The American Nightmare: Realist Literature. “Richard Corey” by Edward Arlington Robinson.
For the Age of Reason folks(18thcentury), America was the work of man’s ingenuity, a land that could be organized, measured, and bound. Americans’ job was to better their communities using science, math, and reason.
For the Romantics (early 19th century), America was the work of man’s imagination, a land of wonder and prospects. Americans’ job was to celebrate themselves using the power of insight.
Civil War through Great Depression
“. . . the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
-James Adams 1931
Is this really possible?
Since the country’s earliest colonists, Americans have believed in the “dream” of a good, prosperous life of freedom and happiness.
But generation after generation has found this dream to be unreachable.
Age of Reason
Life is Awful; Then You Die
Life is Awful, But There’s Hope
And in despair I bowed my head“There is no peace on earth,” I said,“For hate is strong and mocks the songOf peace on earth, good will to men.”…Then from each black, accursed mouthThe cannon thundered in the South,And with the sound the carols drownedOf peace on earth good will to men.It was as if an earthquake rentThe hearth-stones of a continent,And made forlorn, the households bornOf peace on earth, good will to men.
Christmas was in the air and all was well
With him, but for a few confusing flaws
In divers of God's images. Because
A friend of his would neither buy nor sell,
Was he to answer for the axe that fell?
He pondered; and the reason for it was,
Partly, a slowly freezing Santa Claus
Upon the corner, with his beard and bell.
Acknowledging an improvident surprise,
He magnified a fancy that he wished
The friend whom he had wrecked were here again.
Not sure of that, he found a compromise;
And from the fullness of his heart he fished
A dime for Jesus who had died for men.