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American literature after WWI Modernism vs.

Realism/Naturalism
After World War I, American people and the authors among them were left disillusioned by the effects that war had on their society. America needed a literature that would explain what had happened and what was happening to their society. American writers turned to what is now known as modernism. The influence of 19th Century realism and naturalism and their truthful representation of American life and people was evident in post World War I modernism. This paper will try to prove this by presenting the basic ideas and of these literary genres, literary examples of each, and then make connections between the two literary movements. Realism and modernism not only depicted American society after World War I accurately and unbiasedly, but also tried to find the solutions brought upon by the suffering created by the war. The realistic movement of the late 19th century saw authors depict life and its problems. Realists attempted to give a comprehensive picture of modern life by presenting the entire picture. They did not try to give one view of life but instead attempted to show the different classes, manners, and stratification of life in America. Realists created this picture of America by combining a wide variety of details derived from observation and documentation to approach the norm of experience. Along with this technique, realists compared the objective or absolute existence in America to that of the universal truths, or observed facts of life. In other words, realists objectively looked at American society and pointed out the aspects that it had in common with the general truths of existence. This realistic movement evolved as a result of many changes and transitions in American culture. In the late 1800s, the United States was experiencing swift growth and change as a result of a changing economy, society, and culture because of an influx in the number of immigrants into America. Realists such as Henry James and William Dean Howells, two of the most prolific writers of the nineteenth century, used typical realistic methods to create an accurate depiction of changing American life. William Dean Howells, while opposing idealization, made his comic criticisms of society by comparing American culture with those of other countries. In his comic writings, Howells criticized American morality and ethics but still managed to portray life as it happened. He attacked and attempted to resolve the moral difficulties of society by this rapid change. He believed that novels should should present life as it is, not as it might be. In the process of doing this, Howells demonstrated how life shaped the characters of his novels and their own motives and inspirations. By concentrating on these characters strengths as opposed to a strong plot, he thematically wrote of how life was more good than evil and, in return, wanted his literature to inspire more good. On the other hand, Henry James judged the world from a perspective offered by society and history. He also separated himself from America to create an unbiased view of it as a spectator and analyst rather than recorder of the American social structure. He wrote from a perspective that allowed him to contrast American society with that of Europe by contrasting the peoples ideas. By contrasting social values and personal though about America in America, he presented to the people the differing motivational factors that stimulated the different social classes. Overall, these writers managed to very formally portray America as it was while adding their own criticisms about it in an attempt to stimulate change. The naturalist movement slowly developed with most of the same ideals as those of the realists in that it attempted to find lifes truths. In contrast, naturalists, 1

extreme realists, saw the corrupt side of life and how environment deprived individuals of responsibility. Literary naturalism invited writers to examine human beings objectively, as a scientist studies nature. In portraying ugliness and cruelty, the authors refrained from preaching about them; rather they left readers to draw their own conclusions about the life they presented. Generally, these authors took a pessimistic view to portray a life that centered on the negative part of mans existence. When dealing with society directly, naturalists generally detailed the destruction of people without any sentiment. To do this, they wrote more open about societys problems in a more open manner usually using nature as a symbol for society. Naturalistic literature, like the realistic literature, served as a catalyst for change but, in contrast, was a little more like propaganda. Even though only twenty years may have separated them, the transformation from realism/naturalism to modernism was a long one in terms of how much society had changed. The rapid change in American society and Americas relation with the rest of the world left America in disarray. After the first World War, American society was divided and left without definition. This called for a new age of literary expression to control and document the isolationist fears, corruption, and disenchantment caused by the war. Authors looked to explain their generation and to respond to the social and moral confusion. The World War broke down Americas fundamental institutions by dehumanizing the people that provided their strong foundations. War diminished the individual identity and the society as a whole. This was the beginning of modernism. Modernism, although strongly influenced by realism and often referred to as an extension of naturalistic values, was the answer to Americas new-found problems. Modernism promoted and combined the scientific aspects of naturalism along with a psychological examination of the individual and the culture. By being so experimental and intense, modernism was able to unite America after a period of crisis. Modernism centered on explorations into the spiritual nature of men and the value of his society and institutions. Like realism, modernists focused on changes on society and used symbolism, although in this case spiritual, to draw their fiction. Modernist writers, like most Americans, were amazed at the destructive power of war on the common man. Writers such as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and F. Scott Fitzgerald spearheaded the modernistic renaissance by employing realistic and naturalistic techniques. Hemingways The Sun Also Rises details the principle of an alienation from society that had been forced upon by the circumstances of the time. In this case, it describes a young boy alienated from society because of his involvement in World War I, the loss of faith and hope. His earlier works can sometimes be described as containing characteristic influences of naturalism. This can be reflected in his presentation of the strict relations between environment and fate. Later in his career, Hemingway once again took the alienation from society route. This time, in the spirit of realist Henry James, he separates himself from American society to better judge it. At times, Hemingway began to seem like a little more than a modern realist. William Faulkner, producer of some of the most important books of the twentieth-century, also draws the connection between environment and fate strongly. He combines naturalism and primitivism, a literary technique involving clear imagery, to create a sometimes confusing and complex detailed reading that involves people of all sorts wealthy and poor, evil and good, slave and free come into sharp focus in his writing. This idea, much like that of realist James, provides the reader with the whole picture of society. The novels and short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald are famous for portraying the lost generation of the post-World War I era. Faulkner's moral values were social rather than personal. He believes that his writing should address the problems that society has and the problems that he has with society. Faulkner's prose is ornate 2

and complex. His sentences are long and complicated, and many nouns and adjectives are used. Hemingway's style is quite the opposite. His sentences are short and pointed, and adjectives are used sparingly. The effect is one of great power and compression. By compressing his literary ideas in his writing, he makes his literature easily understood and direct to his readers. Many connections can be made between the literature of the late 19th century realism and naturalism and that of post-World War I modernism. First and most importantly of all, modernists, like realists and naturalists, attacked societys problems by using symbolism to make their own judgments of the basic foundations of American life. Modernists, such as Ernest Hemingway, looked at American society and compared to that of other cultures of the world. This technique had been extensively employed by the realist Henry James. Modernism used the naturalist method of scientifically exploring the individual and the society. Stylistically, modernists, with the exception of Hemingway, wrote in a very formal, defined form. Modernists and realists both attacked the moral dilemmas in society. The only difference was that these dilemmas were different. While that realists attempted to give a comprehensive picture of modern life, modernists wished express the whole experience of modern life. These authors of the realistic and modernistic period had the same goals so naturally they wrote using the same ideas, methods, and principles. Realists focused on different literary aspects to detail how American culture was effected by these changes. They detailed characters shaped by society and tried to convey the good and evil aspects of life. Mirroring this technique, modernists portrayed people alienated and rejected from society because of the effects of the first World War. Both focused on detailing problems facing their characters, externally and internally, while not focusing on plot development. Thematically, both groups of authors conveyed the good and bad aspects of a changing American society. Both rallied for change and both asked for the unification of society, but both still lingered more on the presence of corruption in America. The only thing that separated the two movements was the societies around them. While both societies were experiencing major change quickly, they were so different. The two literatures had to be distinguished not because of their content and character, which was for the most part the same, but instead because of the differing conditions that existed around the literature. Even though both wanted to accurately depict life, they were written in two very distinct times in American history. In one, American culture was expanding and adapting. In the other, life was being oppressed by the dehumanizing agents of warfare on a large scale. As we know, culture influences literature. Even though these two literary movements may have only been separated by about twenty years, in these twenty years, focus shifted from the interior of American society to how American society was effected by a conflict created as a result of opposing cultures. This idea of differing cultures producing differing literatures provides the basis for the differences in the movements. Conclusion Modernism after World War I was influenced by the realistic/naturalistic movement of the late nineteenth century. The literary goals, techniques, and principles of the modernists and realists/naturalists were the same. Both wanted to paint an unbiased, accurate picture of society by confronting the problems of the individual and of the society. To do this, most of the time they resorted to the same techniques. They created literature that combined scientific reasoning, unidealistic views, and physical and psychological examination that painted a portrait of society that could be used to help American society adjust, define, and heal. Realists of the 3

late nineteenth century and modernists of the 1920s wrote alike but were divided on the basis that their respective societies were so different.

Characteristics of Realism in literature


Realism is the creation of the effect of the representation of the concrete, historical nature of human life. As an artistic movement realism is the product and expression of the dominant mood of its time - the mid- to late 19th century. In Realism the details of environment, of motivation, of circumstance, and of temporality with its cause and effect, become the context for the exploration of human values and fate. The emphasis of Realism tends to be on the individual, in her social environment. Realism is the representation of the common life: a. in an age in which the human was seen as, most fundamentally, a secular being, or at the least, a being living in a world which was not transformed by or informed by spiritual presence. b. in an age of mechanism, empirical thought and materialism, when what was important was coming to be defined as what works, and what was real was what could be demonstrated physically. c. in an age when the 'rights of the individual' had been theorized, with a consequent focus on the located self as the object of moral and political importance and concern. d. particularly at a time of rapid sociological change, when the conventions and character of 'everyday life' and of the formation of the individual ceased to be a taken-for-granted backdrop and became the site of significant meaning and action. e. at a time when the economic consciousness is becoming dominated by the ideology of capitalism: materialism, the commodification of so many aspects of human life, the rightness of that obsession with property and its distribution which marks capitalist society, the primacy of the individual over the communal.

Realism
A literary and philosophical movement that was a reaction to the falseness and sentimentality of Romanticism Defined as "the truthful treatment of material" Characteristics:

Perception of "truth" is relative & associated with experiences, emotions, consequences Emphasis on middle-class values, conventions, manners Concern for the ordinary, i.e., verisimilitude or "slice of life" Focus on present, specific action and verifiable consequences
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Simple, clear, direct prose Objective authorial viewpoint Emphasis on characterization, i.e., motivation & development, the character's inner-self

Realism in the English Novel


Although early prose fiction prototypes of the novel had been popular with readers since the late seventeenth century, the English novel as such only became a mature and predominant literary form in the mid-eighteenth century. After decades of embattled popularityembattled because the gaurdians of aesthetic value saw these works of fictions as a frivolous and corrupting upstart too derivative of French romancethe novel finally won a respectable place in the literary eschelons in the 1740s, due largely to the works of two writers: Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding. Daniel Defoe's Advenstures of Robinson Crusoe, first published in 1719, was the only earlier prose fiction to earn similar favor. The change in opinion, as well as the last step in the novel's rise to sovereignty, has been attributed to the growing presence of realism as the novel's defining formal characteristic. Before the eighteenth century, prose fiction was a relatively rare phenomenon and aroused controversy about narrative fabrication, a largely religious concern quite foreign to readers today. Nonetheless, seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century readers of, for example, travel narratives were apt to criticize authors for making up tales rather than recording actual experiences. Consequently, authors of the same period typically presented their writings as manuscripts they had found and edited for public consumption. In this way, realism in the novel was synonymous with veracity: it denied altogether its fictionality and, in prefaces and other narrative devices, asserted its reality to the reader. By the end of the eighteenth century, the reading public happily consumed "novels"those prose fictions understood to be an author's original fabrication with wholly fictive characters and events. Since realism in these works could not suggest anything about their veracity, it encompassed instead the dominant meanings the term has today, described by literary critic Ian Watt in 1962 as "particularity of description" and "the primacy of individual experience." The former pinpoints the meaning of realism most obvious to readers today: a "photographic" attention to detail, apparently comprehensive and relatively commonplace, also called verisimilitude. But realism in the novel, according to scholars, also includes significant choices in subject matter. As distinct from earlier literary genres and from the novel's own roots in French romancewhich traded in the fantastical and the noblethe eighteenth-century novel strove for some appearance of probability and even the mundane in character, setting, and event. Even highly unusual events, such as Robinson Crusoe's shipwreck, authors sought to provide with a logical cause-andeffect and a solidity of detail in order to achieve the reader's willing suspension of disbelief. This shift also entailed a significant change in character focus: the epic heroes and nobility that populated so many centuries of poetry gave way, more often than not, to middle-class protagonists. (In fact, many literary critics have associated the rise of the novel with the rise of the middle classes in Western Europea rise caught up in major changes in economics and politics.) Not only did the new novel form depict a different type of character, but it also used a new manner of 5

representation: as Ian Watt and others have contended, the novel focused on the portrayal of the experience of the individual. Even though neoclassical literature might have spotlighted the exploits of a single hero, it would not have been rooted in that character's psychology, but in the novel the exploration of individual consciousness and perception became the primary concern of representation. Although the English novel began in the late seventeenth-century as an offshoot of continental romance, its later rejection of the fabulous imaginings and idealism of the romance and classical narrative has prompted most critics since then to define its realism as the antithesis of romance. This shift found its most legendary expression in Spanish literature, with the "anti-romantic" Don Quixote, written by Miguel Cervantes in the early seventeenth-century. In this work, the protagonist, a minor nobleman with depleted funds, determines to live his life as a questing knight and according to the ethic of chivalric romanceof which he has read too much. But Quixote's world is a "realist" one, in which the circumstances do not conform to the rules of romance, and his struggles demonstrate again and again the often pathetic conflict between his favorite genre and the "real" world. The realism he encounters puts away the ideal of human perfectability for an unflinching portrayal of human weaknesses. Taken to the extreme, as it was by many French writers in the nineteenth-century, realism came to mean not just the depiction of the commonplace, but even of the base and low. Writers like mile Zola, called "naturalists" as well as realists, described human imperfection with a single-mindedness that emphasized degradation and misery. One effect of broadness of the term "realism" is that most fiction can be understood to be "realist" in some sense. For example, a storyline quite like a traditional romancedealing with improbable and idealized people and events could be deemed "realist" because the descriptive style is realist. However, this broad range of characteristics of realism in literature have fueled its rise to literary prominence in and throughout the nineteenth-century and on into the twentieth, and have become almost synonymous with the novel itself.

Realist literature is defined particularly as the fiction produced in Europe and the United States from about 1840 until the 1890s, when realism was superseded by naturalism. This form of realism began in France in the novels of Gustave Flaubert and the short stories of Guy de Maupassant. In Russia, realism was represented in the plays and short stories of Anton Chekhov. The novelist George Eliot introduced realism into English fiction; as she declared in Adam Bede (1859), her purpose was to give a faithful representation of commonplace things.Mark Twain and William Dean Howells were the pioneers of realism in the United States. One of the greatest realists of all, the Anglo-American novelist Henry James, drew much inspiration from his mentors, Eliot and Howells. James's concern with character motivation and behavior led to the development of a subgenre, the psychological novel. Local Color:

A subdivision of Realism, local color writing attempts to portray accurate dialect patterns, speech, mannerisms, thought, and topography of a specific region. Often using eccentrics as characters and possessing a whimsical humor, local color pieces lack the seriousness of Realism although they provide a verisimilitude of detail. The Local Color Movement began in the 1880s in America and used short stories as its principalmedium. Some Local color Artists and their respective regions were: Sarah Orne Jewett New England; Bret Harte & Mark Twain - the West; Joel Chandler Harris - the South. Broadly defined as "the faithful representation of reality" or "verisimilitude," realism is a literary technique practiced by many schools of writing. Although strictly speaking, realism is a technique, it also denotes a particular kind of subject matter, especially the representation of middle-class life. A reaction against romanticism, an interest in scientific method, the systematizing of the study of documentary history, and the influence of rational philosophy all affected the rise of realism. In American literature, the term "realism" encompasses the period of time from the Civil War to the turn of the century during which William Dean Howells, Rebecca Harding Davis, Henry James, Mark Twain, and others wrote fiction devoted to accurate representation and an exploration of American lives in various contexts. Characteristics (from Richard Chase, The American Novel and Its Tradition) It renders reality closely and in comprehensive detail. Selective presentation of reality with an emphasis on verisimilitude, even at the expense of a well-made plot Character is more important than action and plot; complex ethical choices are often the subject. Characters appear in their real complexity of temperament and motive; they are in explicable relation to nature, to each other, to their social class, to their own past. Class is important; the novel has traditionally served the interests and aspirations of an insurgent middle class. Events will usually be plausible. Realistic novels avoid the sensational, dramatic elements of naturalistic novels and romances. Diction is natural vernacular, not heightened or poetic; tone may be comic, satiric, or matter-of-fact. Objectivity in presentation becomes increasingly important: overt authorial comments or intrusions diminish as the century progresses. Interior or psychological realism - a variant form.