We explain what the picaresque novel is and its characteristics. In addition, how this literary subgenre arises and examples of novels.

What is the picaresque novel?

The picaresque novel is a narrative literary subgenre that is written in prose and is characteristic of Spanish literature . It emerged during the Golden Age , between the 16th and 17th centuries, in which art and literature in Spanish flourished and which included the transition period between the Renaissance and Baroque movements .

In general, the picaresque novel is narrated in the first person. The narrator and the protagonist are usually the same person, who tries to tell his own story, although it is certainly far from being real. The central character is characterized by his mischief , that is, he is cunning, shameless and cheating.

Characteristics of the picaresque novel

The picaresque novel is characterized by:

  • Arise in Spain in the sixteenth century .
  • To be narrated in the first person in an autobiographical way .
  • Having a main character who is an antihero and who narrates his own life conditioned by the hostile environment.
  • Express critically and ironically the reality of that time.
  • Have a moralizing message that makes the reader reflect.
  • Express cold self-criticism .
  • To be a parody of Renaissance , a movement that sought to revive the values and ideals of Greco-Roman antiquity.
  • It is narrated in language simple , concise and plain.

Origin of the picaresque novel

The picaresque novel emerged in Spain during the sixteenth century as a critique of the Old Regime of theocratic and absolutist monarchies . It was a literary genre that allowed expressing social problems through mischief and irony.

During this period, Spain was going through a political context of corruption , with a monarchical government that was getting rich and, at the same time, wasting wealth and did not invest in the well-being of its people.


In addition, he had just invaded America , so he hoarded a large amount of gold and other wealth after the sacking of the New World. Thus it became the first power in the world, which is why it is called the Golden Age of Spain.

The Renaissance period was replaced by the Baroque which was characterized by an exuberant style and excessive ornamentation, which manifested itself in art, literature, music and architecture. The Baroque was a transitional movement between the Middle Ages and the early Modern Age .

Works of the picaresque novel

Works of the picaresque novel

Among the main picaresque novel works by Spanish authors, the following stand out:

  • "The life of the guide of Tormes" (1554). It is an anonymous novel and it is believed that the reasons why its author preferred to remain anonymous were: for fear of the Holy Inquisition or the reaction of royalty. After its publication it was banned for five years. In 1555 a second part of the work was published.
  • "Guzmán de Alfarache" (1599) It is a novel by Mateo Alemán that was published in two parts: the first in Madrid and the second in Lisbon with the title "Second part of the life of Guzmán de Alfarache, watchtower of human life" (1604) .
  • "The guitón Honofre". It is the only known novel by Gregorio González of which a manuscript dating from 1604 was found.
  • "The daughter of Celestina" (1612). It is a work by Alonso Jerónimo de Salas de Barbadillo.
  • "The guide to Manzanares" (1620) It is a novel by Juan Cortés de Tolosa.
  • "The life of the buscón" (1626) It is a novel by Francisco de Quevedo.
  • "The harpies in Madrid and the scam car" (1631). It is a novel by Alonso de Castillo Solórzano.
  • "The Pythagorean century and the life of Gregorio Guadaña" (1644). It is a novel by Antonio Enríquez Gómez.
  • "Parakeet of the chicken coops" (1668). It is a novel by Francisco Santos.
  • "The disorderly greed of other people's goods" (1877). It is a novel by Carlos García.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from technology experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


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