The Rise of Realism: 1850-1900. “The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life.” -Henry James. Prisoners from the Front, Winslow Homer, 1922 . . People, places, & Things: 1850 - 1900. What are some of the important events?
The Rise of Realism:1850-1900 “The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life.” -Henry James Prisoners from the Front, Winslow Homer, 1922.
People, places, & Things:1850 - 1900 What are some of the important events? Who are some authors of this period? What are some of the important works of this time?
Realism: A “Very Minute Fidelity” • Realism – dominated fiction in America from the late 19th century until the middle of the 20th. • The Realists: • were writers who sought to portray real life without filtering it through personal feelings, romanticism, or idealism; • wanted to be as accurate as possible when depicting people, places, and things. [Think of Realism as the photography of writing.]
A Reaction to Romanticism • Realism is a reaction to idealized “romantic” novels of the previous period. • Romanticism Recall: • Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. Fallen Monarchs, William Bliss Backer, 1886.
Realistic writing is characterized by: honest, believable characters; realistic dialogue; events in the story that seem possible in real life; characters that are driven by real motives and emotions; characters that don’t change without sufficient reason; objectivity. Characteristics Young Soldier, Winslow Homer, 1861.
The Civil War • Casualties, 1861-1865 • Federal: 664,928 • Confederate: 483,026 • Battles destroyed farms and homes. • Cities were bombarded and burned. • Sherman’s March to the Sea • Suddenly, life wasn’t so nice. • The romantic heroes of the past weren’t cutting it anymore. Four dead soldiers in the woods near Little Round Top, Alexander Gardner, 1863.
The Civil War, cont. • Journalistic accounts of the Civil War developed a taste for realistic writing. • Increased use of photography also helped shaped America’s taste for realistic depictions. Body of a Confederate Soldier Near Mrs. Alsop's House, 1864.
Naturalism • Naturalism holds the same view as Realism with the addition of: • Man has LITTLE control over his fate; • Life is NEVER perfect; problems exist in society; • Life is ALMOST NEVER fair; • Good ALMOST NEVER wins over Evil; Hiding in the Haycocks, William Bliss Baker, 1881. • Nature does not care about the plight of man.
Naturalism, cont. A man said to the universe: “Sir, I exist!” “However,” replied the universe, “The fact has not created in me A sense of obligation.” - Stephen Crane How does this poem espouse the tenants of Naturalism?
Regionalism • Regionalism has ALL the characteristics of Realism PLUS: • using regional dialects; • descriptions of a local area or region; • local cultures and customs. • Writers attempt to make the reader feel they’ve been to an area without actually going there. Champions of the Mississippi, Currier & Ives.
Stephen Crane Stephen Crane. • Associated with the Naturalistmovement • b. 1871 (remember this date) • Youngest of fourteen children; often ill as a child • First work “published” in 1893 • Maggie: A Girl of the Streets • Financial failure
Stephen Crane, cont. • The Red Badge of Courage (1895) • A novel about the Civil War told through the point of view of a young private. • The highlight of his literary career. • Remember his birth date…? • Wrote numerous stories and poems and worked as a newspaper correspondent (Nothing as popular as Red Badge, however.) Stephen Crane in Athens, 1897.
Stephen Crane, cont. • While enroute to Cuba in 1896, Crane met Cora Taylor (a “hostess”). • The pair journeyed to Greece in 1897 to cover the Greco-Turkish War. • Unfortunately, Crane spent the rest of his life plagued by both finical and health struggles. • Diagnosed with tuberculosis, he died in a sanitarium in Germany in 1900. • He was only twenty-eight years old.
Ambrose Bierce • b. 1842 • Father: Marcus Aurelius Bierce • an “eccentric and unsuccessful farmer” • Fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War • Part of Sherman’s March to the Sea • Severely wounded and cited for bravery fifteen times • Left the army, moved to San Francisco, began to write for newspapers Ambrose Bierce, 1892.
Ambrose Bierce, cont. • Worked for several newspapers in San Francisco • Married in 1871, separated in 1888 • (Bierce discovered “compromising letters” from an admirer of his wife.) • The Devil’s Dictionary, 1906. • d. 1914 • ((we think)) Ambrose Bierce, J.H.E. Parington.
Ambrose Bierce, cont. • Bierce left America in 1913 to report on (or perhaps join) the Mexican Revolution. • In one of his last letters, Bierce wrote the following to his niece, Lora: “Good-bye — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs.” • And that was the last anyone heard from him...
The Devil’s Dictionary • Bore, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen. • Cannon, n. An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries. • Circus, n. A place where horses, ponies and elephants are permitted to see men, women and children acting the fool. • Clarionet, n. An instrument of torture operated by a person with cotton in his ears. There are two instruments that are worse than a clarionet — two clarionets.
The Devil’s Dictionary, cont. • Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility. • Idiot, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. • Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage. • Novel, n. A short story padded. • Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which [has] the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.
The Devil’s Dictionary, cont. • Vote, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country. • Yankee, n. In Europe, an American. In the Northern States of our Union, a New Englander. In the Southern States the word is unknown. • Zeal, n. A certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and inexperienced.
Jack London • b. 1876 • “As a boy, he was largely uncared for by his parents” (495). • In his teens, he: • was an oyster pirate; • sailed on a schooner; • went seal-hunting; • wrote for several newspapers; • prospected for gold in the Klondike. Portrait of Jack London, Arnold Genthe.
Jack London, Cont. Jack London. • London left the Klondike after only a year due to illness. • His time in the Klondike, however, convinced him that “life is a struggle in which the strong survive and the weak do not” (495), a perspective which highly influenced his work. • His story “To Build a Fire” is based on his experiences in the Klondike.
Jack London, cont. • The Call of the Wild (1903) is his most famous work. • The Call of the Wild is the story of a sled dog named Buck who escapes to freedom. • In his later years, London’s health deteriorated due to alcoholism. • d. 1916 • London overdosed on narcotics in November of 1916 and lapsed into a coma. • He died the following evening at the age of forty.
Works Consulted • Arpin, Gary Q. “The Rise of Realism: The Civil War and Postwar Period.” Elements of Literature. Austin: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2000. 408-422. • Vanderziel, Jeffery. "Civil War Statistics." The American Civil War. 2001. 17 Feb 2009 <http://www.phil.muni.cz/~vndrzl/amstudies/ civilwar_stats.htm>.