In American Literature, there are several themes. Regionalism, Gothic Fiction, and Naturalism are the three main topics, to date, discussed in our classroom. While one might argue that some are more intriguing than the others, Gothic Fiction is determined to be the most darkening and interesting topic. After the Civil War, the literature faded from war times into stories of love, nature, depression, and more. Post Civil War, Emily Dickinson wrote “I’m nobody, who are you” and “The brain is wider than the sky.
” In these stories, she describes self-concept and intellect. Dickinson is famously known for enlightening her readers. Dickinson and Walt Whitman, another writer from this time period, wrote stories expressing innermost thoughts. Walt Whitman wrote “I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing” and “A Noiseless Patient Spider”. In these stories, Whitman describes isolation and self. Whitman and Mark Twain are both famous writers and known for their extraordinary pieces. “Walt Whitman is important to our literature first of all because he was a great poet” (cite pg. 4).
Whitman is more philosophical while Twain has a lighter tone to his work. Mark Twain wrote “How to Tell a Story from Roughing It” using humor. Twain brings stories whose characters come to life and speak of natural environments. Witty humor is one of the strong points for Twain’s work. “The pattern of the life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, or “Mark Twain,” for seventy-five years was the pattern of America—from frontier community to industrial urbanity, from riverboats to railroads, from an aggressive, bumptious adolescence toward a troubled and powerful maturity” (cite pg.
9). Regionalism is a form of writing that focuses on specific features of a particular place, and it uses certain dialect and speaking with great descriptions. There can be weakness from characters along with a sense of fidelity. Some regionalism works speak of distant lands, strange customs, and exotic scenes. Two authors known for this time period are Charles W. Chesnutt and Sarah Orne Jewett. “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett entails how sacrifices can be made in many different ways. A little girl decides to sacrifice wealth for a bird.
Jewett and Charles W. Chesnutt both write how scarifies are made. However, Chesnutt goes to the extreme of family betrayal and more. “The Passing of Grandison” by Charles W. Chesnutt is a tale of an African American “trickster. ” The story describes how sacrifices bring rewards. A son trying to fight for his romance and a salve trying to be free is the summary to the story. The slave, Grandsion is very deceitful to his owners. Regionalism speaks more of events that could occur. Gothic Fiction speaks of events that could mostly occur in a weak mental state.
Gothic Fiction is described as social justice at the turn of the century. Omens, visions, women in distress, and certain vocabulary describing such unthinkable events, were among many of the characteristics used to interpret gothic fiction pieces. Authors our class studied, from this theme, were Edith Wharton and Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is describes a woman who is suffering from post-partum depression, although people of that time did not understand this mental problem.
In the story, she is locked into a room after the birth of her child. Her husband attempt’s to help her through her depression only result in her mental breakdown where she convinces herself that the wallpaper’s yellow stripes are actually bars trapping a woman into the wall. To free the woman, she begins ripping the wallpaper off of the walls. Speaking of the supernatural as if it were real brings suspense to make the story have a gloom and horror. Perkins Gilman is extremely descriptive and describe terror were as Edith Wharton gives a different insight.
“Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton describes friendship is dependent on sacrifice. High emotions between two friends only brought this story to a stronger sense of wonder. Setting in a foreign place, with mystery is another characteristic of this gothic fiction story. Leading away from such gloom and pessimiscitic characters, naturalism brings a different light to literature of this era. Naturalism is described as social justice at the turn of the century and being in a natural environment. They are dramatic and romantic.
Some stories have disease, violence, poverty, and a dark harshness of life. Famous authors Jack London and Stephen Crane were read from this theme. “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane describes man versus nature. The story entails how men of a crew ship are powerless against Mother Nature. Realistic characters were among many of the highlights of the story. There is a similarity of “The Open Boat” and “To Build a Fire”. “To Build a Fire” by Jack London describes man versus nature. A cold winter story, based on a man trying to use survival techniques is a basis of how the story goes.
All stories have some similarities being that this is in a similar era. As one can see, there are certain aspects to each theme. To decipher the differences, the reader must determine the setting, narrative tone, time period, characters, dialect, certain vocabulary, and atmosphere. Some stories are more difficult to decipher than others. Authors Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Sarah Orne Jewett, Charles W. Chesnutt, Charlotte Perkins, Edith Wharton, Stephen Crane, and Jack London were among some of the greatest authors whom we have studied thus far.
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