THE RISE OF REALISM: 1850-1900 “The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life.” -Henry James Prisoners from the Front, Winslow Homer, 1922. PEOPLE, PLACES, & THINGS: 1850 - 1900 What are some of the important events? Who are some authors of this period? What are some of the important works of this time? REALISM: A “VERY MINUTE FIDELITY” Realism – dominated fiction in America from the late 19th century until the middle of the 20th. The Realists: were writers who sought to portray real life without filtering it through personal feelings, romanticism, or idealism; wanted to be as accurate as possible when depicting people, places, and things. [Think of Realism as the photography of writing.] A REACTION TO ROMANTICISM Realism is a reaction to idealized “romantic” novels of the previous period. Romanticism Recall: Fallen Monarchs, William Bliss Backer, 1886. Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. CHARACTERISTICS Realistic writing is characterized by: honest, believable characters; realistic dialogue; events in the story that seem possible in real life; characters that are driven by real motives and emotions; characters that don’t change without sufficient reason; objectivity. Young Soldier, Winslow Homer, 1861. REALISM VS. ROMANTICISM Realism Romanticism Characters are ordinary people Characters are “larger than life” The language is common vernacular (ordinary speech and dialect) The language is of a more elevated style Settings exist or are based on actual places Settings are often fictional or exotic and mysterious (or both) Plot is developed with ordinary events and circumstances Plot is developed by unusual events, mystery, or high adventure Attempts to be objective Highly subjective THE CIVIL WAR Casualties, 1861-1865 Federal: 664,928 Confederate: 483,026 Battles destroyed farms and homes. Cities were bombarded and burned. Sherman’s March to the Sea Suddenly, life wasn’t so nice. The romantic heroes of the past weren’t cutting it anymore. Four dead soldiers in the woods near Little Round Top, Alexander Gardner, 1863. THE CIVIL WAR, CONT. Journalistic accounts of the Civil War developed a taste for realistic writing. Increased use of photography also helped shaped America’s taste for realistic depictions. Body of a Confederate Soldier Near Mrs. Alsop's House, 1864. NATURALISM Naturalism holds the same view as Realism with the addition of: Man has LITTLE control over his fate; Life is NEVER perfect; problems exist in society; Hiding in the Haycocks, William Bliss Baker, 1881. Life is ALMOST NEVER fair; Nature does not care about the Good ALMOST NEVER wins over plight of man. Evil; NATURALISM, CONT. A man said to the universe: “Sir, I exist!” “However,” replied the universe, “The fact has not created in me A sense of obligation.” - Stephen Crane How does this poem espouse the tenants of Naturalism? REGIONALISM Regionalism has ALL the characteristics of Realism PLUS: using regional dialects; descriptions of a local area or region; local cultures and customs. Writers attempt to make the reader feel they’ve been to an area without actually going there. Champions of the Mississippi, Currier & Ives. STEPHEN CRANE Associated with the Naturalist movement b. 1871 (remember this date) Youngest of fourteen children; often ill as a child First work “published” in 1893 Maggie: A Girl of the Streets Financial failure Stephen Crane. STEPHEN CRANE, CONT. The Red Badge of Courage (1895) A novel about the Civil War told through the point of view of a young private. The highlight of his literary career. Remember his birth date…? Wrote numerous stories and poems and worked as a newspaper correspondent (Nothing as popular as Red Badge, however.) Stephen Crane in Athens, 1897. STEPHEN CRANE, CONT. While enroute to Cuba in 1896, Crane met Cora Taylor (a “hostess”). The pair journeyed to Greece in 1897 to cover the Greco-Turkish War. Unfortunately, Crane spent the rest of his life plagued by both finical and health struggles. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, he died in a sanitarium in Germany in 1900. He was only twenty-eight years old. AMBROSE BIERCE b. 1842 Father: Marcus Aurelius Bierce an “eccentric and unsuccessful farmer” Fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War Part of Sherman’s March to the Sea Severely wounded and cited for bravery fifteen times Left the army, moved to San Francisco, began to write for newspapers Ambrose Bierce, 1892. AMBROSE BIERCE, CONT. Worked for several newspapers in San Francisco Married in 1871, separated in 1888 (Bierce discovered “compromising letters” from an admirer of his wife.) The Devil’s Dictionary, 1906. d. 1914 Ambrose Bierce, J.H.E. Parington. ((we think)) AMBROSE BIERCE, CONT. Bierce left America in 1913 to report on (or perhaps join) the Mexican Revolution. In one of his last letters, Bierce wrote the following to his niece, Lora: “Good-bye — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs.” And that was the last anyone heard from him... THE DEVIL’S DICTIONARY Bore, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen. Cannon, n. An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries. Circus, n. A place where horses, ponies and elephants are permitted to see men, women and children acting the fool. Clarionet, n. An instrument of torture operated by a person with cotton in his ears. There are two instruments that are worse than a clarionet — two clarionets. THE DEVIL’S DICTIONARY, CONT. Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility. Idiot, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage. Novel, n. A short story padded. Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which [has] the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance. THE DEVIL’S DICTIONARY, CONT. Vote, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country. Yankee, n. In Europe, an American. In the Northern States of our Union, a New Englander. In the Southern States the word is unknown. Zeal, n. A certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and inexperienced. JACK LONDON b. 1876 “As a boy, he was largely uncared for by his parents” (495). In his teens, he: was an oyster pirate; sailed on a schooner; went seal-hunting; wrote for several newspapers; prospected for gold in the Klondike. Portrait of Jack London, Arnold Genthe. JACK LONDON, CONT. London left the Klondike after only a year due to illness. His time in the Klondike, however, convinced him that “life is a struggle in which the strong survive and the weak do not” (495), a perspective which highly influenced his work. His story “To Build a Fire” is based on his experiences in the Klondike. Jack London. JACK LONDON, CONT. The Call of the Wild (1903) is his most famous work. The Call of the Wild is the story of a sled dog named Buck who escapes to freedom. In his later years, London’s health deteriorated due to alcoholism. d. 1916 London overdosed on narcotics in November of 1916 and lapsed into a coma. He died the following evening at the age of forty. WORKS CONSULTED Arpin, Gary Q. “The Rise of Realism: The Civil War and Postwar Period.” Elements of Literature. Austin: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2000. 408-422. Vanderziel, Jeffery. "Civil War Statistics." The American Civil War. 2001. 17 Feb 2009 <http://www.phil.muni.cz/~vndrzl/amstudies/ civilwar_stats.htm>.