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American Realism Essay

4974 words - 20 pages

American Realism

The Civil War tore the country apart. Once America was reunited in 1865, there was a lot of healing that needed to take place to correct the wounds Americans had suffered at the hands of their kin. In these years there were still a lot of questions to answer and still a lot of truth to be found out about the nation itself. The questions of the place of African-Americans, white Americans, political Americans and every other kind of American out there was a source for constant frustration and violence. This is the background and the huge dust storm that American Realism rose out of.

Prior to the Civil War, America was knee deep in the Romantic Movement which included ...view middle of the document...

Rather, the working man wanted to read something that he could easier relate to and find meaning in. This migration to the city was one of the major shaping catalysts of the movement as well meaning as opportunities grew, then so did the people that benefited from them leading to the rise of a shallow upper class that grew from stepping on the misfortune of others. This is especially prevalent in the 1920’s as social classics such as “The Great Gatsby” rebuked the hallow society that had formed.

As one can see, the movement grew out of the war and the increase of a metropolis full of all kinds of people, but this leads one to question, what aspects actually describe and define the Realism movement? In all sources a reader can read, one aspect remains certain, Realism is best described as the anti-romantic movement and was everything that the Romantic Movement was not and was not anything the Romantic Movement was:

“For some, it is easier to define realism in terms of what it is not—which is primarily romanticism. After the Civil War, American authors and scholars turned against the irrationality and vanity of contemporary literature. According to Benardete, some even blamed the conventions of romanticism—idealism, chivalry, heroism, absolute moral stances—for fostering a national vision which inevitably led to war, (Cengage).”

According to Cengage, the Realist movement was greatly influenced by French author Emily Zola whose work emphasized sexuality, immorality and the lower class when other authors were typically writing about their Puritanism roots. America however resisted the movement until the end of the Civil War and move to the big city.

There are three common aspects that most definitions of Realism share. The three aspects are character and plot, verisimilitude and social notation and representativeness and objectivity and other aspects relating to structure and prose.

One of biggest giveaways in Realism is the characteristics of the characters and plot. Unlike Romanticism, the plots in realist stories are usually very probably and are unlikely to be in fantastic situations that are hard to believe. Next, the formation of the character is more often more important than action and plot. This also means a lot of realism relies on ethical choices the character must make. Next, in Realism the individual is perceived as simply an individual rather than a God as is the case with Romanticism. This means characters aren’t really looking for that inner enlightenment and place in relation to nature as in Thoreau’s writings but are rather simply looking for a way to be in a demanding and unsettling society that wants more than one has. The last part of this section is the importance of class in realism. The upper, middle and lower classes all have special places in Realism and much of the writing is directed at these social classes. This is especially true in novels such as “Daisy Miller” by Henry James and “The...

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