Communication In American Literature Essay

2950 words - 12 pages

American literature has changed since the industrial revolution. As a child matures into an adult, so has American literature grown to include the problems faced in reality. The word “fiction” transformed from the fairy tales of romanticism to the reality of realism in America. Authors such as: Clemens, Howells, Chopin, Eliot, Faulkner, and Anderson have all assisted the move from dreams to reality. Dramatists O’neill and Miller have written plays that have changed the way social circumstances are viewed by Americans. Americans, as portrayed by American writers, have been plagued with an inability to communicate feelings through speech, yet from the industrial revolution to post second World War, American writers have portrayed the unuttered words of feeling in novels, poems, plays, and short stories.

Communication is important to the life of human beings, yet communicating feelings in words has never been top priority in American literature. A characters thoughts and feelings rarely surface, resulting in a conflict of sorts with other characters. Communication in realistic literature displays body language in great detail, as well as characters personal thoughts and reactions to stimuli. Samuel L. Clemens, described by The Oxford Companion to American Literature as a “journalistic humorist in the frontier tradition” (Hart 162), wrote several compositions pitting romanticism against realism. In Clemens’ Huckleberry Finn, a moral dilemma between characters is not addressed in words, but in thoughts. Realistically, humans do not express speech or take action before thinking; therefore, the documentation of thought is more accurate than the blurting out of ideas. When Huck is faced with the moral dilemma, he deliberates within himself saying; “I was trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: ‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’”(Clemens 168). The dilemma of whether to turn in a runaway slave grips Huck’s heart, and like most all human beings the struggle is not put into words to others, but is sounded silently within. Clemens understood realism, and placed an emphasis on a social issue burning hot in his day. He took a fictional character and gave him a mind, and let the audience, the reader, view his expression of communication within himself. Words communicate thoughts, yet thoughts in fictional realism are the expressions of characters that cannot express their thoughts into words.

Clemens barely scratched the surface depicting the problems with communicating in America. W.D. Howells, a realist, focused his works on the here and now, the immediacy of time, and critical social issues. In Howells’ text’s, human beings are exposed as creatures of thought, not expression. Alan Trachtenburg, author of The Incorporation of America, spoke of Howells as a writer who was notorious for...

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