My wife is beginning a novel, and she's written four chapters in under six pages. I suggested that she consider using page breaks, or lowercase Roman numbered sections, instead of chapters because a few of her chapters deal with a single event (an accident) and the hours after it (waking up in a hospital).
As well, I find lots of chapters to be excessive in some way. Typically, this comes into play with tables of contents. Moby Dick, for example, has 135 chapters in its table of contents, and that table of contents is daunting to me; I can't use it to recall specific sections with any facility. Ulysses, on the other hand, has 18 chapters (episodes), and I find that I can peruse the table of contents and have a strong conceptual idea of each episode. True, I can recall Moby Dick with the same clarity as Ulysses, but the sheer number of chapters in Moby Dick doesn't seem very functional in aiding the recollection of the material in those chapters—even though those chapters are shorter than the chapters in Ulysses.
I see the argument that this is a matter of preference, but I think that books with over, say, 50 chapters lose the significance of the chapter. I also see that chapters and sections, in many cases, derive organically from the material, but I still feel the need to caution against too many chapters.
So, what is the best way to deal with many chapters so that they maintain some autonomy? Give them titles?
Chapter One "The Sound of the Conch"
Add brief sub-headings beneath the chapter number?
Chapter One In which Maggie regains consciousness and faces the reality of the last 24 hours
Add key elements of the chapter, like Twain does in Huck Finn?
CHAPTER I. Civilizing Huck.—Miss Watson.—Tom Sawyer Waits.
Add a quote that relates to the chapter:
Chapter I The First Turn of the Screw
Mephistopheles: "Was gibt es denn?"
Wagner: "Es wird ein mensch gemacht." --Goethe Faust II
I find that quotes are overdone, and, in longer books, could lose their impact. I'm drawn to short synopses under chapters, but it does sound slightly like a children's story book.
Does anyone have any suggestions about insuring the identity of the chapter in books that have many chapters?