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American literature realism Essay

In American literature realism, is an approach that attempts to describe life without idealization or romantic subjectivity. Realism has been mainly concerned with the commonplaces of everyday life among the middle and lower classes, where character is a product of social factors and environment is the important element in the dramatic complications.

The realism sought to explain why ordinary people behave they way they do. What, for example, fuels the ambitions of a young man who has come from the country to the city to make his fortune? Why does an apparently happily married woman decide to have a love affair? What leads a woman to accept or reject a particular man? In trying to answer these questions, realistic novelists often relied on the emerging sciences of human and animal behavior–biology, psychology, and sociology–as well as on their own insights and observations.

Realism from 1865 to the present has changed. As authors have moved into a global world, their writing has become less regional and therefore less realistic. Writers today do research instead of writing about what they already know about. As the world has become more global, authors have become more full. To a certain extent, realism is about presenting a limited view because is very much about regionalism. An author can only write realistically about what he/she knows.

Authors like Mark Twain and F. Scott Fitzgerald gives a “tell it like it is” writing in the stories. In the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the setting has a large influence on Huck’s character. The period of time that Huck lived in was a distinct era. The country was changing rapidly. During this period steam engines enabled rivers to be used as mass transportation, an idea that had never been explored until now.

There were many traits of this era that can be seen by looking at the components of Huck’s character, his language, actions and thoughts. Some of these traits are subtle and can be easily missed but others are very obvious and powerful. This period of change was the setting of Huck’s childhood. One trait that is indicative of the era is the social class of Huck and Huck’s language. It is greatly affected by his social class and setting. The broken English is a sign of Huck’s low social class. In addition it also shows that he is from a southern river town. This can be seen from his expressions and accent.

The rules of the time that Huck’s character is governed upon, Huck was never educated. During the early 1800s there was no law that required children to go to school, therefore his low intellect has a strong impact on Huck’s character. It gives him a “plain and simple” outlook on life, this trait can been seen throughout the book in Huck’s character. One specific area it affects is Huck’s plans for his future. Huck only thought about what he was going to do for present. Huck had an incapable father. He was thought of as the town drunk, and would often come home intoxicated and abuse Huck. At one point his father locked Huck up in a small room without food or water for days.

The setting is important here because if Huck’s father were to treat his son in an abusive manner today, he would lose custody of his child. A good example of Huck’s unloving relationship was Huck’s reaction to his father’s death. When notified of his death he was relieved and felt safe. This detail can be used to illustrate the abuse that Huck went through in the beginning of the book, while living with his father. Since Huck’s father had irresponsible actions, Huck ran away at a young age in the hope that someday he would find freedom from his father and society.

Huck’s separation from his father is also the reason for his freethinking, responsibility and innocence. These times of hardship formed him into a mature person and helped contribute to his independent personality. Without the influence of the setting Huck would have never been able to achieve the freedom that he had by being independent. When Huck ran away he joined up with Jim, who was also running away, but from something different. Jim was fleeing from slavery, a common practice of the time.

Huck’s relationship with Jim contributed to Huck’s non-prejudice thinking. Another factor that gave Huck an understanding of how the slaves must have felt was the prejudice that he experienced himself, being part of the lower class. Huck was infuriated when people looked down upon him for something that was no fault of his; he was born into the class because of his father’s social status. For these reasons Huck always treated Jim as an equal, making Huck ahead of his time. Jim knew that Huck respected him, as a result Jim risked his own life to save Huck.

In the story you find humor with Huck’s character. In real life you have humor being part of life. For example, Huck’s account of his reasons for participating in what he knows to be the ridiculous schemes of Tom Sawyer’s gang. He recognizes that their “swords” are “only lath and broom-sticks” and he does not believe, in any case, that they “could lick such crowd of Spaniards and A-rabs”. At one point one finds that Huck seems to accept Tom’s values. Before boarding the Walter Scott he says “Do you reckon,” he asks Jim, rhetorically, “Tom Sawyer would ever go by this thing?” It is here at the Phelps farm, where he even takes Tom’s name.

Huck’s independence and lack of education resulted in a mind that was never influenced by adult’s beliefs. This allowed Huck to have thoughts based on what he believed in, not traditions that are simply carried on by messengers of the past’s beliefs. Although traditions are often good they prevent new ideas from entering people’s minds. This made Huck original; this individuality could be seen with his relationship with Jim. During this period of American history slaves were looked down upon, but Huck, being an independent thinker, looked up to Jim for who he was, not for the color of his skin.

This change in dialogue clearly illustrates how the relationship grew stronger during their adventures. By the end of the novel Huck risked his own life to free Jim in the final escape attempt. His dependence made him loyal to the Mississippi River. The personification of the river that Huck uses clearly shows his feelings and thankfulness to the river. It also helped show how important the river was too not only Huck but to all of the river towns and people.

The Great Gatsby’s best qualities is Fitzgerald’s incredible use of realism. This realism is evident in the development of plot, setting, and characters throughout the novel. The novel is well known for its deeply entangled plots and sub-plots. At first Fitzgerald used realism to develop these plots by choosing plots that would be believable to readers.

For example, the main plot of “The American Dream” (Jay Gatsby’s dream of becoming rich and successful in order to impress Daisy) is easily believable and is still a quite common dream today. Smaller plots, such as Tom Buchanan’s affair with Myrtle, are also very realistic and are a common occurrence in every day life. From here Fitzgerald deepened the story by using realism to entangle these plots. Fitzgerald then grew upon these plots by making them all have realistic outcomes (such as Gatsby’s demise), rather than your typical story book endings.

Fitzgerald uses realism to clearly depict the setting of the Great Gatsby. This use of realism could be mostly due to the fact that Fitzgerald lived during the time of the novel, and by using great detail, he was able to reproduce his interpretation of the 1920’s. The novel takes place during the summer in New York as Nick Carraway has just moved to pursue a career in the bond business. This is a very realistic setting because just after World War 1 the eastern United States were flourishing with people and business. Large, fancy homes and big parties (such as Gatsby’s) were also quite popular.

Fitzgerald realistically demonstrates the inexistence of the middle class at that time. For example the contrast between Tom Buchanan and Mr. Wilson shows vast difference between the upper and lower classes. The exact geographical location of the novel does not exist, but Fitzgerald does a great job in using realism to convince the reader of the setting. No matter how significant realism is to the setting of the novel, perhaps the most important use of realism comes through Fitzgerald’s development of characters throughout the novel.

The novel characters are the basis of the novel from which the plots revolve around. Fitzgerald uses realism to ensure that all the characters in the novel are believable in both their history and interactions with each other. A prime example of this would be Daisy. Her history of having a successful family, and being the center of attention deeply influences her character into being self-centered and dependent on wealth, making her character believable to readers. From here Fitzgerald was able to manipulate the characters.

This convinces the reader of genuinely of each individual and therefore makes the whole story seem more realistic. Throughout the novel, the plot was deepened through the entangling of many realistic sub-plots, the setting was clearly illustrated using plenty of detail, and the characters were developed to be as believable and genuine as possible. In the end it is the realistic recognition of life’s imperfections that give The Great Gatsby its continuing appeal.

The things that happen are real and could really happen. The characters are products of their environments. In today’s society we have somewhat the same issues. It depends on ones culture and beliefs. If you are pretty much conservative one finds that acting a certain way, wanting freedom, lying or dishonesty won’t be acceptable. The two novels that I chose both show realism “tell it like it is” but in different ways. What happens to Huck Finn is a result of how and where he lives. Events happen to him because of the real life setting and place. The central figure in Huck Finn isn’t even really Huck…it’s the river. Gatsby is shaped by external factors such as love, money and other people’s ideals.

Nothing that happens is glorified or exaggerated. In my opinion I think that Twain and Fitzgerald both conveyed in reality. Both authors wrote there stories based upon the social restrictions of time. Today we see the same kind of American dream and look down upon the lower class. I think that we moved closer to the truth by seeing what society be really about. This is somewhat the real world and it’s either your accepted by following the rules or not accepted by disobeying the rules.


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