Influences on Literary Realism in America Essay

Influences on Literary Realism in America The realist literary movement In America began In 1 865 and continued to gain momentum until about 1914, when the Great War began. It was a reaction to the idealized world of romanticism, in which the values of heroism, imagination, and emotion were highly treasured. Romantic literature emphasized the ideal by describing characters rising out of their situations to overcome ills of society or personal struggles, and these stories often had happy endings or strong moral messages.

While romanticism exalted the Individual, and the common man in reticular, It always portrayed the protagonists as Innately good; any flaws or defects in the character were overcome In the end. Romanticism focused on morally good people and their ability to triumph over their challenges, and often dealt with themes of love or war. Realism, however, shifted toward a focus on the real, concrete details of life, and in particular discussed the harshness life could hold.

Writers wanted to emphasize the common man, but not in his ability to be a hero; rather, they endeavored to paint the common man as he actually was, and social Injustices as systems that cannot always be conquered. This shift toward a realist literary style was affected by the events preceding the time period, and resulted in three major branches of literature: local color and regionalism, feminist literature, and naturalism.

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Historical Influences on Realism The Civil War changed the lives of many Americans, especially those who had been involved in or affected by slavery, and the events succeeding the Civil War drastically Impacted American literature and allowed It to become much more diverse. After the war ended. The lives of African-Americans were so powerfully changed that in turn, the entire culture of America was forever altered. Prior to the Civil War, few African-Americans were given the privilege to receive proper education.

Many of their stories were spread only by word of mouth, because their inability to become literate didn’t allow for their history to be recorded in writing. This also hindered their chances of being credited with great discoveries and important findings. Slowly, after the Civil War ended, the rise of literature being produced grew exponentially, along with the way literature was written. The race of the authors during this time also became widespread. Before the Civil War, slavery was in full force, especially in the South.

The rules given by the masters to the slaves were strict and binding, and due to these enforcements, many African-Americans were not allowed to be educated. This is a large reason why there are so few documents about the personal lives of African- Americans during this period. Most southern slaveholders viewed education and literacy as a privilege that the slaves were not allowed. The slaveholders understood that if the slaves became literate, they would have the power to think for themselves and even revolt.

After the Stone Rebellion in 1739, the slaveholders feared more uprising, and South Carolina enacted the Slave Code of 1740. In section XSL of the code It states: employed in writing, may be attended with great inconveniences; Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every person and persons whatsoever, who shall hereinafter teach or cause any slave or slaves to be taught, to write, or shall use or employ any slave as a scribe in any manner of writing whatsoever, hereafter taught to write, every such person and persons, shall, for every such offense, forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds current money. 17) This section of the code states that it is not only unlawful for slaves to learn to read or rite, but that the person found responsible for teaching them would be fined a large sum of money. Although this code clearly forbade the teachings of reading and writing to slaves, this time also began to show an expansion of literature by those enslaved. Although very few documents were physically transcribed during this time, many stories began to be told by word of mouth. This oral tradition was the first widespread form of literature used by those enslaved.

The only form of education allowed by the slave masters to enslaved children was an education in the tasks that would be required of them. Enslaved children were not even given basic literary instruction. Instead, they were simply versed in on-the-Job training. This meant that the children’s focus was not on education as we see it today, but on the tasks they would be required to perform on a daily basis. These daunting duties left little time for the exploration of education in those willing to learn.

Although some began to attempt independent studies by following the studies of their slaveholders, few were able to gain expansive knowledge. Looking at the significant writers during the years preceding the Civil War, it is Lear to see that white males dominate the list. The popularity of Edgar Allen Poe was on the rise, along with the likes of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Wald Emerson. Although they were very influential writers and are still highly regarded today, their writings did not capture the stresses and problems facing slaves at that time.

Around the same time, however, there emerged a new class of writers and new literature. William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper “The Liberator” was a very influential publication. Garrison was an abolitionist and believed that slaves deserved to be educated. In he first publication of his newspaper, in 1831, he discussed a need for the freedom of slaves and ended with this statement: Oppression! I have seen thee, face to face, And met thy cruel eye and cloudy brow; But thy soul-withering glance I fear not now – For dread to prouder feelings doth give place Of deep abhorrence!

Scorning the disgrace Of slavish knees that at thy footstool bow, I also kneel – but with far other vow Do hail thee and thy word of hirelings base: – I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins, Still to oppose and thwart, with heart and hand, Thy brutalizing sway – till Affair’s chains Are burst, and Freedom rules the rescued land, – Trampling Oppression and his iron rod: This statement created a huge impact on the African-American community.

With the growth of schools for the enslaved becoming more prevalent, Garrison’s readers were mainly of African American descent. Poetry was also on the rise during the time of the Civil War. American poet Walt Whitman “Leaves of Grass” explored many topics of democracy and race. In his poem “For You, O Democracy,” Whitman writes, Come, I will make the continent indissoluble, I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon, I will make divine magnetic lands, With the love of comrades, With the life-long love of comrades.

I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of America, and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over the prairies, I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other’s necks, By the love of comrades, By the manly love of comrades. (1-10) His discussion of the love of comrades within the society and democracy show the budding changes about to begin within the democracy and how the entire population was viewed within it. Before the Civil War, American literature usually lacked the influence of those enslaved and those of different races.

Leading up to the Civil War, the literature was beginning to drastically change. With the improvements in the education of African- Americans and the vast expansion of inclusion of all races in literature, the foundation of the literature was beginning to change. The impact of the schools for the enslaved created an enormous gateway for African-Americans to begin telling their stories. The way literature was viewed, written, and read radically changed during the Civil War, which benefited not only African-Americans, but Americans of all races.

The end of the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves contributed to the realists’ focus on the common man because it meant there was a changing audience. Previously, novels had been written chiefly for the bourgeois class, who were the only ones with the leisure time to read. As the lower classes gained more access to education, however, the literate population grew, creating for the first time a mass market for literature. The years from 1865 to 1914 were marked with other enormous changes in the American lifestyle as well, which made a significant impact on the subject matter writers focused on.

These years encompassed parts of three separate wars; Reconstruction, the freedom of African-Americans, and the impact of race issues in the South; the Industrial Revolution and the arbitration of cities; major innovations in technology; and a massive increase in European immigrants. The many upheavals of American society during these years contributed to writers’ attitudes and agendas by bringing up new concerns. For instance, the Industrial Revolution sparked new discussions about gender roles as the labor force increasingly included women and they began to contend for political rights.

Arbitration and immigration sparked new discussions about the problems of city such as Mark Twain and William Dean Howell to criticize the feverish excitement of wartime sentiment. All of these events or changes gave authors new topics to address and arguments to develop. Realism is widely regarded as a rather dark movement due to its focus on society’s injustices and the imperfections of the human condition; indeed, the stories often end with death or unresolved conflicts because of the writers’ intent to illustrate the stark realities of life.

However, although there are elements of it that are dark or pressing, the movement itself isn’t necessarily meant to be interpreted that way. Hamlin Garland, an important author and essayist during this time, wrote that “the realist, or the verities, is really an optimist, a dreamer. He sees life in terms of what it might be, as well as in terms of what it is; but he writes of what is, and, at his best, suggests what is to be, by contrast” (52). This quote suggests that writers did not write bleak stories for bleakness’ sake; rather, by writing about pertinent issues, they could subtly portray messages about the possibilities life held.

Not all realist writings can be categorized into this philosophy – especially as it advances toward naturalism, which embodies the harshest side of realism – but many of the short stories produced can be interpreted in ways that forgive the conflicts portrayed and allow thought-provoking themes to be extracted. Local Color and Regionalism One of the characteristics of realist writing, aside from its gloomy social themes, is an emphasis on the unique culture of a specific city or region where the writers lived. Known as “local color,” this idea was influenced by writers such as Ralph Wald

Emerson and Walt Whitman, who advocated for literature that was uniquely American. Writers began to produce literature that reflected the dialect, folklore, traditions, and attitudes of a specific region. Many critics separate local color and regionalism into two separate categories, but for the sake of brevity they are combined here because they share common characteristics. Local color is sometimes viewed as perhaps the less significant side of the literature; it had a tendency toward “superficiality and sentimentality … Exploitation of the provincial or picturesque for TTS own sake” (Dike 81). Regionalism is frequently discussed by scholars as more serious literature because it was better organized and held more meaning. Regionalisms include writers such as Mark Twain, for example, who wrote literature so unique to Missouri and the surrounding area that it could not be mistaken. Finish .. Gender Issues in Realist Literature During the realist movement, women faced many obstacles and preconceived roles, which history has struggled to surpass time and time again.

The late sass and early sass proved to be the right time for women to directly take on these trials. Women were becoming increasingly vocal in advocating for equalized roles in society, but the true realization of these changes came much later, and the acceptance of change in gender roles is an ongoing battle even today. For example, while the number of women in the workforce increased, it was not expected nor fully accepted for women to work beside men as equals.

For many, women were still objects of pleasure, full of innocence, and were there to be dominated. This battle, often an internal one, can be seen throughout the literature during the realist movement. The shift in the reception of women and their roles and rights can be seen specifically through “The Edith Wharton wrote eighty-six books and short stories, many of which were feminist novels or held strong themes of what it meant to be a woman amidst so many trials. Wharton served as the evolving symbol of what it meant to be a woman in her time.

During the bulk of her writing career, she was quite the controversial writer and individual; despite that, however, in the last ten years of her life, she was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature three times. Through Wharton writing, she invoked all aspects of the problems faced by women, from the double standard of sexual morality to economic dependence on men. Her writings have influenced women and society of any rank far past her lifetime. In Margaret B.

McDowell essay Mewing the Custom of her Country: Edith Wharton Feminism,” she describes Wharton writings as having the ability to “encompass the problems faced by American women from several economic levels; and they reveal the conduct and values of many sorts of women, from the immutable aristocrats of 1870, to flappers, movie stars, and culture club lecturers of the sass’s and sass’s” (521). Wharton diverse characters provided a widespread appeal and increased her audience, which furthered the influence she was able to have.

By taking a look into Edith Wharton short story “The Other Two,” one can gain a more complete understanding of the messages she conveyed throughout her life’s work. The story opens the scene to the thoughts of a newly married man, Mr.. Hawthorn, contemplating his recently acquired wife. He dwells on her loving and caring qualities as he lets happiness overcome him. His wife, Mrs.. Alice Hawthorn, isn’t quite as simple as the readers first view her, for hourly after the story begins, they find out she has also been a Mrs.. Avarice and a Mrs..

Hackett, only to be relieved of such titles through divorce. Controversial and uncommon as divorce was at this time, this knowledge has been Mr.. Hawthorn’s since he first met her, yet instead of looking into the reasons behind the marriages, he chose to brush them off and see Alice as the victim of unpleasant men and bad marriages. The innocence and goodness he saw emanating in her actions, and in the actions of any women for that matter, was enough for him. There was no doubt in is mind that Alice could have been responsible in any way or have done anything wrong to result in the divorces.

Mr.. Hawthorn’s lack of doubt was soon erased as the complexity of the past marriages started invading his daily life. Lice’s first husband, Mr.. Hackett, with whom she had a daughter, stopped by to exercise his visitation rights once a week. Shortly afterward, her second husband, Mr.. Avarice, ended up doing business with Mr.. Hawthorn and became a constant presence in his life. Through these interactions he had with the men, the picture Hawthorn had painted of his wife gradually deteriorated.

Lice’s first husband was not at all the brute Hawthorn had been led to believe he was; rather, he was a quiet, respectful man from a humble background, who showed only love and kindness for his daughter. Mr.. Avarice also showed no sign of ill will or poor treatment toward his wife. Mr.. Hawthorn was now able to see Alice from all angles, and no longer was she the perfect innocent woman. Alice was capable of lying, misleading, manipulation, and personal gain at the expense of others. She showed discontent towards Mr.. Hackett, lied to Mr..

Hawthorn about ever seeing him while he visited, and expected that the tears she leased when speaking about how horrible Mr.. Hackett was would somehow Hawthorn. How could a woman be capable of such things? A double standard can be seen through his thought process. Edith Wharton closes the story by having all three men and Alice in the same room for tea after an unusual set of circumstances bring them together. Awkward as it was for the men, Alice brushed it off and pretended as if there was no tension or baggage within the present company.

She was fulfilling the role of a gracious hostess and a refined lady. The story ends with Hawthorn laughing. Wharton really pushes the boundaries on the perception of omen through this short story, by showing that they too have controversial trials in their lives and are not simple beings to be overlooked or conquered. The ideas and the image that define Alice were quite different from those accepted from and expected women of that time, or and different from how they were traditionally perceived.

She captured the picture of the evolving woman who now has thoughts and rights of her own, as well as displayed some of the issues that surround society’s acceptance of divorce. Edith Wharton was not the only influential feminist writer of her time; Kate Chopin wrote many thought-provoking works of her own. Through her short story “The Storm,” she conveys women’s sexuality, which before this time was essentially considered nonexistent. The title of this short story references the actual stormy weather that is taking place throughout the whole account, and it symbolizes the affair that takes place between the two characters.

Though Chopin does not go into graphic detail of the actual affair, she provided enough descriptive syntax to show that women, too, are sexual beings. The story starts out with a man getting caught in the stormy weather, only to find himself seeking refuge in the home of a woman he had once sought out for love. Both he and the woman, Calcite, were married to others at this time, but that didn’t seem to cause much concern for either of them, and they have a brief affair together. What was shocking at the time this story came out was that the woman was equally responsible for the action and for enjoying it.

Chopin dwells on the passion the woman felt, and in looking at a small excerpt from the story, this depiction of passion is seen. “If she was not an immaculate dove in those days, she was still inviolate [referring to her younger years]; a passionate creature whose very defensiveness had made her defense, against which his honor forbade him to prevail. Now – well, now – her lips seemed in a manner free to be tasted, as well as her round, white throat and her whiter breasts” (436). The story then goes on to describe in further detail the enjoyment she felt.

At this time, to even think that women could feel so passionately in that way, much less to write about it so openly, was extremely shocking to her readers. Chopin took a stance for women and suggested that as sexual beings, they were equals to men. Controversial as it was, this message proved its point and was an excellent example of female psychology and sexuality. She tested the double standard that existed in sexuality between men and women, because although women were supposed to keep themselves pure and virtuous before marriage, their sexuality after marriage was never discussed.

Chopping writings eliminate the notion that women are not sexual beings. By looking at Edith Wharton as a symbol for feminism through her writing, delving into her short story “The Other Two,” and reviewing Kate Chopping “The Storm,” a step toward the movement for women’s rights can be seen. It was equality and the trials they experienced. Feminism is undoubtedly a significant part of the realist movement in America. Naturalism Naturalism was brought about closer to the end of the realist movement, and became one of the most significant branches of realism.

It was a key element in defining the literature of the early sass. Naturalism is a type of literature that “attempts to apply scientific principles of objectivity and detachment to its study of human beings” (Campbell). It was influenced by determinism, Charles Darning’s theory of survival of the fittest, and Karl Mar’s philosophies about Social Darwinism. Determinism plays a role in naturalism because it houses the philosophy that every action has natural consequences that follow. Through Jack Loon’s short story, “To Build a Fire,” the connection between man and nature is explored.

London also integrated his life experiences into his stories, allowing for a real connection and meaning within his stories. Jack London, born in 1876, lived a life very much in connection with the aspects of the naturalistic movement. He was raised in poverty, and the experiences from his youth life influenced him to write and gave him inspiration for things to write about. At seventeen years old, he ventured to sea, and soon after was imprisoned for thirty days. This event was key in turning his life around because it motivated him to become educated and to get involved in writing as a career.

He spent many years in the Cloudlike searching for gold, which influenced a lot of his first stories. The adventures continued from there as London contributed to the realist movement through his uniquely simple and daring stories. Much of the writing during the naturalist movement tells stories with lower-class characters who are driven by instinct and natural passions more than intellect. In the short story “To Build a Fire,” the main character is traveling through a frozen -750 F frontier with confidence, and finds himself overestimating his capability to survive.

London writes, “[the cold] did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man’s frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man’s place in the universe. ” These lines portray the man as one who is ill-educated, because the dangerous conditions do not give him pause or even cause him to think about his own life’s fragility.

He simply assumes that his ability to care for himself is more powerful than the elements he is battling, and because of this overconfidence, he unknowingly submits to nature’s power. His worry-free arrogance is a characteristic that would not, perhaps, have adversely affected him were he a character in a romantic novel; however, Jack Loon’s portrayal of nature as pure objectivity means that the man’s overconfidence will cost him dearly. At the point in the story where the main character has started to realize he probably won’t survive, a frightening connection is made to nature.

The character has attempted to build a fire twice, which is the only hope he has of survival because of the intense cold and because he had fallen into a stream and gotten partially wet. The two fires he has attempted to start have failed him, and he is now in a state of desperation, running through the snow on frozen feet in an attempt to get to the boys who are camped miles down the trail. He can’t feel his feet anymore and says that he runs with “no connection to the earth” [citation]. Literally, he can’t feel the earth beneath more he becomes like an animal, acting on instinct to survive.

However, these instincts do not prove to be enough to save him; his mistake of going out alone during a cold snap has already set a series of consequences in motion, and he pays for the mistake with his life. Another focus of the naturalist literature is to reveal the “beast” in man while in nature (Campbell). Throughout the course of Loon’s short story, the beast is more and more apparent in our main character. At first he travails through the frozen terrain with a surety that he will survive, but as he gradually loses focus with his end destination, an inner frustration is revealed.

The relationship twine the man and his dog is very symbolic. The dog moves forward with apprehension, aware that it is dangerously cold, whereas the man moves forward with an unwillingness to recognize fear inside himself. Even though the dog can’t read the temperature, he relies on his instincts, attracted to the fire for warmth and keeping away from the man when he begins to sense his desperation. The dog represents nature; he couldn’t care less about the man. They have no personal connection, so the dog is objective toward him except for the fact that he recognizes the man as his source of fire, so he remains with him.

As the story moves forward and the man gets closer and closer to his fate, the “beast” is increasingly revealed in his behavior. He becomes more agitated and desperate to save his own life. The dog, ironically, is the one to maintain a calm presence. At the end of the story, when the man is finally defeated by the snow, “[the dog] turned and trotted up the trail in the direction of the camp it knew, where were the other food-providers and fire- providers” [citation]. The dog simply carries on, in search of its basic needs.

This story illustrates the harshness of nature not because nature is purposely cruel, but cause when actions are set in motion, there are natural consequences. This element of naturalism is relatable to Newton’s third law: that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this story, the man chooses to venture on a long journey unaccompanied during a dangerous cold snap, even though he is specifically warned against it by someone more experienced. This choice had inevitable consequences, and after a small mishap led him to fall partway into a stream, his chance of survival necessarily plummeted.

He pays for his choices and his small stakes with his life in the end; he cannot escape the natural consequences by appealing to nature for mercy. Naturalism is the most extreme form of realism because it utilizes much darker themes and harsher theories than any other aspect of realist literature. Not all naturalist literature has its focus in nature itself, however; other aspects of naturalism incorporate the philosophy Social Darwinism and class issues, but they are governed by many of the same natural laws. They describe the difficulties or impossibility associated with trying to move from one social class to another.


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