What is the social function of the novel? I’m not thinking about the pay-off for the author, who gets to develop a skill and earn a living from it and accrue a prestigious public image into the bargain. Nor about the rewards for the publisher, who may, or more likely may not, make a significant amount of money. Nor even the pleasure for the individual reader, who enjoys hours of entertainment and maybe feels enlightened or usefully provoked along the way. What I’m asking is, what’s in it for society as a whole, or at least for that part of society that reads novels?