger Abbey being a very large but dark castle. It possibly resembles the gothic buildings from the novels Catherine has read. Henry Tilney has even described it as being haunted. This all adds to an animated picture of a delightful abbey. Additionally, the fact that Northanger Abbey is the title of the novel adds a sense of mystery to this place. It is as if there Is some significance to this place that we are unaware of but can think about. Moreover, for Robinson Crusoe we can visualize a man who lived a mundane and ordinary life in England, then fought hard just to survive in Sale North Africa after being badly shipwrecked where he was seized by a vicious group of pirates who enslaved him, then on to Brazil where he started a plantation, then escaped to a deserted island off Trinidad where he spends 28 years having to maintain a living by himself, then England, Lisbon, Spain and finally the island again. We can visualize what life was like In all these different places during the 1600s through Crusoe's experience. England is described as a mundane society where everyone is expected to live up to society's expectations by working hard at an academic discipline and sea adventure is held in contempt.
Very different to England is Sale in North Africa. This is a less orderly society as pirates inhabit the area and slavery is prominent. While here Robinson is more prone to torture, it is arguably more exciting than England. Brazil differs to North Africa and England but is more like North Africa as plantations and slavery are prevalent. Then Crusoe arrives on an uninhabited island where there is no real civilization. Here he must grow barley loaves and rice cakes for himself and must build a canoe by himself. Cannibals are among the only human creatures he encounters on this island and he even kills many of them. This civilization is vastly different to the one described in England. Crusoe has gone from living in an upper-class society where he was expected to study law to a deserted island where he has had to fight off cannibals. It is also interesting to know that in the 1600s there were islands where cannibalism was common. This truly indicates how far civilization has progressed from the 1600s to now.
Furthermore, the civilization in Bath in Northanger Abbey is wildly different to the one on the island in Robinson Crusoe. In Robinson Crusoe, a worry for the protagonist Crusoe would be having to save himself from Cannibals whereas in Northanger Abbey a worry for the protagonist Catherine would be that John Thorpe, a man she dislikes for being arrogant and conceited, who intends to marry her. Catherine derives pleasure from a Gothic novel whereas Crusoe derives pleasure from a sea voyage from Brazil to a deserted island. Crusoe's experience was indeed more adventurous than Catherine's. This comparison surely depicts how much societies can differ. All societies change as time goes by and no two lands are the same. This illustrates Bakhtin's point when he stated, 'Both in physical and fictional worlds there can be observed an intrinsic connectedness of time and space, because in both realms chronology cannot 'be separated from events and vice versa.' A novel from the year 1700 won't necessarily tell us what life was like in 1700. A novel set in North Africa won't necessarily tell us what life is like in Africa. We need to know the time and the place to understand the civilization. In the time Robinson Crusoe was written Turkish pirates existed but they didn't exist in England, so it would be untrue to suggest that a novel set in the 1600s must involve Turkish pirates. Moreover, it would be very unusual if a novel written in 2018 about a Caribbean island contained cannibals.
One important aspect of the chronotope is chronology. Chronology is the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time. In all novels the events gradually unfold over time and as time passes they usually occur in different places. In Robinson Crusoe the story begins in 1659 and ends in 1694. Likewise, in Robinson Crusoe the story begins in York, England and ends on an island off Trinidad. Upon reading this novel we are absorbing a story which happens over 35 years in a novel which contains 262 pages. Dates are vital for understanding the chronology of a text. We know that the story begins in 1632 when Robinson! Crusoe is born but he only leaves on his sea voyage in 1651. 'I was born in the year 1632.' 'On the first of September 1651 i went on a ship on board for London.' This shows that time can pass very quickly in a novel. This novel is a fictional autobiography, so the narrator only shares what they choose. In a story that takes place over 35 years, a lot of the experience is left out of the novel. Likewise, not every place where the story takes place is mentioned. This shows that a novel can take place over any amount of time that the author chooses, it is also worth mentioning that stories that happen over long periods of time can be told quite precisely in small volumes. Northanger Abbey is only a slightly shorter volume than Robinson Crusoe, yet the events unfold over a much shorter period. While Robinson Crusoe happens over 35 years, Northanger Abbey takes place over only 4 months. Northanger Abbey glves a more vivid description of those events. In Robinson Crusoe the antagonist arguably has a more exciting adventure. There is more action. However, Jane Austen places more significance on the events in Northanger Abbey. Austen puts more effort into describing Catherine's emotions and reactions. What is interesting in this comparison is how in a story unfolding over a shorter period can be effective in emphasizing emotions and signifying something that wouldn't usually seem particularly significant. A novel doesn't need to be full of action to be interesting, if a novel is meaningful or have arisen from an author's passion, then reading it can be worthwhile.
Language is also important in being able to understand the chronotope of a novel. As civilization has changed and progressed, language has too. In Robinson Crusoe sentences are as like paragraphs in their length. Daniel Defoe often uses a colon or semi-colon in place of a full stop. He also capitalizes certain words that wouldn't conventionally be capitalized in modern English. Another unconventional feature of his, is his spelling of words that end in 'ed.' He replaces the 'e' with an apostrophe, 'abandon'd, entertain'd'. However, in Northanger Abbey Austen uses language that is more like the language of the present day. Her sentences are relatively short, and she doesn't capitalize words that wouldn't normally be capitalized. Clearly language had evolved from 1719 1798.
Conclusively Bakhtin's discussion of the chronotope is very helpful in understanding a novel. The two novels I have discussed were considerably harder to understand than novels that are written in the 21st century so it is helpful to learn about the' background of a nove to truly grasp its meaning. It is especially useful in understanding how the novel has evolved over time from early novels like Robinson Crusoe through to novels that are being written today.