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Regionalism Essay

1771 words - 8 pages

The late 19th century and early 20th century were periods of rapid growth for America. As there were gold rushes in the West, new farms arising in the Great Plains, and the genesis of new factories in the North, each region developed its own subculture. The culture developed by each of these regions was directly reflected in the Regionalist literary works written at that time. Regionalism is a branch of Realism that includes literary works that focus on characters, dialect, customs, and other features of a specific region. Realism pertains to literary works that describe middle-class life and heavily focuses on character. Realism makes use of plausible, real events and characters. Mark ...view middle of the document...

As slavery was a central aspect of the 19th century South, and more so religion was a critical part of a slave’s life, Twain employs the use of a unique Southern characteristic, the slave preacher, in this situation. Twain illustrates the nostalgic aspect of Realism in “Corn Pone Opinions,” and this can be seen in the first sentence of the essay. Twain writes, “Fifty years ago, when I was a boy of fifteen and helping to inhabit a Missourian village on the banks of the Mississippi, I had a friend whose society was very dear to me because I was forbidden by my mother to partake of it,” (Twain 204). The phrase “fifty years ago” in this quote is intended to induce nostalgic feelings. Twain first drafted this essay in 1901, however, it is due to the influence of Realism that he writes fifty years in the past. Twain also shows the influence of Realism by relying on character to convey his message and also using a realistic, plausible character. “Corn Pone Opinions” contains little plot, but instead concentrates on Jerry, the slave minister, to convey the message of the fickleness of human minds. Twain writes, “He was a gay and impudent and satirical and delightful young black man -a slave -who daily preached sermons from the top of his master's woodpile, with me for sole audience. He imitated the pulpit style of the several clergymen of the village, and did it well, and with fine passion and energy,” (Twain 204). The very manner in which Jerry is described suggests that he is a plausible, real character. He is described as gay, impudent, satirical, and delightful, but his life is not romanticized as Twain later reveals Jerry is a slave. Slave preachers were also extremely common in the Antebellum South, therefore Jerry is a character hardly out of the ordinary. Mark Twain depicts Southern Regionalism in “Corn Pone Opinions” through the use of a slave minister exemplifies Realism using nostalgia and the importance of character.
Bret Harte depicts a group consisting of a gambler, prostitute, and other people shunned from a Western mining town in “The Outcasts of Poker Flat.” Harte uses a Regionalist writing style unique to the Western frontier, which includes mining towns. Mining towns, such as Poker Flat, were seen in the West. These towns often included unwelcome, yet welcome, figures such as gamblers, prostitutes, and crooks. There is a hypocrisy that surrounds the social status of these characters, as gamblers and prostitutes were enjoyed, however shunned after a moral reprise in Poker Flat. By including these characters in “The Outcasts of Poker Flat,” Bret Harte makes extensive use of Western local color. There are few symbols more representative of the West that Bret Harte tells of than the gambler, as tales of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday run deep in this time period. Bret Harte delves into Realism in “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” by incorporating the working class into this work. Mr. Oakhurst (the gambler), The Duchess (the prostitute),...

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