Realism powerpoint 2

American Realism
No More Romantic Sunshine & Rainbows…
• 1850/60-1890/1910
• Began during the Civil War & continued into
the early 20th century
• Reaction to the idealism of Romanticism &
Transcendentalism: CONTRAST (Civil War
between Romantics & Realists)
• Fertile literary environment
– Rising middle class & literacy rates
Social/Political Context
• Reaction to Civil War suffering (couldn’t romanticize war anymore
once saw it on their own soil & the mass destruction, poverty, &
death it caused – women forced out of traditional roles & soldiers
no longer praised as heroes)
• Invention of photograph
– Captured true life
• Increased literacy & democracy (& rise in middle class affluence)=
public hungry for truth & awareness
• Abolitionism & post-slavery stories
– Dark side of America
• Origins of Muckraking journalism
– Expose corruption, particularly political & corporate (continues
– Literature affected: tried to do the same
Realism: Values/Beliefs
• Contrasts w/Romanticism & Transcendentalism
• Nature is no longer a source of spiritual truth & inspiration but a force
that is beyond human control
• Describes life w/out Romantic subjectivity & idealism; more pessimistic
/skeptical & reflective of the harshness & ironic humor of life; represents
the common, the average, the non-extreme, the representative, the
• Whereas Romantics transcend the immediate to find the ideal, Realists
focus on the immediate, the here & now (known as descendental)
• Focuses on specific actions and their consequences
• Present life as it is, not as it might be; describes life without
idealization/romantic subjectivity while adding criticisms about it to
stimulate change
• Concerned with the commonplace of everyday life
- particularly among the middle & lower classes, where character is a
product of social & environmental factors
• experimental.
• Purpose of writing: to instruct & entertain
Values/Beliefs, Cont.
• Multiple views of life: all classes, races, genders, manners (realistic
complexity = interwove, complex experience, multiplicty=different levels
of reality or many truths that are equally true from some point of view)
– Particularly lower/middle classes
– Highlight class stratification/inequity
– Reveal the ugliness & cruelty of life, but leave conclusions to the
• Like Romantics, still focuses on common person & daily human
experience & progressive, but stimulated change through telling a story
that reveals truth & portrays ugliness & cruelty, not preaching or
emphasizing author’s comments (left readers to draw their own
• Viewed as a realization of democracy
• Morality is intrinsic, integral, relativistic and morality is often selfrealized upon examining idealism; explores relations between people &
society; responsible morality – a world truly reported
• Realists were pragmatic, relativistic, democratic
Literary Conventions
Less use of symbolism with more focus on describing reality in simple detail
using images; symbolism is often controlled & limited
Emphasis on scenic presentation
Settings usually familiar to the writer
Usually uses the omniscient point of view
Complex ethical choices are often the subject
Class is important
Characters product of social & environmental factors
– Often poorly educated or lower class whose lives are governed by forces
of heredity, instinct, & passion. Forces beyond their control restrict their
attempts at exercising free will/choice.
Renders reality closely & often in minute detail, even at the expense of plot
Character more important than plot; characters appear in their real
complexity of temperament & motive & are inexplicable in relation to
nature, each other, their social class, & their past (characters are related to
nature/each other/their social class/their past)
Conventions, Cont.
Characters & events often seem ordinary & uninteresting in order to extract their
full value & meaning; ordinary characters studied in depth
Humans control their destinies; characters often act on their environment
instead of simply reacting to it
Plausible events that avoid sensational, overly dramatic elements
– However, do explore psychological journey as form of subjective reality, but
in a negative way…
Natural vernacular (writing that reflects the sounds & uses of spoken language of
a region)/speech, not the heightened or poetic language of the Romantics
– Written just as spoken
Tone is comic, satiric (satire=a literary work that holds up human vices & follies to
scorn), pessimistic, skeptical, or matter-of-fact
Irony: some juxtapose human pretensions with the indifference of the universe
Considers seemingly ordinary & uninteresting characters/events in order to
extract full value & true meaning
– Simple stories far more complex than they appear
Realistically conveyed sexuality, both its dark and light sides….
• Branch of Realism (a bit more negative than Realism, perhaps…)
• Philosophical position: scientific laws control life
• Heavily influenced by Darwinism: social Darwinism (can’t escape
heredity & class; war destroys heredity, as even the wealthy aren’t
protected & die on the battlefield; kill or be killed; animal instincts of
survival; greed & reconstruction)
– Natural Selection
– Survival of the Fittest
• Portrays nature as an independent, uncaring force that governs the lives
of humans & man’s struggle for survival/futile attempts of people to
exercise free will
• Darker & more deterministic/fatalistic (fatalistic = determined by fate,
not choice)
Naturalism, Cont.
• Lives governed by heredity, environment, instinct, & passion
– Nature NOT nurture….
• Usually focuses on poorly educated and/or lower class
• Usually takes place in cities
• Depict cycles of despair
• Forces beyond a character’s control restrict attempts to exercise
free will or choice
• Uses details
• Themes: survival, determination, violence, taboo
• Conflicts: man vs. nature, man vs. self, (usually, a character must
fight against external temptations or pleasures that may release
the “brute within”)
A branch of Realism
Literature that is regularly set in & focused on a particular region (specific to a
geographical area) – its customs, dialects (to establish authenticity), customs, &
geography (emphasizes sectional differences)
Minute detail (detailed & accurate descriptions)
Some influence of Romanticism: looks to the exotic, can be nostalgic/sentimental
Usually definitive of groups/minorities without power
Local color (sub-movement): 1865-1880, America wanted to know what their
country looked like and how the various races lived and talked during the age of
first mappings (Local Color provided a literary map of America), surveyings of the
West, and the transcontinental railroad that stretched east and west
Protective of/attached to a certain space/area; protective of own
Civil War divided North & South
Influenced by Southwestern humor
Color symbolism
Is believed by some to have unified the nation after the Civil War & contributed
to late 19th century ideas of national identity
Regionalism, Cont.
• Setting: frequently in nature, remote & inaccessible (setting important)
• Stereotypical/quaint character types of a region, usually marked by their
adherence to tradition, regional personality traits, & dialect
• Female heroines are usually unmarried women or young girls
• Narrator is usually an educated observer from elsewhere who learns
something from the characters while preserving a sometimes
sympathetic, often ironic distance. Narrator serves as a mediator
between the country folk and the urban audience. Speaker often tells of
some tale he/she has heard from/about some region.
• Plot is not as important; revolves around the community & its rituals
• Themes: antipathy to change, nostalgia for past golden age, celebration
of community, acceptance in the face of diversity
• Conflicts: urban vs. old fashioned rural values (an outsider intrudes,
seeking something from the community)
Psychological Realism
Branch of Realism
Character motivation
Complex social & psychological situations
Human character/behavior at moments of
stress/under pressure
Famous Authors
• Mark Twain
– Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, “The War Prayer”
• Stephen Crane
– Red Badge of Courage, “The Open Boat,” “A Mystery of Heroism”
• Upton Sinclair
– The Jungle
• William Dean Howells
• Ambrose Bierce
- “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”
• Frederick Douglass
- “The Battle with Mr. Covey” from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick
• Bret Harte
• Rebecca Harding Davis
• Kate Chopin
– “Story of an Hour,” “Desiree’s Baby,” “A Pair of Silk Stockings,” The
Famous Authors, Cont.
• Naturalist:
• Frank Norris
• Jack London
– Call of the Wild, “To Build a Fire”
• Stephen Crane
– Maggie: Girl of the Street
• Henry James
– Portrait of a Lady, Daisy Miller
• John Steinbeck
– Of Mice & Men (debatable)
Famous Authors, Cont.
Mark Twain
Kate Chopin
Psychological Realist:
Stephen Crane
Henry James
Ambrose Bierce
- “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”