1. American Literature 3. The 19th Century American novel: realism and naturalism.
Major issues and representatives
Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, and the Transcendentalists represent the first great literary generation produced in the United States. In the case of the novelists, the Romantic vision tended to express itself in the form Hawthorne called the "Romance," a heightened, emotional, and symbolic form of the novel. Romances were not love stories, but serious novels that used special techniques to communicate complex and subtle meanings. Instead of carefully defining realistic characters through a wealth of detail, as most English or continental novelists did, Hawthorne, Melville, and Poe shaped heroic figures larger than life, burning with mythic significance. The typical protagonists of the American Romance are haunted, alienated individuals. Hawthorne's Arthur Dimmesdale or Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, Melville's Ahab in Moby-Dick, and the many isolated and obsessed characters of Poe's tales are lonely protagonists pitted against unknowable, dark fates that, in some mysterious way, grow out of their deepest unconscious selves. The symbolic plots reveal hidden actions of the anguished spirit. One reason for this fictional exploration into the hidden recesses of the soul is the absence of settled, traditional community life in America. English novelists – Jane Austen, Charles Dickens (the great favorite), Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, William Thackeray – lived in a complex, well-articulated, traditional society and shared with their readers attitudes that informed their realistic fiction. American novelists were faced with a history of strife and revolution, a geography of vast wilderness, and a fluid and relatively classless democratic society. American novels frequently reveal a revolutionary absence of tradition. Many English novels show a poor main character rising on the economic and social ladder, perhaps because of a good marriage or the discovery of a hidden aristocratic past. But this buried plot does not challenge the aristocratic social structure of England. On the contrary, it confirms it. The rise of the main character satisfies the wish fulfillment of the mainly middle-class readers. In contrast, the American novelist had to depend on his or her own devices. America was, in part, an undefined, constantly moving frontier populated by immigrants speaking foreign languages and following strange and crude ways of life. Thus the main character in American literature might find himself alone among cannibal tribes, as in Melville's Typee, or exploring a wilderness like James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking, or witnessing lonely visions from the grave, like Poe's solitary individuals, or meeting the devil walking in the forest, like Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown. Virtually all the great American protagonists have been "loners." The democratic American individual had, as it were, to invent himself. The serious American novelist had to invent new forms as well hence the sprawling, idiosyncratic shape of Melville's novel Moby-Dick and Poe's dreamlike, wandering Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. Few American novels achieve formal perfection, even today. Instead of borrowing tested literary methods, Americans tend to invent new creative techniques. In America, it is not enough to be a traditional and definable social unit, for the old and traditional gets left behind; the new, innovative force is the center of attention.
utopian Brook Farm community. power-hungry social reformers whose deepest instincts are not genuinely democratic. Most of the Romantic heroes die in the end: All the sailors except Ishmael are drowned in Moby-Dick. The crumbling of the "house" refers to a family in Salem as well as to the actual structure. Massachusetts. In the book. the idealistic protagonist Holgrave voices Hawthorne's own democratic distrust of old aristocratic families: "The truth is. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) Nathaniel Hawthorne. In The House of the Seven Gables (1851). and ambiguity softened his grim themes and contented the general public.
. For its time. Appropriately. remote historical setting. at least. It tells of the passionate. though set in Rome. The book is superbly organized and beautifully written." Hawthorne's last two novels were less successful. especially on sexual and religious freedom. it uses allegory. forbidden love affair linking a sensitive. indicating how difficult it is to create an identity without a stable society. he again returns to New England's history. Set in Boston around 1650 during early Puritan colonization. a wealthy seaport north of Boston that specialized in East India trade. isolation. the novel highlights the Calvinistic obsession with morality. Hester Prynne. but sophisticated writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Herman Melville recognized the book's "hellish" power. dwells on the Puritan themes of sin. One of his ancestors had been a judge in an earlier century. It treated issues that were usually suppressed in 19thcentury America. Hawthorne's reputation rests on his other novels and tales as well. beautiful townsperson. the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. and salvation. The Marble Faun (1860). Both use modern settings. and spiritual salvation. which hamper the magic of romance. The theme concerns an inherited curse and its resolution through love. expiation. was born in Salem. The Scarlet Letter (1850). such as the impact of the new. a fifth-generation American of English descent. The Blithedale Romance (1852) is interesting for its portrait of the socialist. that once in every half-century. The Scarlet Letter was a daring and even subversive book.THE ROMANCE The Romance form is dark and forbidding. and the sensuous. Hawthorne used the idea of a curse on the family of an evil judge in his novel The House of the Seven Gables. guilt and confession. The self-divided. liberating democratic experience on individual behavior. even before the Civil War of the 1860s manifested the greater social tragedy of a society at war with itself. Many of Hawthorne's stories are set in Puritan New England. a family should be merged into the great. tragic note in American literature becomes dominant in the novels. during trials in Salem of women accused of being witches. and his greatest novel. sexual repression. obscure mass of humanity. Hawthorne criticizes egotistical. As one critic has noted. and the sensitive but sinful minister Arthur Dimmesdale dies at the end of The Scarlet Letter. and forget about its ancestors. has become the classic portrayal of Puritan America. Hawthorne's gentle style. a technique the early Puritan colonists themselves practiced. religious young man.
was a descendant of an old." and "My Kinsman." "Young Goodman Brown. Robin has great difficulty finding the major. throughout the book. The American Revolution. to the extent that. a naïve young man from the country comes to the city – a common route in urbanizing 19th-century America – to seek help from his powerful relative. Whaling. Major Molineux" casts light on one of the most striking elements in Hawthorne's fiction: the lack of functioning families in his works. At 19 he went to sea. referring to two classical schools of philosophy. parallels an adolescent rebellion away from the parent-figure of England and the larger family of the British Empire. The Whale. Hawthorne's stories and novels repeatedly show broken. His interest in sailors' lives grew naturally out of his own experiences. was based on his time spent among the supposedly cannibalistic but hospitable tribe of the Taipis in the Marquesas Islands of the South Pacific. or. in fiction. Realistic catalogues and descriptions of whales and the whaling industry punctuate the book. are trademarks of many of Hawthorne's best-known shorter stories: "The Minister's Black Veil." the narrator says that the Right Whale is a Stoic and the Sperm Whale is a Platonian. is a grand metaphor for the pursuit of knowledge. is the epic story of the whaling ship Pequod and its "ungodly. proud family traditions. isolation often seems the basic American condition of life. The story confirms the bond of sin and suffering shared by all humanity. and criticizes the Christian missionaries. to prosper from his own hard work. a realistic adventure novel. and hard work. god-like man. and his characteristic settings in Puritan colonial New England." Captain Ahab. Major Molineux. Typee. cursed. Melville's masterpiece. "The Right Whale's Head. In these we see the young Melville's wide. This work. Despite his patrician upbringing. like Nathaniel Hawthorne. In chapter 15. Moby-Dick. and finally joins in a strange night riot in which a man who seems to be a disgraced criminal is comically and cruelly driven out of town. not from special favors from wealthy relatives." In the last of these. His first book. who Melville found less genuinely civilized than the people they came to convert. too. Melville found himself in poverty with no college education. harmonious life. contains a series of meditations on the human condition. but these carry symbolic connotations. "My Kinsman. like every democratic American. Robin laughs loudest of all until he realizes that this "criminal" is none other than the man he sought – a representative of the British who has just been overthrown by a revolutionary American mob. Although Cooper's Leather-Stocking Tales manage to introduce families into the least likely wilderness places.These themes. and most of his early novels grew out of his voyages. whose obsessive quest for the white whale Moby-Dick leads the ship and its men to destruction.
. democratic experience and hatred of tyranny and injustice. This scenario was played out countless times on the frontier. It also stresses the theme of the self-made man: Robin must learn. The book praises the islanders and their natural. Puritanism and its Protestant offshoots may have further weakened the family by preaching that the individual's first responsibility was to save his or her own soul. from a psychohistorical viewpoint. whom he has never met. Herman Melville (1819-1891) Herman Melville. may have played a part in glorifying a sense of proud yet alienated freedom. The ideology of revolution. or artificial families and the sufferings of the isolated individual. Americans won their independence and were then faced with the bewildering dilemma of discovering their identity apart from old authorities. wealthy family that fell abruptly into poverty upon the death of the father.
there are no final answers except. the novel often is about itself. Facts about the whale and whaling cannot explain Moby-Dick. Finally. In other words. desires a total. Melville frequently comments on mental processes such as writing. Whaling was also inherently expansionist and linked with the idea of manifest destiny. the great white whale. especially for lamps. In Moby-Dick." according to the biblical text. Sarah). the narrator. Strength. however beautiful. who pays tragically for wrongful knowledge. since it required Americans to sail round the world in search of whales (in fact. the present state of Hawaii came under American domination because it was used as the major refueling base for American whaling ships). Swallowed by a "big fish. god-like knowledge. and every fact is obscurely related in a cosmic web to every other fact. Rachel (one of the patriarch Jacob's wives) is the name of the boat that rescues Ishmael at book's end. just as he obsesses Ahab. Ishmael and Hagar were cast into the wilderness by Abraham. however. he lived for a time in its belly before being returned to dry land through God's intervention. Moby-Dick. saying that nothing great can ever be finished ("God keep me from ever completing anything. Melville challenges Emerson's optimistic idea that humans can understand nature. Like Oedipus in Sophocles' play. But the novel shows that just as there are no finished texts. Historical references also enrich the novel. O Time.
. he demands a finished text. The ship Pequod is named for an extinct New England Indian tribe. Finally. Ahab. Faustian. The name Ishmael emanates from the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament – he was the son of Abraham and Hagar (servant to Abraham's wife. Other examples exist. but the draught of a draught. for instance. or reflexive. is an orphan-like wanderer. Behind Melville's accumulation of facts is a mystic vision – but whether this vision is evil or good. He asserts his dignity as an individual and dares to oppose the inexorable external forces of the universe. Seeking to flee from punishment. and understanding. it is also tragic. mean that humans can "read" truth in nature. he only brought more suffering upon himself. the facts themselves tend to become symbols. Thus the whale does literally "shed light" on the universe. remains alien and potentially deadly. This idea of correspondence (as Melville calls it in the "Sphinx" chapter) does not. suggesting the idea of America as a universal state of mind as well as a melting pot. is an inscrutable. Ahab is struck blind before he is wounded in the leg and finally killed. timeless world of absolutes in which he can stand above his men. named for an Old Testament king. Ahab embodies the tragic version of democratic American individualism. especially in New England: It supplied oil as an energy source. Despite his heroism. is an exhaustive survey in which the narrator attempts a classification but finally gives up. Cash and Patience"). cosmic existence that dominates the novel. is never explained. reading. perhaps. death. Certain literary references resonate throughout the novel.Although Melville's novel is philosophical." Ishmael. thus the name suggests that the boat is doomed to destruction. The Pequod's crew members represent all races and various religions. the metaphysical whale reminds Jewish and Christian readers of the biblical story of Jonah. Ahab is doomed and perhaps damned in the end. human or inhuman. Melville's notion of the literary text as an imperfect version or an abandoned draft is quite contemporary. This whole book is but a draught – nay. an answer. Nature. Moby-Dick ends with the word "orphan. on the contrary. as it does in Emerson. who was tossed overboard by fellow sailors who considered him an object of ill fortune. The novel is modern in its tendency to be self-referential. Unwisely. One chapter. Whaling was in fact a major industry. Ahab insists on imaging a heroic.
The French writer and politician Alexis de Tocqueville had predicted. The hidden rooms reveal ancient libraries. Many of his stories prefigure the genres of science fiction. Gothic settings are not merely
. After the ship sinks. Poe believed that strangeness was an essential ingredient of beauty. appear in many of his works." "Ligeia. with his passions. walls." and "The Fall of the House of Usher. that this theme would arise in America as a result of its democracy: The destinies of mankind. strange art works.The novel's epilogue tempers the tragic destruction of the ship. introspective aristocrats (Poe. especially being buried alive or returning like a vampire from the grave. and burlesque. his doubts. Ishmael is saved by the engraved coffin made by his close friend. Throughout. His stories and poems are populated with doomed. its positive treatment of pre-technological peoples. They are celebrations of nature and pastoral subversions of classoriented. the heroic tattooed harpooner and Polynesian prince Queequeg." Poe's twilight realm between life and death and his gaudy. and floors. The aristocrats play musical instruments or read ancient books while they brood on tragedies. instead they bury themselves in dark. shares with Melville a darkly metaphysical vision mixed with elements of realism. theme of (American) poetry. it is eminently American. has been interpreted as an attempt to find the stable family life he lacked. Like so many other major 19th-century American writers. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) Edgar Allan Poe. its Edenic island symbolism. if not the sole. Poe was orphaned at an early age." "The Cask of Amontillado. Certainly both Moby-Dick and Typee. fit this description. In setting humanity alone in nature. mythological designs incorporate the history of the cosmos. From death life emerges. man himself taken aloof from his country and his age and standing in the presence of Nature and God. and fantasy so popular today. These gloomy characters never seem to work or socialize. a southerner. in a democracy. cherished an aristocratic ideal). like many other southerners. parody. like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Walden. in the end. Poe's strange marriage in 1835 to his first cousin Virginia Clemm. horror. Tocqueville reasons that. moldering castles symbolically decorated with bizarre rugs and draperies that hide the real world of sun. Poe's short and tragic life was plagued with insecurity. The coffin's primitive. and its quest for rebirth. and his writing is often exotic. He refined the short story genre and invented detective fiction. in the 1835 work Democracy in America. will become the chief. Melville stresses the importance of friendship and the multicultural human community. windows. his rare propensities and inconceivable wretchedness. including "The Premature Burial. Moby-Dick has been called a "natural epic" – a magnificent dramatization of the human spirit set in primitive nature – because of its hunter myth. Ishmael is rescued from death by an object of death. and eclectic oriental objects. who was not yet 14. Themes of death-in-life. urban civilization. often the deaths of loved ones. its initiation theme. literature would dwell on "the hidden depths of the immaterial nature of man" rather than on mere appearances or superficial distinctions such as class and status.
or reasoning. sleepless narrator. in his own lifetime and today. In this eerie poem. Ross Macdonald. like that of many Southerners. hence a symbol of death) who perches above his door and ominously repeats the poem's famous refrain. "Who has not." we read in "The Black Cat. Paul Valéry. Deep anxiety and psychic insecurity seem to have occurred earlier in America than in Europe.decorative. of what was to follow as science fiction. In every genre. there was no compensating security.P. On the contrary. and images of death-in-life. alienation. All of these stories reveal Poe's fascination with the mind and the unsettling scientific knowledge that was radically secularizing the 19th-century world view. and John D. a hundred times. and thus are central to his art. too. Poe's combination of decadence and romantic primitivism appealed enormously to Europeans. Stories like "The Gold Bug" and "The Purloined Letter" are more tales of ratiocination. And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming. Poe explores the psyche. while the tales of ratiocination are harbingers of the detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett. for no other reason than because he knows he should not. And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted – nevermore! Poe's stories – such as those cited above – have been described as tales of horror. Poe accurately described the underside of the American dream of the self-made man and showed the price of materialism and excessive competition – loneliness. preference for the exotic. The horror tales prefigure works by such American authors of horror fantasy as H. the haunted. found himself committing a vile or silly action. Charles Baudelaire. never flitting. for Europeans at least had a firm. Poe delved into accounts of madness and extreme emotion. Lovecraft and Stephen King. Raymond Chandler. is "The Raven" (1845).
. despite his aristocratic disgust with democracy. still is sitting On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door. His bestknown poem. he is almost a textbook example of Tocqueville's prediction that American democracy would produce works that lay bare the deepest. There is a hint. complex social structure that gave them psychological security." The poem ends in a frozen scene of death-in-life: And the Raven. it was every man for himself. MacDonald. hidden parts of the psyche. still is sitting. Poe's verse. Profound psychological insights glint throughout the stories. particularly to the French poets Stéphane Mallarmé. and Arthur Rimbaud. The painfully deliberate style and elaborate explanation in the stories heighten the sense of the horrible by making the events seem vivid and plausible. But Poe is not un-American. was very musical and strictly metrical. And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor." To explore the exotic and strange aspect of psychological processes. They are symbolic expressions of the unconscious. is visited by a raven (a bird that eats dead flesh. who has been reading and mourning the death of his "lost Lenore" at midnight. They reflect the overcivilized yet deathly interior of his characters disturbed psyches. In America. and themes of dehumanization. "nevermore.
S. Uncle Tom. It reflected the idea that slavery in the United States. in the process stripping them of their identity and reducing them to merely decorative items in a collection. Stowe's novel attacked slavery precisely because it violated domestic values. St. is a northerner and the villain. and industrialization uprooted families and traditional ways. she said that the novel was inspired and "written by God. Later. Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840).
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. Life Among the Lowly was the most popular American book of the 19th century. prays for St. The Romantic period had ushered in an era of feeling: The virtues of family and love reigned supreme.
. Forty different publishers printed it in England alone. ragged slave being beaten – as she participated in a church service.Poe's "decadence" also reflects the devaluation of symbols that occurred in the 19th century – the tendency to mix art objects promiscuously from many eras and places." Her motive was the religious passion to reform life by making it more godly. The resulting chaos of styles was particularly noticeable in the United States. urbanization. the slave and central character. Ironically. and is inherently un-Christian. which were drifting toward the Civil War a decade away. is a true Christian martyr who labors to convert his kind master. and it was quickly translated into 20 languages. St. The most touching scenes show an agonized slave mother unable to help her screaming child and a father sold away from his family. the novel was meant to reconcile the North and South. destroys normal parental love. Clare's soul as he dies. Its passionate appeal for an end to slavery in the United States inflamed the debate that. Reasons for the success of Uncle Tom's Cabin are obvious. this confusion of symbols fueled the grotesque. The evil master Simon Legree. was an injustice of colossal proportions. and portrayed them kindly. The jumble reflects the loss of coherent systems of thought as immigration. led to the U. or. an idea that Poe explicitly made his theme in his classic collection of stories. in fact. within a decade. Ultimately. Heinrich Heine in Germany. Stowe conceived the idea of the novel – in a vision of an old. and Ivan Turgenev in Russia. liked southerners. and husband all were well-known. These were crimes against the sanctity of domestic love. In art. learned Protestant clergymen and reformers. Southern slaveowners are good masters and treat Tom well. the nation that purportedly embodied democracy and equality for all. Stowe herself was a perfect representative of old New England Puritan stock. Stowe's novel was not originally intended as an attack on the South. Clare personally abhors slavery and intends to free all of his slaves. and is killed defending slave women. it was an immediate success. the book was used by abolitionists and others as a polemic against the South. on the other hand. though. Slavery is depicted as evil not for political or philosophical reasons but mainly because it divides families. receiving the praise of such authors as Georges Sand in France. which often lacked traditional styles of its own. Clare. First published serially in the National Era magazine (1851-1852). Civil War (1861-1865). brother. Her father. Stowe had visited the South.
SAMUEL CLEMENS (MARK TWAIN) (1835-1910) Samuel Clemens. better known by his pen name of Mark Twain. In the end. and he captured its distinctive. in deciding to save Jim. William Faulkner's The Bear. Huck and Jim float on a raft down the majestic Mississippi. generosity. Twain's masterpiece. above all things. It is Jim's adventures that initiate Huck into the complexities of human nature and give him moral courage. colloquial American speech. gave American writers a new appreciation of their national voice. as vast and changing as life itself. which appeared in 1884. simple world of the raft is ultimately overwhelmed by progress – the steamboat – but the mythic image of the river remains. Early 19th-century American writers tended to be too flowery. Huck has just been adopted by a respectable family when his father. indicates this author's towering place in the tradition. threatens to kill him. away from the morally corrupting influences of "civilization. and initiation. But Huck grows impatient with civilized society and plans to escape to "the territories" – Indian lands. The most well-known example is Huck Finn. the slave Jim. Jim. and later reunited. Thus it was profoundly liberating and potentially at odds with society. realism was not merely a literary technique: It was a way of speaking truth and exploding worn-out conventions. Twain recalls his training as a
. realistic. The escaped slave. in a drunken stupor. In Life on the Mississippi. The pure. a poor boy who decides to follow the voice of his conscience and help a Negro slave escape to freedom. Walt Whitman's hymns to the open road. The unstable relationship between reality and illusion is Twain's characteristic theme. Petersburg. based on vigorous. feigning his own death. and sometimes cruel irrationality of society. Huckleberry Finn has inspired countless literary interpretations. whose owner. or ostentatious – partially because they were still trying to prove that they could write as elegantly as the English. but are sunk by a steamboat. Huck escapes. The magnificent yet deceptive. He is joined in his escape by another outcast. Clearly. on a raft is for everybody to be satisfied and feel right and kind toward the others. They go through many comical and dangerous shore adventures that show the variety. is thinking of selling him down the river to the harsher slavery of the deep South. Missouri." James Fenimore Cooper's novels. is set in the Mississippi River village of St. grew up in the Mississippi River frontier town of Hannibal. even though Huck thinks this means that he will be damned to hell for breaking the law. For Twain and other American writers of the late 19th century. The ending gives the reader the counter-version of the classic American success myth: the open road leading to the pristine wilderness. Huck grows morally beyond the bounds of his slave-owning society." Like Melville's ship the Pequod. it is discovered that Miss Watson had already freed Jim. becomes a father figure for Huck. sentimental. The novel also dramatizes Twain's ideal of the harmonious community: "What you want. Fearing for his life. Ernest Hemingway's famous statement that all of American literature comes from one great book. the basis of much of his humor. rebirth. humorous slang and iconoclasm. Twain's style. separated. constantly changing river is also the main feature of his imaginative landscape. the raft sinks. and Jack Kerouac's On the Road are other literary examples. Miss Watson. Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. and with it that special community. the novel is a story of death. and a respectable family is taking care of the wild boy Huck. The son of an alcoholic bum. Twain was the first major author to come from the interior of the country.
or "regionalism. "flabbergasted" (amazed). and magazines. Twain's serious purpose.6 meters) of water. Samuel Clemens's pen name. the depth needed for a boat's safe passage. In The American. and the Pacific Coast. and many other writers. as with Kit Carson and Davy Crockett. for example. the steeldriving African-American." who asserted they were half horse. The American (1877). a naïve but intelligent and idealistic selfmade millionaire industrialist. and comic workingmen heroes enlivened frontier literature. half alligator. "Mark Twain. Local boasters. rampaging). incredible boasts." is the phrase Mississippi boatmen used to signify two fathoms (3. that was the chief. Casey Jones. on riverboats. the scout. "makes life. combined with a rare genius for humor and style. Augustus Longstreet. James is generally ranked as the greatest American novelist of the second half of the 19th century. In ragged frontier villages. keep his writing fresh and appealing. James is noted for his "international theme" – that is." Twain's moral sense as a writer echoes his pilot's responsibility to steer the ship to safety. the Mississippi riverboat brawler. and Davy Crockett. They drew strength from natural hazards that would terrify lesser men." one swelled. "I'm a regular tornado. John Henry. or "ring-tailed roarers. sophisticated. newspapers. westerners Kit Carson. and Joseph Baldwin. and around cowboy campfires far from city amusements. These humorous forms were found in many frontier regions – in the "old Southwest" (the present-day inland South and the lower Midwest). Exaggeration." phase encompassed such works as Transatlantic Sketches (travel pieces. What his biographer Leon Edel calls James's first. the brave railroad engineer. tall tales. or "international. Twain. the complex relationships between naïve Americans and cosmopolitan Europeans. goes to Europe seeking a bride. With Twain. the Indian fighter. are indebted to frontier preCivil War humorists such as Johnson Hooper." Henry James (1843-1916) Henry James once wrote that art. the giant logger whose fame was helped along by advertising. "rampagious" (unruly. Faulkner. makes interest.young steamboat pilot when he writes: "I went to work now to learn the shape of the river. Sometimes. Paul Bunyan. Christopher Newman. When her family rejects him
. FRONTIER HUMOR AND REALISM Two major literary currents in 19th-century America merged in Mark Twain: popular frontier humor and local color. these stories were strung together into book form. Thomas Bangs Thorpe. and difficult of its era. From them and the American frontier folk came the wild proliferation of comical new American words: "absquatulate" (leave). 1875). and a masterpiece. in mining camps. Each region had its colorful characters around whom stories collected: Mike Fink." James's fiction and criticism is the most highly conscious. the mining frontier. and of all the eluding and ungraspable objects that ever I tried to get mind or hands on. The Portrait of a Lady (1881). I can strike a blow like a falling tree. also underscored the boundless energy of the frontier. Daisy Miller (1879). makes importance. George Washington Harris. Their exploits were exaggerated and enhanced in ballads. particularly southerners. "tough as hickory and long-winded as a nor'wester. storytelling flourished." These related literary approaches began in the 1830s – and had even earlier roots in local oral traditions. especially literary art. and every lick makes a gap in the crowd that lets in an acre of sunshine.
The complex and almost mythical The Wings of the Dove (1902). and entropy. The Ambassadors (1903) (which James felt was his best novel). Naturalism is essentially a literary expression of determinism. Instead of progress. his novels become more psychological and less concerned with external events. as a blind machine. He exploited new subject matters – feminism and social reform in The Bostonians (1886) and political intrigue in The Princess Casamassima (1885). or machine force. but as a perfect one. If the main theme of Twain's work is appearance and reality." phase James returned to international subjects. "The fact has not created in me A sense of obligation. Stephen Crane. NATURALISM AND MUCKRAKING Wharton's and James's dissections of hidden sexual and financial motivations at work in society link them with writers who seem superficially quite different: Stephen Crane. Like the cosmopolitan novelists. morality is humanized and enlarged as he discovers a capacity to accept those who have sinned."
. but treated them with increasing sophistication and psychological penetration. I exist!" "However. but much more explicitly. and The Golden Bowl (1904) date from this major period. Associated with bleak. in The Ambassadors. Adams sees inevitable decline in human society. and Upton Sinclair. discovers a new complexity to his inner life. James's constant concern is perception. Jack London. The 19th-century American historian Henry Adams constructed an elaborate theory of history involving the idea of the dynamo. these naturalists used realism to relate the individual to society. upright. His rigid. In James. the son of a clergyman. instead. in deciding not to. In his third. or "major. Frank Norris. invented by God and tending toward progress and human betterment. which views individuals as the helpless pawns of economic and social forces beyond their control. James's second period was experimental. He also attempted to write for the theater. the most important events are all psychological – usually moments of intense illumination that show characters their previous blindness. In James's later works. in doing so. only self-awareness and clear perception of others yields wisdom and self-sacrificing love. Often they exposed social problems and were influenced by Darwinian thought and the related philosophical doctrine of determinism. determinism denies religion as a motivating force in the world and instead perceives the universe as a machine. the idealistic. Naturalists imagined society. As James develops. or decay of force. he demonstrates his moral superiority. put the loss of God most succinctly: A man said to the universe: "Sir. he has a chance to revenge himself. For example. Eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers had also imagined the world as a machine. godless and out of control. aging Lambert Strether uncovers a secret love affair and.because he lacks an aristocratic background." replied the universe. realistic depictions of lower-class life. but failed embarrassingly when his play Guy Domville (1895) was booed on the first night. Theodore Dreiser.
It daringly opened up the seamy underside of society and such topics as divorce. His fine. earmark Maggie as a naturalist work.E. and crime. In love and eager to escape her violent home life. having neglected his health. the frontier was declared officially closed. Paul Laurence Dunbar. Edmond and Jules Goncourt. but he barely had time to bask in the attention before he died. and business dominated even remote farmsteads. and song. and a symbolist. in slums and on battlefields. Booker T. Primarily a journalist who also wrote fiction. In the writings of Booker T. recounts his successful struggle to better himself." "The Blue Hotel. It is the harrowing story of a poor. By 1890. sheriffs.B. His short stories – in particular. educator and the most prominent black leader of his day. born to a white slave-holding father and a slave mother. When her selfrighteous mother rejects her. Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) is one of the best. simple autobiography. grew up as a slave in Franklin County. THE RISE OF BLACK AMERICAN LITERATURE The literary achievement of African-Americans was one of the most striking literary developments of the post-Civil War era. and plays. she allows herself to be seduced into living with a young man. clergymen. He has enjoyed continued success ever since – as a champion of the common man. protest literature. naturalism first appeared in Europe. devoid of moralizing. was published to great acclaim in 1895. sex. Crane's earthy subject matter and his objective. James Weldon Johnson. and others. The Red Badge of Courage. Du Bois. alcoholic parents utterly fail her. "The Open Boat. judges. poetry. if not the earliest. and Guy de Maupassant. Crane saw life at its rawest. essays. His haunting Civil War novel. Up From Slavery (1901). poverty. Naturalism flourished as Americans became urbanized and aware of the importance of large economic and social forces. W. the roots of black American writing took hold. Most Americans resided in towns. but soon commits suicide out of despair. He was virtually forgotten during the first two decades of the 20th century. sensitive young girl whose uneducated. poetry. Charles Waddell Chesnutt. It is usually traced to the works of Honoré? de Balzac in the 1840s and seen as a French literary movement associated with Gustave Flaubert. He became renowned for his efforts to improve the lives of African-Americans." and "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" – exemplified that literary form. adultery.
Stephen Crane (1871-1900) Stephen Crane. Washington. naturalistic American novels. but was resurrected through a laudatory biography by Thomas Beer in 1923. a realist. notably in the forms of autobiography. Émile Zola. at 29. scientific style. his policy of accommodation with whites – an attempt to involve the recently freed black American
. born in New Jersey. Maggie becomes a prostitute to survive.Like Romanticism. and farmers who had lived a century earlier. who soon deserts her. Virginia. Washington. sermons. Washington (1856-1915) Booker T. had roots going back to Revolutionary War soldiers.
. a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). in effect.in the mainstream of American society – was outlined in his famous Atlanta Exposition Address (1895). his work helped black intellectuals rediscover their rich folk literature and music. Du Bois authored "Of Mr. Booker T. the unequal and separate treatment of black Americans – and that segregation would inevitably lead to inferiority." an essay later collected in his landmark book The Souls of Black Folk (1903).E.E. Washington had. also wrote sensitive appreciations of African-American traditions and culture. Du Bois. accepted segregation – that is.B. W. particularly in education. Du Bois carefully demonstrates that despite his many accomplishments. Du Bois (1868-1963) Born in New England and educated at Harvard University and the University of Berlin (Germany). Washington and Others.B. W.