The Literature of Realism Essay
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I. Background • 1. three fundamental issues: 1) conflict between the agrarianism and the industrialism 2) the conflict between the South and the North 3) the conflict between the East and the West • 2. reaction against “the lie” of romanticism and sentimentalism • 3. battle between “idealists” and “realists” • 4. more attention to the immediate facts of life 5. the year 1865 an important shift from Romanticism to Realism a most significant event > the holocaust or destruction of the Civil War ? a notable impact on American literature and art ? a profound emotional and philosophical impact on thinkers and writers ?
some changes 1) putting to rest the romantic concept of war Romantics: a glorious, grand and noble encounter, something heroic Realists: a way of destroying romantic outlook on life a negative review of war — its destruction 2) changing the romantic concept of man Romantics: man as “the noblest work of God” Realists: man as a product of the environment, of his heredity, of fate or chance.
3) stimulating industrialization A. an explosive growth of business and industry a period of amazing engineering achievements, a period of frantic building and expansion B.
the emergence of an urban civilization a period of great plunder and exploitation, of greedy materialism and political corruption C. the miserable social ills the voices of criticism and voices of anger.
4) becoming the “melting-pot” society the influx of millions of immigrants — more freedom or a better living, or both — a land of opportunity 5) changing the concept of reality Romantics: the romantic concept of reality, the spiritual reality Realists: the visibly concrete world, the physical reality II. Major Features of American Realism • 1. truthful treatment of material 1) examining characters in depth
A. the individual — highly B. the function of environment — shaping character C. characterization — the center of the story D. the effect of action on characters E. the psychology of the people in the story 2) open ending • 2. commonness of the lives of the common people 3. objectivity; an objective view of human nature and human experience • 4. moral visions 1) the problems of the individual conscience in conflict with social institutions • 2) focusing on the dilemma III. Local Color Fiction 1. Background 1) the shift of the publishing center: A. a new freedom B. a greater openness.
2) the growth of communication and transportation 3) the rapid growth of local magazines • 2. Local-color Realism or Regionalism 1) a quality in literature fidelity to a particular geographical section and a faithful representation of its habits, speech, manners, history, folklore, or beliefs 2) a subordinate order of realism unique in his or her living section 3) more popular after the Civil War 4) a new freedom 5) much more interested in learning about life in other parts of the country 6) the desire to preserve distinctive ways of life and to come to terms with the harsh realities • 3.
Representatives women: Mary E. Wilking Freeman, Sarah Orne Jewett and Harriet Beecher Stowe: New England Kate Chopin: Louisiana men: Bret Harte: the Far West O. Henry: New York City Mark Twain: the Mississippi River • 4. Local Color Fiction 1) a form of regionalism: local colorism A. people’s realization B. asserting their unique identity and seeking understanding and recognition C. the frontier humorists’ preparation D. the appearance of a lot of magazines 2) a quality of circumstantial authenticity A. not only an authentic surface but also the depths B. strong sketches of an environment C.simplicity: characteristic of vernacular language and satirical humor •
5. Basic Features 1) a locale distinguished from the outside world the local character of their particular region 2) the exotic and the picturesque A. not common in other regions B. an attempt at accurate dialect reporting C. a tendency toward the use of eccentrics as characters D. the use of sentimentalized pathos or whimsical humor in plotting 3) the past A. not merely as nostalgia but also as realism in the social criticism B. the world of agrarian life a. the farms b. the people who were soon going to leave the farms c.
the small towns d. a life that was vanishing 4) a great contradiction A. how things are right now B. how great the past had been 5) the influence of setting on character the diversity of America IV. Naturalism • 1. Background 1) Charles Darwin’s ideas A. the struggle for existence B. survival of the fittest C. natural selection 2) Herbert Spencer’s theory of social Darwinism the weak and stupid would fall victim in the natural course of events to economic forces 3) the way of the development of the society 4) Darwin’s natural selection: a way to explain human behavior •
1) Emile Zola: the purpose of a novelist A. to be a scientist B. to place his characters in a situation C. to watch the influences of heredity and environment destroy them, or, to watch them overcome the inimical force of heredity and environment 2) some American writers A. human beings: no longer free and strong B. human life: governed by the two crushing forces of heredity and environment C. Howellsian realism: too restrained and genteel in tone • 3. Major Features 1) the application of the principles of scientific determinism 2) three major concepts of literary naturalism A.
humans: controlled by laws of heredity and environment naturalist fiction: no evidence of effective choice, or free will, or autonomous action B. life: a struggle for survival the naturalist’s concerns: a. social systems that destroy and dehumanize b. individual experience of loss and failure C. a major difference between the literary naturalists and the realists a. the violent, sensational, sordid, unpleasant, and ugly aspects of life b. all the aspects of life that are not too pleasant to consider 3) naturalist characters: A. being unable to resist the conditions that press upon them B.
more or less combinations of innate traits and socialized habits • 4. American Naturalistic Writers 1) not as pessimistic about life as the French 2) an optimistic feeling 3) a great regard for rugged individualism 4) similarities in theme and technique A. the forbidden subjects B. in a daring, open, and direct manner C. original and experimental in their respective styles 5) two examples of American literary naturalism: Stephen Crane and Theodore Dreiser A. an optimistic strain B. the influence of pessimistic determinism • 5. Comparison With Realists and Romantics.
1) naturalists: reduce to nil the human chances of winning on their own terms realists: stress freedom of choice with large provisos concerning the power of outside forces romantics: stress the possible triumph of the human will 2) naturalists: see human beings no more than a physical object under the control of biological and environmental forces realists: see human beings just human beings romantics: see human beings almost as a god • 6. Decline of Naturalism 1) the growth of psychological science and of psychoanalysis 2) the tendency to turn into the mythic through sheer immersion in the typical 3) disappearing with World War I
4) reviving during the period of the Great Depression in the 1930s The Literature of Realism (2) Some Leading Writers • 1. Mark Twain (1835-1910) 1) Life A. born in Florida, Missouri B. a journey man printer at the age of 18 C. a pilot on the Mississippi River “Mark Twain”: “safe water” or “two fathoms deep” D. in 1865, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County ????????????? 2) Literary Achievements A. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1867) a collection of short stories B. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)??? ·?????? C. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)????? ·??????
3) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1) the idea of lost boyhood (2) the first person narration (3) Mark Twain’s greatest achievement A. the world’s view of America; a profound impact onthe development of American writing B. his influences on American writers of the 20th century a. his presentation of native American material b. his art of the vernacular idiom c. his departure from the tradition of the 19th century gentility d. his sense of alienation (4) Satire A. Twain’s satire on southern culture before the Civil War a. two different subjects: ? the experience of westward expansion ? the experience of southern slavery b.
attitudes toward the South and the West ? much less pleasant ? the problem of slavery & the problem of mistreatment of humans by humans c. condemning racial discrimination d. making fun of typical American values e. a brooding pessimism about American values and life itself B. Twain’s satire on the poor whites their ludicrous idea: they were white and they were better than black slaves C. Twain’s satire on the genteel upper-class southerners a. a very aristocratic life b. being violent accepting their violence as right (5) Style A. vernacular language: unpretentious, colloquial, and poetic style; the directness of the language B.
local color: descriptions of local places and people; playing tricks on the reader; C. cracker-barrel philosopher: the moral stance of a cracker-barrel philosopher (someone who understand folk wisdom, has a pretty good common sense of view of life, and is pretty realistic about social problems) (6) Significance A. the major achievements of his art: a. the carefully controlled point of view, with its implicit ironies expressed through the voice of a semiliterate boy b. the masterful use of dialects c. the felicitous balancing of nostalgic romanticism and realism, humor and pathos, innocence and evil B.
his ability a. to capture the enduring, archetypal, mythic images of America b. to create the most memorable characters in all of American fiction 2. O. Henry (1862-1910): one of the most prolific modern American short story writers 1) LifeA. born at Greensboro, North Carolina B. named William Sidney Porter C. using the penname “O. Henry” in his creative writing D. died at 48 2) Literary Achievements A. a great master of the art of fiction B. popular mainly for his short stories a. typically American b. self-sacrificing member of a family c. the surprise ending C. illustration of his styleoriginal
conception, exaggeration, simile and metaphor, humor, and surprise ending D. the list of his short stories: about 300 titles Cabbages and Kings ??????? The Gift of the Magi ??????? The Cop and the Anthem ???????? A Municipal Report ?????? • 3. Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) 1) Life A. born from a large, poor, religious, immigrant family at Terre Haute, Indiana B. bitter poverty, lacking education, skill and status C. against the poverty and narrowness of life D. direct personal experience and independent reading and thinking E. Spencer’s social Darwinism F. various jobs G. writing short stories.
H. one of the first American writers to come from the lower level of society 2) Literary Career A. in September of 1899, Sister Carrie a. a landmark novel b. virtually ignored for more than a decade: the heroine transgresses the sexual code — a breach of proper moral conduct c. republliation in 1907: very popular, one of the key works in the Dreiser canon d. a female character, the new woman — more freedom in society, more independence, more ability to run her own life without being tied to a family, or without being tied to a husband — the beginning of women’s liberation movement e.
Carrie: no control, no freedom of will, a slave to her heredity and to her environment B. Dreiser’s second novel Jennie Gerhardt (1911)?????? C. “The Trilogy of Desire”: The Financier (1912)????? The Titan (1914)???? /???? The Stoic (1947)????? and an aptly autobiographical novel: The Genius (1915)???? a. financially successful people are of high sexual energy b. the chaotic nature of life prevents spiritual satisfaction c. normal and right for one to get the most from a society’s economic system D. Plays of the Natural and Supernatural (1916)???????????
The Hand of the Potter (1918) : a tragedy ?????? E. An American Tragedy (1925): his masterpiece??????? F. political activism and polemical writing a. Dreiser Looks at Russia (1928)???????????? b. “Tragic America” (1931) “????? ” America Is Worth Saving (1941)?????????? G. attending International Peace Conference H. awarded the Merit Medal for Fiction I. joining the American Communist Part J. The Bulwark (1946)????
3) Major Features A. stressing determinism: a. unable to assert their will against natural and economic forces b. pathetic in their inability to escape their fates c. subject to the control of the natural forces of heredity and environment B. society’s effect on a person a. truthfully reflecting the society and people of his time b. treating human beings scientifically c. finding the explanation that man is the product of social evolution.
C. narrative method: natural and free from artifice a. his tone: serious, never satirical or comic b. powerful narrative based on large quantities of material and detailed descriptions c. his powerful frankness widens the social and sexual range possible for literature in America d. striking at the American myth that success and famewere to be achieved by work and virtue e. dramatizing chance as a means of compelling characters to pay or gain for actions f. characteristic of journalistic method of reiteration, word-pictures, sharp contrast, truth in color, and movement in outline g. its stubborn honesty and realism D. “the wheelhouse of American naturalism”, “chief spokesman for the realistic novel” and “a profound and prescient critic of debased American values”.
a. American naturalism came of age b. recording the course and the vulgar and the cruel and the terrible William Dean Howells founder of American Realism; the most prominent critic of the entire realistic period Henry James a most prominent critic; an early psychological novelist one of the fathers of the psychological novel.