Table of Contents
The field of literature has remained interesting and as captivating as ever in our society today. It has been used to address a number of phenomena in the. Some forms of literary works have always worked basically as true reflectors of the society in which we live in. Through the use of books, paintings, novels, poems narratives, plays and other literary works many authors have managed to express a lot. By manipulating the contents of a literary work, it is possible for an author to give a clear impression of his ideas concerning the issue being addressed. For instance, by carrying out an appropriate choice and arrangement of words, a poet is able to express his or her grievances concerning a historical war. Such pertinent issues may involve an outline of the cause of the war, its duration and probably its effects.
Aspects of Realism in American Literature.
In line with the above introduction, it is evident that literature as a field has a lot within it. Each and every aspect or rather constituent of literature usually plays a vital role in one way or the other. As a result, it has always been an effective approach when authors, writers or painters try to incorporate all the important aspects of literature. This enables them to make their works more appealing, creative and obvious with the message being conveyed. In this essay, the main issue will involve a discussion of the realism and its incorporation in literature.
Realism can be considered as one of the most ancient portions of most literary works. It is interesting how most individuals achieve it through the application of various styles during the production of these works. Realism is one aspect of literature which plays a major role in bringing out the meaning of a literary work. Whether this meaning is hidden or obvious, the authors always have a way of conveying it to the audience. The discussion will majorly be directed at exploring the different forms that realism in literature. To be more specific, the discussion will seek to explore realism found in American literature.
The word realism can be used in many different ways. From a more general point of view, realism can be referred to as a description of the way the painters, the musicians and the writers thought or expressed their thoughts. This was specifically during the late 19th century. During this time, the people wanted to give a real expression of the world, i.e. as it really is. This was of course different from what the Romantics had been doing; they had been trying to evade reality and hence involved a lot of fantasy in their works. The main thing that the realists wanted to achieve was to give a more precise and accurate description of the world. This description involved such key aspects as nature as well as the people’s way of life in the society.
Literary realism is therefore a way of depicting the world in a natural way through the use of literary devices and works. In this case, the different definitions of realism will be explored by linking them to a number of aspects in the society. Such issues may include, racism, slave trade, war, disunity, sickness and poverty just to mention but a few. Realism in literature therefore involved the trends that different authors followed towards the depiction of life in the contemporary society. These works depicted the aspects exactly as they were. In the collective spirit of realism, the authors chose to portray the daily activities and life experiences in a more detailed and new way. This was opposed to the rather stylized and romanticized works presented earlier by others. Realism in literature started with some works of the 19th century, however it stretched to the late 19th century and even up to the early 20th century.
The earliest discovery of realism in literature has been linked to an essay by Jorge Luis Borges entitled “The Scandinavian Destiny.” It started among the Northmen but soon spread and gained fame in the continent of North America. William Howells has gone down in history as one of the first author in America who effectively managed to incorporate realism in his work. He is one of the major figures behind the introduction of an aesthetic value with a realist’s touch in the literature of America. The interest in realism, its fame and fast growth introduced a different movement called naturalism
Some authors in American literature and their contributions in realism
This portion shall involve reviewing the works of a number of authors in American literature. The discussion shall be done in connection with the part that the writers played in revealing the picture of realism. The five main authors whose works shall be discussed in this portion are; Mark Twain, Henry James, Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Toni Morrison.
Mark Twain; The adventures of Huckleberry Finn
He was better known as Mark Twain yet his names were Samuel Clemens and he lived between 1835 and 1910. He was a famous American author as well as a humorist. Some of his most notable works include; The adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Great American Novel. As a result of his great wit and skills in writing, he achieved great success both as a writer and also as a public speaker. He was viewed by many as one of the great fathers of American literature.
Adventures of Huckleberry is one of the major works by Mark Twain which was mainly characterized of regionalism. In this book, the author manages to colorfully depict the way of life of the people who lived along the Mississipp river. In a natural way, the author satirizes a society which had ceased to exist even before the book was published. At this point, Twain clearly brings out the realist touch in his work(Twain 256). For instance, he is describing a society whose existence he never confirmed but believed in it anyway. This he manages through the application of styles in literature which deal with an individual’s consciousness and perception.
According to sources in which the author gave some comments on his work, the story entails a major search for freedom. This he presents in form of a fictional occurrence yet the society in real sense desired for this freedom. The setting and plot of the story can also be linked to the rising slave trade during this period. The book was written after the civil war and at this point, there was an intense battle between the whites and the blacks. The author therefore manages to incorporate this well into his book by placing it among the most dominant themes. He also depicts the same state of disunity and war between races by the use of symbolic language and role of characters.
By applying various stylistic devices especially the use of symbolism and language, the author brings out the aspect of racial segregation in the society. The authors says this in the story; “Jim was a good person who loved deeply and was always anxious for freedom.” This shows the attitude that the whites had toward the blacks, the latter was considered sub-human. Through all these, the author manages to represent the sorry state in this society in a manner so vivid that every reader is able to discern.
Through this book, Mark Twain gets to clearly depict the poor attitudes of people during this time especially(Twain 300). At this point, he manages to bring out the aspect of literary realism by depicting the dominance of racism in this society. In other words, he has depicts the way of life of the people in this society as naturally as it was. The aspect of racism was not welcome by many people in the society; it led to protests and discrimination. People began to use foul language while describing particular races. All these have been clearly depicted in this story hence confirming the true realist’s touch in his work.
Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald was an American author who did both novels and short stories. He lived between 1896 and 1940 and has also been considered as one of the most prominent writers of the early 20th century. He did a number of stories like; This side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned and the most famous one was the Great Gatsby
The novel has its setting just after the First World War on the Northern Show as well as in the New York City. The author manages to depict the American society in a very natural manner. In other words, going by the contents of the novel, the reader is able to get a clear picture of how the people lived during this time. For instance, the author says “…the Americans enjoyed prosperity and peace due to the economic boom at this point.” By closely following up the history of America, it can be confirmed that this is truly what was happening in this regions at this time (Fitzgerald 218). To some extent, his depiction of the social issues within the context of the setting also brings out another aspect of realism in this piece of work.
Despite the fact that the setting of the book is after World War I, the author through the story manages to give an extensive account. For instance, by monitoring the experiences of Nick Carraway who is a major character in the story, one gets a picture of what the war was like. In addition to that, the author also uses the story to depict the line which exists between the rich, the middle class and the poor in the society. For instance, in the story, one family lives in a mansion while others live in places which show a lower status. As a result of their riches, the people with high societal status get to look down upon the poor. This is a common happening in our society even today. By managing to bring out the picture in such a vivid manner, one can see Fitzgerald’s commitment to a natural way of representing the world through literature; realism.
Ernest Hemingway: The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
Hemingway was an American who was both an author as well as a journalist. He lived between 1899 and 1961. Many of his works were classics of American Literature and he managed to publish a total of seven novels. Among his many works, he did The Snows of Kilimanjaro which is a collection of short stories and has been considered as one of his best.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro is the first story in this collection which revolves around the memories of a writer. The writer who is in a Journey in Africa gets infected with a wound which leads to his physical disability (Hemingway 30). This causes him to think within himself as he awaits his death. The narrator’s thoughts, memories and arguments within himself are a true depiction of the same experiences that people go through in the society on a daily basis.
The writer talks about a woman with him. His imaginations and thoughts about this woman despite the fact that he has not ascertained her physical presence bring out the aspect of literary realism. Hemingway also manages to clearly depict the mountain in its natural state. He describes its surrounding as well as the environmental composition in a way so natural that one easily gets the picture. This is seen majorly on the cover of the book.
The author also manages to depict the issue of pain in the society. He uses the story to show how people suffer in the society. Those who suffer the most are the helpless ones. Just like Harry in the story, many a people succumb to their pains because they barely get the help and rescue in time. The author has therefore managed to depict this aspect of the society in a vivid manner and just as it is. He too can be said to have contributed a lot in realism through his literary works.
Toni Morrison; Beloved
Morrison who was born in 1931 is an African American novelist who is also an editor and a Professor. Most of her works are usually characterized by black characters, vivid dialogue as well as epic themes.
The book is about slave trade during 19th century. In the story, she manages to give a detailed account of the effects of slave trade during and after the period. The story itself is a about a family which is just recovering from the effects of slave trade. As obvious as things are, they are not finding it easy catching up with the loss, poverty, toil and struggles of the day to day life. In this case, Morrison uses literary realism to represent her views towards slave trade by incorporating the issue of division and suffering in families as a major theme in her story(Morrison 300). She uses a story to depict the real life that the slaves led. She accounts not only for those who died but also for those who survived and how hard life was after.
The book, Beloved, has an epigraph which goes “Six million and more.” This is a figure that Morrison places categorically to depict the total number of slaves who lost their lives during the slave trade. Once again we get to interact with the mind of a realist. The author in this book manages to link a number of various experiences in the society by manipulating the roles of the characters in her book. For instance, the bond between Sethe and her children gets to interfere with her individuation. Due to this over-possession, one of her daughters, Beloved, gets killed. Morrison also manages to bring out the aspect of the black community through her story. In this case, she handles their ways of life and activities. This is actually a true depiction of what this society is and has been even to the present world.
In addition, the author also uses the story to describe her views in line with slave trade. She also manages to bring out the whole aspect of the psychological impact of slave trade. This she does by giving a detailed explanation of the condition within this family and specifically after the end of slave trade. Consequently, Toni Morrison can arguably be considered one of the greatest revealers of realism in American Literature.
Henry James; Daisy Miller
Henry James was a writer who was born in America. He has always been regarded as one of the great minds behind American literature. At the same time, many a people have always considered him as one of the key figures behind literary realism in the 19th century.
Most of his novels are characterized by his detailed portrayal of the experiences that the Americans had with Europe as well as the Europeans (James 36). He managed a series of novels but in this case, we shall only explore one of his great works, a novel entitled; Daisy Miller.
The Novel by Henry James is about the relationship between Winterbourne and Daisy Miller. The short story can be considered as an appropriate analysis of the traditional view points of the society. From the look of things, Daisy is an outsider in this society. Henry therefore achieves the image of realism by depicting and describing the mind of this young woman in a psychological manner (James 37). This involves the incorporation of the aspect of realism using other literary devices.
Henry James, through the short story manages to discuss his thoughts of how the Americans and the Europeans interacted and perhaps still do with each other. In a more general manner, the author gets to expose the prejudices which exist in each of the cultures. According to the contents of one His letters about the book, the author highlighted that “……Daisy is victim of what can be called, social rumpus, and this condition goes on either beneath her notice or over her head.”
This is an effective way of depicting the world and the nature of activities going on within it. Going by the contents of this short story, the reader gets to note almost immediately the relationship between these societies. Henry can therefore be considered as one of the major contributors of the realism in the 19th century. He greatly advocated for the writers to be allowed the freedom to present their own view of the world.
From the contents of the short story discussed above, one can see that he explored the method of writing from the point of view of a character within a tale. This is a style that is common among many 19th century American authors and realists. As a result, the author manages to smartly depict issues that were related to perception and consciousness. All these are great components of realism.
In conclusion, the fraternity of literature is one very wide one. As a result, it comprises a number of key aspects all of which are important in their own way. From the above discussion, it is clear that realism was and still remains one of the most effective ways of depicting the true picture of our society as well as the natural world. All the authors discussed above had a considerable amount of relevance in this context. This can majorly be confirmed by the content of their works. They all had a sure realist touch and transferred this in their work.