Realism American Literature
Realism • reaction to Romantic ideals of the previous generation(s). • defined as "the faithful representation of reality”. • Realist authors not afraid to write about REAL subjects like war, death, prostitution, etc.
Realism • Although strictly speaking, realism is a technique, it also refers to a particular kind of subject matter, especially the representation of middle-class life. • ”Realism" is difficult to define, in part because it is used differently in European contexts than in American literature.
Realism • Time period: from Civil War to the turn of the century • fiction devoted to accurate representation and exploration of American lives in various contexts.
Reality– realistic portrayal of life/events • Details, however bleak, are realistic • Stephen Crane actually lived on the streets as a homeless man to research for his book Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.
Complex ethical choices • In Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, you see a smart, promising young woman, who is placed in a difficult spot when her family rejects her, and you journey with her as she fights to survive on the streets as a prostitute.
Focus on the middle class • Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” is a short story about simple, middle class men during the gold rush, trying to survive in the elements.
Natural vernacular • writes like the local people speak • Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, is an excellent example of the vernacular speech used by the soldiers in the story. • And, of course, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is famously known for its purposeful use of the local, Southern dialect.
Objective view point • The Realists did not view it as their job to influence the readers’ opinions, but rather to simply provide the story/information. • Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” doesn’t offer an opinion on the events – merely describes them as they happen
Humans in relation to nature • Jack London is famous for his stories of man interacting with nature, such as “To Build a Fire.”
Portrays man as simply a person • People are nothing special or extraordinary • Real, raw characters in real situations that are still fictional. • Characters are not celebrated for being perfect, but just recognized for being human and doing their best in a difficult situation.