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Realism And Romanticism As Seen In A Short American Story Eng American Literature Essay

2563 words - 11 pages

Discussing the Aspects of Romanticism and Realism in Ambrose Bierce’s “Chickamauga”
As a species, we humans take delight in the reading of stories beyond the boundaries of normalcy. First appearing as early as Ancient Mesopotamia’s cuneiform, literature has gone through many transitional periods since then, and have each made a landmark on the literary history of mankind. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, emphasis was always placed on fictional stories that society praised as significant in their time. Of these transitional periods, two literary movements to be noted for their impact on America’s literature specifically are romanticism and realism. These two movements, or rather intellectual periods, played a vital role in the literature that American writers have published throughout our brief history as a young nation. In order to examine the paradigm shift from romanticism to realism in American literature, we must closely analyze the literary elements found in a specific piece of American literature during the second half of the nineteenth century where both of these literary movements intertwined. Ambrose Bierce’s short story “Chickamauga” tells the tale of an American six-year-old boy that wanders into the woods playing one of his childish fantasies during the heat of the American civil war. Eventually, a great deal of events unfold in the story that each possess their own hidden message. Bierce’s “Chickamauga” possesses both romantic and realistic aspects that directly represent the paradigm shift of romanticism to realism in American literature during the late nineteenth century, and ultimately serves as a medium to the American readers of the era to the horrifying actuality that is war. Such a shift from romantic to realistic is evident in Bierce’s transition from romantic literary elements such as nature, supernaturalism and individualism, to a more realistic mood in which he utilizes gore and emotional trauma to twist the narrative of the story he tells.
As Victor Hugo described it, romanticism could aptly be defined as “liberalism in literature”. Although the main focus of romanticism centered on the ideas of imagination, emotion and freedom, it also places a significant emphasis on nature, individualism and the fascination involving myths and mysticism. Due to these many characteristics, this form of literature is significantly broader than its counter-part realism. In Ambrose Bierce’s “Chickamauga”, the unique romantic characteristics of nature, the supernatural, and the spirit of individualism all serve a role in the telling of his tale. In reference to the first aforementioned characteristic, nature, the story starts with the sentence “One sunny autumn afternoon a child strayed away from its rude home in a small field and entered a forest unobserved” (Cain, McDermott, Newman and Wyss 56) and immediately sets the precedent of the importance of nature in “Chickamauga”. Later in the story, the...

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