The Realistic Period • Time From 1865 to1914 • Definition The most significant literary movement between the Civil War and World War I was realism. The period ranging from 1865 to 1914 has been referred to as the Age of Realism in the literary history of the United States, which is actually a movement or tendency that dominated the spirit of American literature, especially American fiction, from the 1850s onwards. Realism was a reaction against Romanticism or a move away from the bias towards romance and self-creating fictions, and paved the way to Modernism.
I. Historical, social and cultural background 1. Politically The Civil War affected both the social and the value system of the country. America had transformed itself into an industria1ized and commercialized society. 2. Economically The industrialization and the urbanization were accompanied by the incalculable sufferings of the laboring people.
I. Historical, social and cultural background 3. Religiously People became dubious about the human nature and the benevolence of God, which the Transcendentalists cared most. 4. Culturally The Americans began to be tired of the sentimental feelings of Romanticism.
I. Historical, social and cultural background 5. The Gilded Age It refers to the period of gross materialism and blatant political corruption in the U.S. history during the 1870s that gave rise to important novels of social and political criticism. The political novels of the Gilded Age represent the beginnings of a new strain in the American literature, the novel as a vehicle of social protest, a trend that grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the works of the muckrakers and culminated in the proletarian novelists.
II. Literary history of the period 1.Literary trends In art and literature, Realism refers to an attempt to describe human behavior and surroundings or to represent figures exactly as they act or appear in life. Realism emerged as a literary movement in Europe in the 1850s. Realism entered American literature after the Civil War. William Dean Howells, Mark Twain,and Henry James were the pioneers of realism in the U.S.
II. Literary history of the period 2.The Literary Characteristics of the Realistic Period in American Literature Guided by the principle of adhering to the truthful treatment of 1ife, the realists touched upon various contemporary social and political issues. They approached the harsh realities and pressures in the post-Civil War society either by a comprehensive picture of modern life in its various occupations, c1ass stratifications and manners, or by a psychological exploration of man's subconsciousness.
II. Literary history of the period 3. Local Colorism “ Local colorism” is a unique variation of American literary realism. Generally, the works by local colorists are concerned with the life of a small, well—defined region or province. This kind of fiction depicts the characters from a specific setting or of an era, which are marked by its customs, dialects, costumes, landscape, or other peculiarities that have escaped standardizing cultural influence. Their materials were necessarily limited and topics disparate, yet they had certain common artistic concerns. Writers whose works are characterized with local colors are Mark Twain, Sarah Orne Jewett, Joseph Kirkland and Hamlin Garland.
II. Literary history of the period 4. Naturalism (or American Naturalism) • American Naturalism is a more advanced stage of realism toward the close of the 19th century. • Naturalism is evolved from realism when the author's tone in writing becomes less serious and less sympathetic but more detached, ironic and more pessimistic. It is no more than a different philosophical approach to reality, or to human existence.
II. Literary history of the period 5. The Distinction between Realism and Naturalism • Realism is concerned directly with what is absorbed by the senses; Naturalism, a term more properly applied to literature, attempts to apply scientific theories to art. • Naturalism differs from Realism in adding an amoral attitude to the objective presentation of life. Naturalistic writers, adopting Darwin’s biological determinism and Marx’s economic determinism, regard human behavior as controlled by instinct, emotion, or social and economic conditions, and reject free will. • Naturalism had an outlook often bleaker than that of Realism, and it added a dimension of predetermined fate that rendered human will ultimately powerless.
II. Literary history of the period 6. Major figures of this period Mark Twain (1835--19l0) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Henry James ( 1843-1916) Daisy Miller Emily Dickinson (1830—1886) This is my letter to the World Theodore Dreiser (1871—1945) Sister Carrie
III. Representatives of this periodMark Twain Mark Twain is a great literary giant of America, whom H.L. Mencken considered “the true father of our national literature.” With works like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Life on the Mississippi Twain shaped the world’s view of America and made a more extensive combination of America folk humor and serious literature than previous writers had ever done.
His works • 1865 The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras • 1869 Innocent Abroad • 1873 The Gilded Age • 1876 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer • 1876 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn • 1889 A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court • 1916 The Mysterious Stranger
Themes of his works Twain is also known as a local colorist, who preferred to present social life through portraits of the local characters of his regions, including people living in that area, the landscape, and other peculiarities like the customs, dialects, costumes and so on. Consequently, the rich material of his boyhood experience on the Mississippi became the endless resources for his fiction, and the Mississippi valley and the West became his major theme. Unlike James and Howe1ls, Mark Twain wrote about the lower-class people, because they were the people he knew so well and their 1ife was the one he himself had lived. Moreover he successfully used local color and historical settings to i1lustrate and shed light on the contemporary society.
Analysis ofThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Brief introduction Huckleberry Finn, by general agreement, is Twain’s finest book and an outstanding American novel. Its narrator is Huck, a youngster whose carelessly recorded vernacular speech is admirably adapted to detailed and poetic description of scenes, vivid representations of characters, and narrative renditions that are both broadly comic and subtly ironic. The book’s pages are dotted with idyllic descriptions of the great river and the surrounding forests, and Huck’s exuberance and unconscious humor permeate the whole.
Analysis ofThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Theme The novel is a vindication of what Mark Twain called “ the damned human race.” That is the theme of man’s inhumanity to man---of human cruelty, hypocrisies, dishonesties, and moral corruptions. Mark Twain’s thematic contrasts between innocence and experience, nature and culture, wilderness and civilization.
The analysis of the major characters Huck Huck is a typical American boy with “a sound heart and a deformed conscience”. He appears to be vulgar in language and in manner, but he is honest and decent in essence. His remarkable raft’s journey down on the Mississippi river can be regarded as his process of education and his way to grow up. Huck is the son of nature and a symbol for freedom and earthly pragmatism. Through the eye of Huck, the innocent and reluctant rebel, we see the pre-Civil War American society fully exposed. Twain contrasts the life on the river and the life on the banks, the innocence and the experience, the nature and the culture, the wilderness and the civilization.
The significance of the novel The book marks the climax of Twain's literary creativity. Hemingway once described the novel the one book from which “all modern American literature comes.” The book is significant in many ways. • First of all, the novel is written in a language that is totally different from the rhetorical language used by Emerson, Poe, and Melville. • Secondly, the great strength of the book also comes from the shape given to it by the course of the raft's journey down the Mississippi as Huck and Jim seek their different kinds of freedom. • Thirdly, the profound portrait of Huckleberry Finn is another great contribution of the book to the legacy of American literature.
III. Representatives of this period Henry James Henry James was the American writer to conceive his career in international terms. Today with the development of the modern novel and the common acceptance of Freudian approach, his importance, as well as his wide influence as a novelist and critic, has been all the more conspicuous.
His works • 1878 Daisy Miller • 1878 The Europeans • 1881 The Portrait of A Lady • 1886 The Princess Casamassima • 1893 The Private Life • 1894 The Death of a Lion • 1898 The Turn of the Screw • 1902 The Wings of the Dove • 1903 The Ambassadors • 1904 The Golden Bowl • 1917 The Middle Years
Themes of his works International Theme These nove1s are always set against a large international background, usual1y between Europe and America, and centered on the confrontation of the two different cu1tures with two different groups of peop1e representing two different value systems.
Themes of his works The Theme of “The Art of Fiction” James's literary criticism is an indispensable part of his contribution to literature. It is both concerned with form and devoted to human values. The artist should be able to "feel" the life, to understand human nature, and then to record them in his own art form.''
Themes of his works James’s realism (psychological realism) James’s realism is characterized by his psychological approach to his subject matter. His fictional world is concerned more with the inner life of human beings thanwith overt human actions. James is generally regarded as the forerunner of the 20th century "stream-of-consciousness" novels and the founder of psychological realism.
Themes of his works The innocent James poses usually an innocent figure. The person is not stupid, not unintelligent. What James means by an innocent person is one who has not been touched by deep experience in worldly matters. These innocent are eager for life and they usually see life in others as an object for their own desires.
Analysis ofDaisy Miller Brief introduction Frederick Winterbourne, the narrator of the story, is an American expatriate. While visiting Switzerland, he meets the newly rich Mrs. Miller from New York, her son Randolph and her daughter Daisy. Winterbourne is shocked at Daisy’s innocence and her mother’s unconcern when Daisy accompanies him to the castle of Chillon. Later he meets the Miller in Rome, where Daisy has aroused suspicion by being seen constantly with Giovanelli, a third- rate Italian, without being engaged. Daisy is abandoned by her former friends, because they think she has gone too far. Spending all the evenings in the Colosseum, Daisy is infected with Roman fever. She falls ill with malaria, and a week afterward dies. At her funeral Giovanelli tells Winterbourne that Daisy was “the most beautiful young lady I ever saw, and the most amiable…and the most innocent.”
Analysis ofDaisy Miller Theme Daisy Miller is one of James’s early works that dealt with the international theme i.e., to set against a large international background, usual1y between Europe and America, and centered on the confrontation of the two different cu1tures with two different groups of peop1e representing two different value systems: American innocence in contact and contrast with European decadence and the moral and psychological complications arising therefrom.
The analysis of the major characters Daisy The “Americanness ”in Daisy is revealed by her relatively unreserved manners. Miller, a typical young American girl whogoes to Europe and affronts her destiny. The unsophisticated girl is cruelly wronged because of the confrontation between the two value systems. However, innocence,the keynote of her character, turns out to be an admiring but a dangerous quality and her defiance of social taboos in the Old World finally brings her to a disaster in the clash between two different cultures. She is uninformed and without the mature guidance. Ignorance and parental indulgence combine to foster he assertive self-confidence and fierce willfulness. She behaves in the same daring naive way in Europe as she does at home. When someone is against her, she becomes more contrary. She knowsthat she means no harm and is amazed that anyone should think shedoes. She does not compromise to the European manners.