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The Influence Of Realism And Naturalism On 20th Century Literature.

1950 words - 8 pages

Influence of Realism on LiteratureAfter World War I, American people and the authors among themwere left disillusioned by the effects that war had on their society.America needed a literature that would explain what had happened andwhat was happening to their society. American writers turned to whatis now known as modernism. The influence of 19th Century realism andnaturalism and their truthful representation of American life andpeople was evident in post World War I modernism. This paper will tryto prove this by presenting the basic ideas and of these literarygenres, literary examples of each, and then make connections betweenthe two literary movements. Realism Modernism not only depictedAmerican society after World War I accurately and unbiasedly, but alsotried to find the solutions brought upon by the suffering created bythe war (Elliott 705).The realistic movement of the late 19th century saw authorsaccurately depict life and it's problems. Realists attempted to "givea comprehensive picture of modern life" (Elliott 502) by presentingthe entire picture. They did not try to give one view of life butinstead attempted to show the different classes, manners, andstratification of life in America. Realists created this picture ofAmerica by combining a wide variety of "details derived fromobservation and documentation..." to "approach the norm ofexperience..." (3). Along with this technique, realists compared the"objective or absolute existence" in America to that of the "universaltruths, or observed facts of life" (Harvey 12). In other words,realists objectively looked at American society and pointed out theaspects that it had in common with the general truths of existence.This realistic movement evolved as a result of many changesand transitions in American culture. In the late 1800's, the UnitedStates was experiencing "swift growth and change" as a result of achanging economy, society, and culture because of an influx in thenumber of immigrants into America. Realists such as Henry James andWilliam Dean Howells, two of the most prolific writers of theNineteenth-century, used typical realistic methods to create anaccurate depiction of changing American life. William Dean Howells,while opposing idealization, made his "comic criticisms of society"(Bradley 114) by comparing American culture with those of othercountries. In his "comic" writings, Howells criticized Americanmorality and ethics but still managed to accurately portray life as ithappened. He attacked and attempted to resolve "the moraldifficulties of society by this rapid change." (Elliott 505). Hebelieved that novels should "should present life as it is, not as itmight be" (American Literature Compton's). In the process of doingthis, Howells demonstrated how life shaped the characters of hisnovels and their own motives and inspirations. By concentrating onthese characters' strengths as opposed to a strong plot, hethematically wrote of how life was more good than evil and, in return,wanted...

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