The invisible centerpiece of every great novel is the protagonist’s rebellion or coming to terms with his or her place in the scheme of things.
Novels, of course, communicate a lot more in carrying out their design, but what seems to me beyond dispute is that literature, when undertaken seriously, is a celebration not of life but of awareness, an awareness of the human condition, which is both communal and individual and inevitably strikes a balance, palpable or barely perceptible, between the two. Each of us, then, is a fulcrum where the private and the public meet, where inner and other-directed yearnings sometimes clash. Literature gets written because of this, and what we understand and love in it, as Erich Auerbach wrote, “is a human existence, a possibility of ‘modification’ within ourselves.”
Arthur Krystal, The Novel as a Tool for Survival, The Chronicle for Higher Education , 6.3.2016 (from here)