Realism Notes

Realism Notes
Discontent of Women
Literature of the Civil War and Beyond
• As the United States grew rapidly after the Civil War,
the increasing rates of democracy and literacy from:
– the rapid growth in industrialism and urbanization
– an expanding population due to immigration
– a rise in middle-class affluence
• Non-fiction pieces depicting ills and hardships of war
were predominant
• Anti-slavery literature was born and became
widespread (Uncle Tom’s Cabin)
• Literature reflects discontent with widespread
poverty/destruction due to war
• Social ills due to industrialization were often
• Reflects a loss of innocence and national idealism due
to hardships
• Writers turned away from Romanticism and focused on
portraying “real life” as ordinary people lived it
• Characters and people are portrayed with an amoral
attitude—honest, objective, factual perspective (no
• Events will usually be plausible. Realistic novels avoid
the sensational, dramatic elements
• Character is more important than action and plot;
complex ethical choices are often the subject
• Diction is natural vernacular, not heightened or poetic;
tone may be comic, satiric, or matter-of-fact
• Class is important; the novel has traditionally served
the interests and aspirations of the middle class
Naturalism (Similar to Realism, but with
additional characteristics)
• A bias exists in this form—usually pessimistic,
• Hardship influenced these writers
• Belief that forces larger than the individual
shape his/her destiny: nature, fate, heredity
(Jack London’s To Build a Fire)
The Angel of the House
• The “angel” was the ideal woman of the time
• She had no desires of her own, no ambitions or
careers except taking care of her family and home
• These women were very happy and content
• They were pregnant frequently due to the
restrictions on birth control
• They cared for their homes, husbands, and
children, played music, sang, or drew to enhance
the charm of their homes and to reflect well on
their husbands.
• Wives were possessions, cared for and displayed,
who often brought a dowry or inherited wealth
to a marriage
Equality and Independence
• Kate Chopin stories were written during a time of great
change—rebellion against the “Angel.”
• In the early- to mid-nineteenth century, a woman's place was in
the private domain of the home, in the roles of wife and mother.
• Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton held the first
women's right convention in July of 1848 (two years before
Chopin was born) in Seneca Falls New York.
• The suffrage movement and the abolitionist movement grew
rapidly during the Civil War.
• Suffragists pushed on until 1870 when the 15th Amendment
allowed the right to vote regardless of color or creed but not
gender (that would not come until 1920).
The concept of "The New Woman" began to circulate in the
1890s-1910s as women pushed for broader roles outside their
home based on intelligence and non-domestic skills and talents.