Research Guide to American Literature — Realism..

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Part II
Study Guides
on General Topics
 A L
Realism and Regionalism
 A L
Volume 1:
Colonial Literature, 1607–1776
Volume 2:
Early American Literature, 1776–1820
Volume 3:
Romanticism and Transcendentalism, 1820–1865
Volume 4:
Realism and Regionalism, 1865–1914
Volume 5:
American Modernism, 1914–1945
Volume 6:
Postwar Literature, 1945–1970
Volume 7:
Contemporary Literature, 1970 to Present
Part II
Study Guides
on General Topics
 A L
Realism and Regionalism
Gary Scharnhorst
University of New Mexico
Tom Quirk
University of Missouri–Columbia
Research Guide to American Literature: Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Copyright © 2010 by Gary Scharnhorst and Thomas Quirk
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by
In memory of George Arms
Series Introduction
I: O
Boundaries of the Period
Dominant Genres and Literary Forms
Historical and Social Context
Literary Influences
Evolution of Critical Opinion
Biography and Autobiography
Emily Dickinson,
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Alice Dunbar-Nelson,
The Goodness of St. Rocque
and Other Stories
T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Sui Sin Far,
Mrs. Spring Fragrance
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, “A Church Mouse”
Hamlin Garland, “Under the Lion’s Paw”
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”
O. Henry
William Dean Howells, “Editha”
Henry James, “Daisy Miller”
Laura Behling
Butler University
Louisiana State University—Alexandria
June Johnson Bube
Seattle University
Martin T. Buinick
Valparaiso University
Anoff Cobblah
University of Missouri–Columbia
Kirk Curnutt
Troy University
John Dudle
University of South Dakota
Paul Formisano
University of New Mexico
Joe B. Fulton
Baylor University
Rachel Harmon
University of New Mexico
Kevin J. Hayes
University of Central Oklahoma
University of New Mexico
Gary Kass
Farm Journal Media, Mexico, Missouri
Holger Kersten
University of Magdeburg
Michael J. Kiskis
Elmira College
April Langley
University of Missouri–Columbia
Kadeshia Matthews
University of New Mexico
Cindy Murillo
Tennessee State University
Erin Murrah-Mandril
University of New Mexico
Jennifer Nader
University of New Mexico
Tom Quirk
University of Missouri–Columbia
Richard Randolph
Kauai Community College
Gary Scharnhorst
University of New Mexico
Heidi M. Silcox
University of Central Oklahoma
David E. E. Sloan
University of New Haven
Michael Smedshammer
Modesto Junior College
Alexandra Socarides
University of Missouri–Columbia
Matthew Teorey
Peninsula College
Rick Waters
Independent Scholar
Series Introduction
Research Guide to American Literature
is a
series of handbooks for students and
teachers that recommends strategies for studying literary topics and frequently
taught literary works and authors. The rationale for the series is that success-
ful study is predicated on asking the right questions and then devising a logical
strategy for addressing them. The process of responsible literary investigation
begins with facts and usually ends with opinions. The value of those opinions
depends on the ability of the reader to gather useful information, to consider it
Part V is a glossary of terms used in the volume.
A keyword index is included in each volume.
The purpose of
is not to tell students what literature means but to

—Richard Layman

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Part I
Boundaries of the Period

Boundaries of the Period
With the publication of Charles Darwin
On the Origin of Species
in 1859, the
start of the American Civil War
in 1861, and the deaths of Henry David Thoreau
in 1862 and Nathaniel Hawthorne
in 1864, the literary landscape was ripe for
a new generation of American writers who emphasized verisimilitude
ity to truth) or Realism in the arts. These writers—among them, Mark Twain
Henry James,
William Dean
Howells, Sarah Orne
Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Dominant Genres and Literary Forms
Dominant Genres and Literary Forms

racial discrimination, and Chopin’s “Desirée’s Baby
” (1893) exposed the hypocrisy
that rationalized the prohibition of racial intermarriage.
Despite the early successes of Harte
and Twain
, Western American writers
were slow to warm to Realism. Western American literature consisted for most of
this period of blood-and-thunder dime novels
celebrating westward expansion and
conquest. As late as 1902 the novelist Frank Norris
complained that rather than a
school of Western Realists there were “the wretched ‘Deadwood Dicks’ and Buffalo
Bills of the yellowbacks
” and writers such as James Fenimore
Cooper, “who lied
and tricked and strutted in Pathfinder and Leather-Stocking series” (
The Literary
Criticism of Frank Norris,
edited by Donald Pizer,
1964). Among the harbingers of
Western Realism
during the first decades of the twentieth century was London
especially in such tales as “To Build a Fire
” (1908). This story also illustrates the
strategy of literary Naturalism, perhaps best defined in three words as “Realism
plus Darwin.”
literature the whole notion of human responsibility.” Crime in the Naturalistic
novel—for example, prostitution in Crane
—was the result of uncontrol
lable and impersonal forces, not personal choice. As Crane inscribed on the flyleaf
of presentation copies of
“It is inevitable that you will be greatly shocked
by this book, but continue, please, with all courage to the end. For it tries to show
that environment is a tremendous thing in the world and frequently shapes lives
regardless. If one proves that theory, one makes room in Heaven for all sorts of
Realism and Regionalism, 1865
when the hero is thrown in jail. As Sinclair later conceded, he “aimed at the public’s
heart and by accident I hit it in the stomach” (
The Autobiography of Upton Sinclair,
1962). Given the deterministic bias of Naturalism, the proletarian writers were sim
ply unable to explain the conversion of a character to a political point of view.
Dominant Genres and Literary Forms

things”—particularly death—“must happen to the characters in a Naturalistic
(The Literary Criticism of Frank Norris)
. Broadly speaking, too, there were
T. S.
’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,
” published in 1915, inaugu
Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Historical and Social Context
This volume is concerned with the years 1865–1914. In other words, the age of
, Realism, and Naturalism
begins with the end of the Civil War
concludes with the beginning of World War I
. The era has been described in
many ways—as an “era of good feelings”; an age in “ferment”; an age of “progress,”
of “reform,” of “energy.” The extravagant displays of wealth and abuses of power
from 1865 until 1890 are aptly captured by the title of an 1873 novel by Mark
and Charles Dudley
Warner—“The Gilded Age
.” The efforts to curb
these abuses after the economic depression of 1893 until 1920 characterize what
is known as the “Progressive Era
Historical and Social Context

out of existence. Such reformist impulses included the populist and temperance
movements. Others took away different lessons from the experience of the war.
It was quickly perceived that the expenditure of large amounts of capital and the
mobilization of great numbers of individuals, whose energies were directed at
a single object, could yield surprisingly effective results. These lessons could be
applied to manufacturing, and thus the industrialization of the country became a
transformative event. Hank Morgan, in Twain’s
Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s
(1889), learned the blacksmith trade from his father but soon became a
superintendent of an arms factory in charge of some two thousand workers. More

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
race riot of 1898 in his novel
The Marrow of Tradition
(1901). Theodore
Dreiser and Paul Laurence
Dunbar wrote short stories about lynch
mobs, and
James Weldon
Johnson described the burning alive of a black man in the South
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
(1912). Twain
wrote a satirical essay
titled “The United States of Lyncherdom
.” Race riots
and lynchings were not
exclusively directed toward African Americans
(there were anti-Chinese
, anti-
, and anti-Italian
riots as well), nor were they an exclusively Southern phe
nomenon. The problems of migration and immigration added volatile elements to
the brew. Great numbers of African Americans
, motivated by fear, repression, or
simple poverty, moved north, mostly into the swelling cities. Until World War I
the United States had a more or less unrestricted immigration policy, except with
regard to Orientals
. Successive waves of immigration also increased the urban
population, but immigration complicated problems of labor and industry, as well,
Historical and Social Context

and hard work were the tools for success, this myth maintained. Twain satirized
this belief with antic glee; William Dean Howells
, Henry James
, and Edith
treated the subject more seriously but with equal disdain. Still, there
were well-known examples of those who rose from obscure and difficult circum
stances to become rich and powerful. Andrew Carnegie
began working at the

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
and strangely somehow apart from it, was the advance of science. If social prog
ress was made at all, it was made by fits and starts. Not so with scientific
vation. It seemed to purr right along, unhindered or undisturbed by the chaos.
A partial list of innovations or inventions is suggestive: dynamite
(1867), the
(1876), the phonograph
(1879), the internal combustion engine
Literary Influences

Literary Influences

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Wallace, 1880),
Prince Saroni’s Wife
(Julian Hawthorne, 1882), and
When Knight-
hood Was in Flower
(Charles Major, 1898).
In the long run, of course, Howells, James, Mark Twain, and the other
Realists won the war. Though controversial on its first publication, James’s
“Daisy Miller” (1879) was modeled on Victor Cherbuliez’s
Paule Méré
and James’s novel
The Portrait of a Lady
(1881) betrayed the influence of Eliot’s
Daniel Deronda
(1876) and Flaubert’s
Madame Bovary
(1857). Howells’s novel
Annie Kilburn
(1889) glossed Tolstoy’s
Anna Karenina
(1875–1877), as the ini-
tials of their eponymous heroines suggest. Twain was indebted to both Thomas
Morte d’Arthur
(1485) and Thomas Carlyle’s
French Revolution: A His-
(1837) in
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
(1889). Bret Harte’s
best stories, including “The Luck of Roaring Camp” (1868) and “The Outcasts
of Poker Flat” (1869), were written in the “Dickensian mode,” and Upton Sin-
clair claimed that he tried to put “the content of Shelley into the form of Zola”
in his novel
The Jungle
(“What Lives Means to Me,”
1906). Chopin read Maupassant’s stories in 1888 “and marveled at them. Here
was life, not fiction; for where were the plots, the old fashioned mechanism and
stage trapping that in a vague, unthinking way I had fancied were essential to the
art of story telling” (Per Seyersted,
Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography,
1969). She
echoed Maupassant’s tales “Solitude” and “Suicide” in parts of
Not that the American Realists merely wished to copy the Europeans.
They preferred to “draw on Realism’s cultural capital as a ‘modern’ movement in
order to define modern life in American terms” (Fluck, “Morality, Modernity,
and ‘Malarial Restlessness’”).
The European intellectual influence on American literary Naturalism was
” and
The Red Badge of Courage,
according to
Vernon Parrington, was inspired partly by Zola’s
Le Débâcle
(1892) and Tolstoy’s
War and Peace
Main Currents in American Thought,
As Bert Bender and others have shown, moreover, Charles Darwin’s theories
of natural selection and sexual selection also inform Naturalistic texts. Crane alle-
gorized the notion of natural selection—in a nutshell, the idea that species must
adapt to their environments to survive and reproduce—in one of his poems:
Literary Influences

The trees in the garden rained flowers.
Children ran there joyously.
They gathered the flowers
Each to himself.
Now there were some
Who gathered great heaps—
Having opportunity and skill—
Until, behold, only chance blossoms
Remained for the feeble.
Then a little spindling tutor
Ran importantly to the father, crying:
“Pray, come hither!
See this unjust thing in your garden!”
But when the father had surveyed,
He admonished the tutor:
“Not so, small sage!
This thing is just.
For, look you,
Are not they who possess the flowers
Stronger, bolder, shrewder
Than they who have none?
Why should the strong—
The beautiful strong—
Why should they not have the flowers?”
Upon reflection, the tutor bowed to the ground,
“My lord,” he said,
“The stars are displaced
By this towering wisdom.” (
War is Kind,
The concept of sexual selection, too, was hotly contested in the fiction of the
period. When in chapter 4 of
Marcus Schouler
yields to the dentist his
claim to his cousin Trina
—“Mac, I’ll give her up to you”— Norris
affirms that
men select their mates and that women have little or no say in the matter. He
illustrates the conventional understanding of sexual selection that Darwin
posed in
The Descent of Man
(1871). But when Edna Pontellier
in chapter 36 of
The Awakening
spurns the overtures of Robert Lebrun
, Chopin challenges Dar
win, no less: “I give myself where I choose. If he were to say, ‘Here, Robert, take
her and be happy; she is yours,’ I should laugh at you both.” Like the peahen or
the female pigeon, Edna selects her mate in the world of Chopin’s imagination.
Even more than Darwin’s writings, Herbert Spencer
’s philosophy appealed
to American readers. As Richard Hofstadter
has explained, Spencer became
“the metaphysician of the homemade intellectual and the prophet of the
cracker-barrel agnostic.” Whereas Darwin had applied the notion of cutthroat

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
was Spencer, not Darwin, who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest.”) While
Literary Influences

texts for the Realists. Richard H.
Brodhead asserts that Hawthorne “is the only
American author always to have been part of our significant past,” the “only major
American author never to have been underestimated,” and Brodhead tracks his
influence on the works of the Realists, particularly James, who knew him person
ally and wrote a book about him (
The School of Hawthorne,
1986). Both Howells
Undiscovered Country
(1880) and James
(1886), for example, may be
best understood as Realist rewritings of Hawthorne
Blithedale Romance
’s short story “The Slip of the Leash
” (1904) and the Joanna
Todd epi

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Evolution of Critical Opinion
American literary Realism is often described as a movement shaped in part by its
reaction against earlier and mostly sentimental fiction; American literary history
generally may be seen as a series of cultural rebellions. These assumptions are valid
enough, so far as they go. There was a good deal of give-and-take in the contest,
however, and the student of this period will find abundant research opportunities
in exploring certain features of an ongoing and changing literary debate.
In 1837 Ralph Waldo
Emerson delivered his “The American Scholar

address at Harvard
, in which he observed, “The literature of the poor, the feel
Evolution of Critical Opinion

and variety instead of upon a unified and homogenous literary taste created by an
educated elite. Even though Howells himself was editor of the prestigious Boston-
Atlantic Monthly
he no doubt would have approved of the editorial remark
published in
(September 1881): “New England is no longer
king. . . . The South and West are hereafter to be reckoned with.” Boston and, later,
New York remained the literary centers of the nation, nonetheless.
To the extent that local color prefigured the purposes of American Realism,

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
in a heterogeneous compound of individuated tales and novels rooted in place.
In 1892 Edward Eggleston,
in his preface to
The Hoosier Schoolmaster
Evolution of Critical Opinion

Novel,” 1893), arguing the new novelist should follow the example of the scientist
and show in man and society “the mechanism of the phenomena which science has
mastered.” American Naturalist writers such as Norris came to believe that Realism
dealt too exclusively with the surfaces of life and did not probe the disturbing com
plexities that motivate men and women—sexual urges, instinctive violence, eco
nomic desperation, a Darwin
ian struggle for existence. In
The Responsibilities of the
(1903) and elsewhere Norris called for a reinvigorated Romanticism
, full
of melodrama
and extreme situations, for the responsible novel must tell the truth,
even though it might be unwelcome. Naturalists defied the critics and shocked their
readers. They depicted individuals under extreme circumstances (freezing to death
on the Alaska
n tundra or dying of dehydration in Death Valley
); they chronicled
suicides, perversities, gross social injustice, greed that drifted into madness. They
were pessimistic and deterministic in their outlook, and yet they, too, took the high
moral ground. If society were ever to advance, it must awaken from its complacency
and confront honestly the meanness of life and the vanity of human striving.
Because Naturalist writers often sought to dramatize human life as governed
by forces quite beyond the control or understanding of their created characters,
they implicitly challenged the general assumption of traditional Realists that if
one looked on life directly, one might also make sound, individual moral choices

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
aestheticism challenged the positions of both the genteel tradition and literary
Realism; on the one hand it was more highbrow than the Boston Brahmins
, and on
the other it was countercultural in its manner and its selection of subject matter.
Imagism and Impressionism share an interest in representing the immediacy
of experience. That is to say, unlike Realism, which allows for the mental correc
tion of perceptions and therefore of making informed moral judgments, these
movements emphasized the primacy of sensation. And unlike Naturalism, which
tended to diagnose social and political realities with an eye to reform, they were
chiefly concerned with rendering the unpremeditated and immediate sensation.
In this country, Imagism
Evolution of Critical Opinion

article of faith that the true standard of the arts lay within every man or woman’s
power; to the contrary, their work displayed a disregard for the so-called common
reader. As for literary Naturalism
Part II
Study Guides
on General Topics
and Autobiography
Biographical narratives typically have been constructed according to a standard
format, a chronicle from cradle to grave. In contrast, autobiographical narratives
have been less formulaic or more experimental, taking multiple forms. The earli
est biographies were intended to glorify the lives of so-called great men and to
chronicle the ebb and flow of history in the manner of Plutarch
. “All history
resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons,”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
declared in “Self-Reliance
” (1841), and he illustrated the
Biography and Autobiography


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Daniel Webster
(1882), and
Abraham Lincoln, the Backwoods Boy; or, How a Young
Rail-Splitter Became President
In contrast, autobiography as a genre is a more experimental form. While
autobiography is most clearly defined by its content—the representation of an
individual life—it is also distinct as a genre intended for public consumption.
Also, unlike journals and diaries that describe current life events over a period
of time, autobiographies generally reflect on the author’s life from a single point
in time. Autobiographical authors often use a combination of memory, historical
knowledge, and literary devices to construct themselves as meaningful, unified
individuals. What is often most interesting about autobiography is not the truth
or falsity of the representation but the way an author chooses to construct his
or her persona. In American literature especially, autobiography has often been
viewed as a democratic genre in which each individual can shape identity as he
or she chooses.
The examples of experimental autobiography are myriad.
The Education of
Henry Adams
(1907) recounts the life of the author in standard prose, but it is nar
rated in third-person and in an ironic tone. In it, Henry Brooks
Adams laments
his poor education despite his upbringing in a distinguished American family.
Several authors glided smoothly among the genres of fiction, biography, and auto
biography. The novelist Henry James
, for example, wrote the life of an American
expatriate sculptor in
Biography and Autobiography

(1854) appeared, and none of any significance. Twain
that a biography of the reigning pope would rival the popularity of Grant’s auto
biography, given its potential worldwide audience but Bernard O’Reilly
Life of
Leo XIII, from an Authentic Memoir Furnished by His Order
(1887), also published
by Webster & Co.
, was a commercial failure.
Biography and autobiography also became important modes of expres
sion for minority voices in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries. Charles W.
Chesnutt and W. E. B.
Du Bois wrote biographies of
Frederick Douglass
(1899) and John
(1909). Sarah Winnemucca
among the Piutes
(1883) detailed her experiences in a Native American
tribe that
repeatedly aided the U.S. military but was then deemed hostile and removed
to a reservation in the northwest United States. Douglass, whose most famous
work was
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
continued to revise and add to it until he published the final version as
The Life
and Times of Frederick Douglass
(1892). Among other significant autobiogra
phies by minority writers were Booker T.
Up from Slavery
Sui Sin
Far’s “Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian
” (1909), and
’s “Impressions of an Indian Childhood
” (1900), “The School Days of
an Indian Girl
” (1900), “An Indian Teacher among Indians
” (1900), and “Why I
am a Pagan
” (1902). In addition, at least two immigrant autobiographies merit
mention here: the Danish journalist Jacob Riis
The Making of an American
(1901), which describes the horrific living and working conditions of poor New
immigrants; and Mary Antin
The Promised Land
(1912), the account of
a Polish
’s assimilation.
During this period biographies were increasingly written by scholars and
literary authors. One of the most famous biographers of this time was George
Woodberry, professor at Columbia University
, scholar, and poet, who
wrote numerous biographies of both British and American authors, includ
ing Edgar Allan
Poe (1885), Hawthorne
(1902), A. C.
Swinburne (1905), and
In examining autobiography, what persona is the author presenting of him or
herself, and why has the author chosen this representation? What themes has
the author found in her/his life, and how does the author use these themes to
make sense of her/his identity?
Ask if a biography you are examining is scholarly or popular. If it is a popular
biography, what about the subject makes him or her an appropriate figure of
popular interest, and how does the author play on this popular interest to draw
readers? What might be classified as “sensational” in the popular biography,
and how does that represent the social mores of the period?
How might the form of biography or autobiography be influenced by either
slave narrative or captivity narrative? What kind of transformation does the
subject of a slave or captivity narrative undergo, and how is that transformation
presented by the author?

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Closely examine the form of the biography or autobiography. Is it written in
first person? How does the chronology of the narrative compare to the histori
cal chronology of the subject’s life? Does the narrative emphasize factual his
torical information, or does it utilize literary and artistic devices to emphasize
G. Thomas Couser,
ton University Press, 1980).
A collection of sixteen essays that explores autobiography and its construction of
Henry Brooks
Grandson and great-grandson of presidents and a journalist, editor, novelist, and
Biography and Autobiography

Horatio Alger Jr
Graduate of Harvard College
and the Divinity School
, the author of more than
Booker T
Founder of the Tuskegee Institute
in Alabama
and the leader of middle-class
African Americans
across the country during the last quarter-century of his life.
—Erin Murrah-Mandril

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
by E
glishman William
Russell, who called himself “Waters,” appeared in the
United States as a “yellowback
,” a cheaply produced book with a yellow cover; it
the most famous and widely read of all characters to appear in dime novels and is
considered to be the second most published character in all of American litera

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
boy have been switched at birth, this novel offers an important polemic on the
morality of judging people according to their skin color, and the dangerous path
of racial discrimination.

Anna Katharine Greene, and Mary E. Wilkins Freeman reflect the social
environment and historical era in which it was produced?
How has the character of the detective changed since Poe’s introduction

tion, and what do those advancements suggest about the culture? Consider,
How do you see crime fiction at work in other areas of culture? How do crime
dramas on television or in movies compare to fiction? What do you think
accounts for the popularity of crime drama?
John G. Cawelti,
Adventure, Mystery, and Romance: Formula Stories as Art and
Popular Culture
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976).
A pioneering study of formula fiction.
Howard Haycraft, ed.,
The Art of the Mystery Story: A Collection of Critical Essays
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1946).
Compiles the most authoritative writings on the genre in the first half of the
Anna Katharine

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Edgar Allan

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
of cultural borders, emphasizing the hybrid, or bicultural, situation in which
ethnic American writers find themselves.
Owing to their social status and the educational and economic conditions
that lay at its base, members of ethnic groups were slow to emerge as active
voices in the growing body of American literature, and it took until the second
half of the twentieth century for an ethnic label to become an asset rather
than a liability. Despite this fact, it would be wrong to assume that ethnic
writing was nonexistent before the twentieth century. The birth of an African
American literary tradition can be said to have started with black poet Phillis
in the late eighteenth century. Slave narratives began to be published
as early as the late eighteenth century and recorded the experiences of human
bondage in the South
ern states from the perspective of the oppressed. Impor
tant representatives were Harriet Jacobs
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
(1861) and Frederick
Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
(1845). In the second half of the nineteenth century, African American auto
biographical memoirs and narratives gradually gave way to fiction as a means
of expression, and writers such as Charles W.
Chesnutt, Paul Laurence
and Alice Dunbar-Nelson
turned their talents to writing poetry, short fiction,
and novels. Both Chesnutt and Dunbar attracted the attention of William
Dean Howells
, earning his praise and support as skillful and talented imagina
tive writers. With the publication of Booker T.
Up from Slavery
(1901), W. E. B.
Du Bois’s
The Souls of Black Folk
(1903), and James Weldon
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
(1912) African American
writing set milestones in the early twentieth century.
Native American
traditions go back to the time before white Europeans
arrived on the North American continent, but since they were mostly preserved
in an oral tradition, they did not come to the general public’s attention until
they were published in print. By the nineteenth century, American Indians
were beginning to tell their own stories. As is typical for the early phase of
an ethnic literature, the initial publications were nonfiction prose, especially
autobiographies, historical accounts, and protest literature in response to the
curtailment of Native Americans’ rights. When Indians lost their traditional
homelands and were forcefully removed to reservations, they began to collect
and publish the myths, history, and customs preserved in their respective tribe’s
oral heritage. Prominent examples are Sarah Winnemucca
among the Piutes
(1883), and Zitkala-Ša
Old Indian Legends
As the nineteenth century neared its end, more and more writers for whom
immigration was a recent experience began to publish material in which they
either recorded their personal stories in biographical formats or used them as a
basis for writing fiction. Notable representatives are Jew
ish writers of Eastern
an background such as Abraham
Cahan (
The Imported Bridegroom and
Other Stories of the New York Ghetto,
1898, and
The Rise of David Levinsky
1917), Mary Antin
The Promised Land
1912), and Anzia Yezierska
1920, and
The Bread Givers,
Also toward the end of the nineteenth century Asian American
began to depict the life of their cultural groups, using both fact-oriented and
fictional forms of representation. A major and influential voice was Sui Sin
(Edith Maude
Eaton), whose short fiction dealing with the struggles and joys
of Chinese
families living on America’s Pacific Coast was published in popular
periodicals and later collected in her book
Mrs. Spring Fragrance
Apart from ethnic literature written in English, immigrants and members
of other minorities also created a large body of texts in their native languages.
Older literary histories, such as
The Cambridge History of American Literature
(1917–1921) and Robert
Literary History of the United States
draw attention to the fact that writing by Americans who used languages other
than English was a substantial part of America’s literary production. A chapter
in Spiller’s book surveys the literature and literary cultures of German
, French
, Italian
, Norwegian
, Swedish
, Danish
, and Jewish
ethnic groups in the
United States. To this day, many of America’s major archives and libraries are
well stocked with multilingual materials still untapped by scholars.
What are the criteria for distinguishing “ethnic” literature from other types
of literature? Would you expect ethnic writers to write about topics and in a
style that differs from so-called mainstream writers?
History books often refer to the United States as a nation made up of immi
grants from all parts of the world. At the same time, contemporary debates
about ethnic writing tend to be limited to Native American, African Ameri
can, Latino, and Asian American writers. Why do you think other groups
virtually play no role in the discussion of ethnic literature?
Can you imagine why the term “ethnic literature” might carry a negative
Can you explain why people would object to the idea that an author
might adopt the voice of an ethnic group to which he or she does not

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
David R. Peck,
American Ethnic Literatures: Native American, African American,
Chicano/Latino, and Asian American Writers and Their Backgrounds. An
Annotated Bibliography
(Pasadena, Cal.: Salem, 1992).
In its coverage of the four major American ethnic literatures, lists bibliographies
on individual ethnic groups and on ethnic history and immigration. It also
provides background information for teachers, selected reading lists of primary
works, and an annotated bibliography of relevant literary criticism.
Emmanuel S. Nelson,
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Lit
5 volumes (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2005).
A comprehensive resource that covers the topic of American ethnic writing by
offering its readers more than 1,100 entries not only on individual writers, their
major works, and the traditions to which they belong but also on literary and
linguistic issues, historical and social contexts. With its cross-references, biblio
graphic information, and illustrations, it is an invaluable reference tool.
Werner Sollors,
Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture
York: Oxford University Press, 1986).
Covers a broad range of texts, combining ethnicity theory with an examination
of literary and rhetorical patterns to arrive at an understanding of how people
from various ethnic backgrounds came to see themselves as Americans.
Sollors, “Literature and Ethnicity,”
Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic
edited by Stephen Thernstrom (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press
of Harvard University, 1980), pp. 647–665.
Traces the word “ethnicity” through its etymological development and through
a broad cross-section of American writings and observes that ethnicity is a
pervasive theme in all American literature. In the course of time ethnicity has
been transformed from a liability to an asset.
Sollors, ed.,
Multilingual America: Transnationalism, Ethnicity, and the Languages
of American Literature
(New York: New York University Press, 1998).
A collection of scholarly essays on Yiddish, Chinese American, Italian Ameri
can, and other forms of ethnic writing that presents stimulating views of
America’s multilingual heritage. It invites readers to expand their notion of
what constitutes American literature.
Berndt Ostendorf, “Literary Acculturation: What Makes Ethnic Literature
25 (Autumn 1985): 577–586.
Specifies the elements that characterize ethnic writing. It distinguishes between
literature about immigrants, for immigrants, and literature growing out of the
Henry Pochmann, “The Mingling of Tongues,”
Literary History of the United
Mary Antin
Lecturer, progressive politician, immigrant-rights activist, and autobiographer.
Lecturer, translator, novelist, and editor of the
Jewish Daily Forward
from 1903
to 1946.
Du Bois
Civil-rights activist, founding member of the NAACP
, and longtime editor of its
The Crisis
Joel Chandler
Georgia humorist, lecturer, journalist, and folklorist.
Sarah Winnemucca
(c. 1841–1891)
Piute author, lecturer, and educator.
James Weldon
Major proponent of the “plantation tradition” in Southern American literature.
Booker T
Founding principal of the Tuskegee Institute
, an industrial and normal school in
for African American
men and women.

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Anzia Yezierska
(c. 1881–1970)
Author of semiautobiographical tales of the assimilation of immigrants.
(aka Gertrude Bonnin, 1876–1938)
Lakota author and educator.
—Holger Kersten
Humor Writing

Humor Writing
Humor writing
between 1865 and 1914 flourished under the general rubric
of “The Literary Comedians.”
The “Phunny Phellows
” made vulgar dialect,
misspelling, and local urban scenes their defining characteristics. Humor may
thus have contributed to the drive for urban, realistic language and staging. At
the same time, newspapers and national magazines published pieces from vari
ous regions, combining humor and local color in the manner of the American
cracker-barrel philosophers such as Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus
Mark Twain
, the American humorist who gained prominence as the most
important humorist-Realist of the period.
A variety of regional humors, including the Southwestern, Northeastern,
Yankee, Knickerbocker, and Western, led up to the era under discussion. From
the Southwest came the raucous vulgarity of the fistfight, the bear hunt, and
hard drinking. From the Northeast, urban dialect and settings combined with
national and class perspectives; from the Yankees came pragmatism and prac
ticality and a notable suspicion of claims to higher motives; from the Knick
erbockers, a thorough sense of upper-class pretensions; and from the West,
skepticism. As early as 1862, Charles G.
Leland in
Sunshine in Thought
claimed that labor and industry were in a transition stage in art, and “Through
their dusty, steam-engine whirling Realism, society will yet attain a Naturalism,
or a living and working in nature, more direct, fresher and braver, than history
has ever recorded.” William Dean Howells
, a minor humorist himself at times,
followed Leland’s direction. Humor and Realism in America interconnected on
many levels.
Literary comedy of the period was represented across a wide spectrum of
authors. Major literary comedians included Artemus
Ward (aka Charles Farrar
Browne), who died at thirty-three in 1867, and Twain
(Samuel L.
Twain borrowed Ward’s casual deadpan manner as a humorous lecturer. Twain’s
social-historical irony, ear for language, and eagle eye for detail, the most
prominent features of his comedy, also benefited from the influence of the
“old showman” persona exhibited in Ward’s letters and sketches. Max Adeler
(aka Charles Heber
Clark), author of
Out of the Hurley-Burley
(1874); Josh
(aka Henry W.
Shaw), famous for his aphorisms and almanacs; James
Bailey, widely known as
Danbury News
; Robert J.
Burdette, “the
Man”; and Eli Perkins
(aka Melville D.
Landon) were ori
ented toward domestic comedy and thin jokes; longer fiction was outside their
scope, and comic trivia sometimes replaced a feeling of narrative objectivity. Bill
of the Laramie, Wyoming
and Finley Peter
Dunne, writing as
“Mr. Dooley
,” a whimsically cynical
Chicago bartender, put themselves forth
as speakers on the topics of the day, and escaped didacticism by manifesting
themselves as “real” commentators in commonplace style, thought, and speech,
who remarked on American and international politics and a wide variety of
social topics. Harriet Beecher
Stowe’s Sam Lawson
, a Yankee cynic, offered
a realistic perspective in stories of small-town experience, and “Josiah Allen’s
” (aka Marietta
Holley), a spinster who lived almost reclusively in a small

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
town in upstate New York
, produced volume after volume of travel narratives
providing tart commentary on the status of women, all in the ironic voice of a
determined farm wife. The narrators themselves and their characters were not
elevated or refined, and their moralizing was in persona and part of the objec
tive scene.
Poets writing with similar comic style included James Whitcomb
Riley, William Carleton,
and Sam Walter
Foss, all of whom combined local
color, sentiment, and humor. All used the narrative style localized by voice,
dialect, and subject matter, even when addressing larger issues. A host of lesser
and long-forgotten local reporters filled columns in papers across the nation
with local descriptions of slapstick comic events, local and newspaper slang, and
commonplace vernacular speech. Ambrose Bierce
, the most bitter and cynical of
the humorists of his age, stands in a category by himself for his acrid aphorisms
concerning politics, society, and American life.
Can Realism as a genre coexist with humor, or are they mutually exclusive?
Students might wish to compare passages of humorists and Realist authors

Major comedians of the period, although paralleling the careers of Realist and
Naturalist writers, are virtually unknown, though their writings were extremely
popular and Ward and Leland were considered by English critics to be unique
specimens of American pragmatic attitudes and irreverence. Would they have
been remembered if they had written longer works? Is literary humor too
localized on historical events to offer broader visions of humanity with the
seeming objectivity of great Realist novels and short stories?
Henry James in the opening of
The American
(1877) describes the hero Chris
topher Newman as he seeks a trophy wife and shows him as grotesquely naive
in his first visit to the home of the Bellegardes, his adversaries in his quest.
Bellegarde, for example, only flinches as Newman innocently but vulgarly
appraises the quality of the main hall, but suppresses all emotion as the unso
phisticated Newman rattles on. Is this unrecognized realistic humor in a novel
that is usually taken as serious? Is James’s depiction realistic?
Literary comedians of the Realist period usually write in persona as “real” per
Humor Writing

Primary Works
Walter Blair,
Native American Humor
(1937; reprinted, San Francisco: Chandler,
Hennig Cohen and William B. Dillingham,
The Humor of the Old Southwest
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1964; reprinted, Athens: University of Georgia
Press, 1994).
Mark Twain’s Library of Humor,
edited by Mark Twain and William Dean How
ells (New York: Webster, 1888).
Stanley Tractenberg, ed.,
Dictionary of Literary Biography,
volume 11:
Humorists, 1800–1950,
2 volumes (Detroit: Bruccoli Clark Layman/Gale,
Charles Farrar
Native of Maine
, adopted the persona of Artemus
Ward, a vulgar showman from
Baldwinsville, Indiana
, modeled on P. T. Barnum
Charles G
Author of
Hans Breitmann’s Party, With Other Ballads
(1868) was recognized in
England as a fresh American voice. Other volumes and collections followed, and
his later studies of gypsies and the
Algonquin legends of New England
make him
of importance as a sociologist and linguist. He also wrote extensively on arts and
crafts. A Philadelphia native, most of his later life was spent abroad.
—David E. E. Sloane

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
“Naturalism” refers to a literary movement that began in about 1880 and ended
in about 1940, with its major practitioners in the United States being Stephen
, Frank Norris
, Jack London
, Edith Wharton
, Ellen Glasgow
, Theo
dore Dreiser
, Hamlin Garland
, and Willa Cather
. These writers imbued their
writing with a scientific view of reality based on social Darwinism
. Partly as
a consequence, they often described their works as objective case studies, but
the purpose, as with the earlier Realists, was often an implicit plea for social
Whereas earlier European and American fiction generally assumed a moral
universe in which good was ultimately rewarded and evil punished, the Natu
ralists generally imply an amoral, mechanistic universe. Further, human beings
within Naturalism are seen as fundamentally animals, rather than divine creatures,
whose lives are entirely, or almost entirely, shaped by natural forces such as hered
ity, instincts, and the environment.
Social Darwinism was based on a misunderstanding of Charles Darwin
theory of evolution. Two misconceptions espoused by influential social Dar
winists Herbert Spencer
and Auguste
Comte are particularly significant. They
extrapolated from Darwin’s point that the creatures best adapted to any given
environment were more likely to survive, that social progress is achieved through

a true story—shows how social ambition based on the American dream can lead
a young man, almost inevitably, to murder.
By highlighting natural forces, the Naturalists question the possibility of human
free will. Their characters, rather, often appear to be defined by their environments
and genes, that is, powers beyond their control. Consequently, the Naturalists seem
ironically akin in their worldview to the earlier Puritans
, who also attributed human
actions to powerful forces beyond their control and questioned the possibility of
free will, so that Naturalism has been described as secular Calvinism
Ironically, too, the Naturalists, who were usually educated Anglo-Saxons,
Given the social Darwinian context of works of Naturalism, the characters’ free
will and, therefore, personal responsibility are always questioned. Consider, for
example, Maggie’s responsibility for becoming a prostitute in Crane’s

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Frank Norris suggests that there is a more primitive, instinct-driven animal
lurking just beneath the surface of our civilized veneer. What are the results
of these animalistic impulses in
? Is the greed described the result
of this “beast” or of modern capitalistic values? Similarly, in
Vandover and the
Norris suggests that Vandover’s faults are the result of the brute—pri
marily his sexual desire—within him. On the other hand, Vandover often
seems too passive, too civilized. Which is it?
Do London’s novels—particularly
The Call of the Wild, White Fang,
Sea Wolf
—support or challenge the idea of the “survival of the fittest”? What
does London suggest are the characteristics that make one “fit” to survive

Willa Cather is often associated with modernism rather than Naturalism. Con
sider one of her major works, such as
O Pioneers!
(1913) or
My Ántonia
and write a paper either challenging or defending calling her a Naturalist.
For more serious study of a specific author, begin with one of the many excellent

Willa Cather
Chronicled early pioneering life on the Great Plains
, which she obviously loved, and
the people it formed, whom she obviously admired. At the same time, works such as
“The Sculptor’s Funeral
” (1905) and
A Lost Lady
(1923) illustrate that she also was
aware of the loneliness, small-mindedness, and other potential problems with life in
the early West
. Her works highlight how environment shapes character.
Stephen Crane
Died at twenty-eight; wrote several brilliant short stories as well as several signifi
cant novels, most notably

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
(1895). His writing is known for its artistry, impressionistic descriptions,
and unsentimental objectivity.
Theodore Dreiser
Was particularly interested in portraying a non-Romantic view of human sexu
and the negative influence of capitalism
. His
Sister Carrie
(1900) and
American Tragedy
(1925) are particularly important works.
Jack London
An ardent socialist who valued individualism and freedom. He believed in social
and the racism
it suggested, but fought for social equality, women’s
suffrage, and prohibition. His novels can be didactic, but his best works reveal his
own struggles to reconcile these opposing impulses.
A disciple of Auguste
Comte’s philosophy and Émile Zola
’s literary Naturalism.
(1899) and the posthumously published
The Pit: A Story of Chicago
(1903) and
Vandover and the Brute
(1914) are particularly important works.
—Richard Randolph
Reform Literatiure

Reform Literature
Reform literature
of the period 1865–1914 shows the precedence of antebellum
social reform writing about abolition
, women’s rights
, temperance
, and other causes.
This writing relied heavily on the literary mode of sentimentalism
, which sought to
touch readers’ hearts and move them to acknowledge their common humanity with
oppressed groups. Although “the belief in the transcendental, usually religious moral
order” of sentimentalism had lost its cultural dominance by the Realist period, Wil
liam A.
Morgan argues that sentimentalism influenced both the “questions about
society that Realist literary texts ask” as well as “the resolutions they consider.”
Besides the legacy of antebellum reform literature, late-nineteenth-century
reform writing was significantly fueled by the representational form, purpose, and
possibilities of literary Realism. In its serious literary representation of concrete social
problems and its commitment to depicting ordinary, common life as the writer saw
it—even in all its ugliness—literary Realism became a powerful reformist tool for
illuminating social problems and arousing the social conscience of readers.
The pervasive economic and social transformations of the second industrial
era were a third major influence on reform literature, which took for its main,

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
harsh, realistic descriptions, these novels seek to change their readers’ assumptions
Reform Literature

and Nationalist clubs
throughout the country, in which many writers
and social reformers participated. In this story, wealthy Bostonian Julian
West falls
asleep in 1887 and wakes up in 2000 to discover that the country has evolved into a
socialist paradise: the means of production are owned communally; wealth is equally
distributed; technology has made life comfortable—all the socioeconomic problems
of late-nineteenth-century America have been solved by egalitarian solidarity.
Another novel, Howells
’s pastoral utopia
A Traveler from Altruria
presents a visitor from the imaginary Altruria, who comes to America, the great
land of democracy and equality, and instead teaches his middle-class host that
Altruria is a much more socially enlightened and egalitarian culture. The novel

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Inspection Act
and the Pure Food and Drug Act
in 1906.
along with
American Magazine
also published the work of muck
rakers such as Tarbell, Baker, and Lincoln Steffens
One of the most famous muckraking works was Jacob Riis
How the Other
Half Lives
(1890), which was inspired by his exposure to tenement living, crime,
and poverty in New York City
. In this landmark photojournalistic exposé of life
in city tenements, Riis appealed to the public conscience by recounting the his
tory of these tenements, the speculation and greed behind the business of own
ing them—including owners’ willful neglect of repairs and sanitation—and the
disproportionately high rents paid by poor immigrants. Although Riis general
What relationship does the writer of the reform text establish with his/her
In terms of literary elements and modes—characterization, plot, irony, sentimen
talism’s appeal to readers’ sympathy, or Realism’s fidelity to experience through
graphic detail (scenes outside middle-class comfort and familiarity)—how does a
particular work of reformist fiction confront readers with the need for reform? If
a text has a strong socially activist thrust, how polemical and propagandist is it?
How do Realism and social purpose, or fictional world and social purpose, work
together in this text? For example, in utopian fiction, how much do plot action
and character development contribute to the impact of the novel?

about the issue examined and about the text itself in its historical moment.
How class-based and class-bound, how objectifying, how sensational, and how
instrumental in its effects was this reform text? In literary and historical schol
Reform Literature

Ann Bausum,
Muckrakers: How Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens
Helped Expose Scandal, Inspire Reform, and Invent Investigative Journalism
(Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2007).
Provides a lively introduction to muckraking with visuals (political cartoons,
photographs, book covers).
Paul Boyer,
Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820–1920
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978).
Examines reform as a means of social control and explores charity movements,

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Edward Bellamy
Came from a New England
family of ministers. His early education and career
include schooling in Germany
, where he learned about socialism
; training as a
lawyer; and work as a journalist for reform newspapers. During this time, he
also published twenty-three short stories in magazines, such as
Atlantic Monthly
and wrote four novels, among them
Six to One
Dr. Heidenhoff’s Process
(1880). His hugely popular utopian novel
Backward, 2000–1887
(1888) remains his most notable work. Its sequel,
(1897), was less successful. Bellamy edited his weekly newspaper, the
New Nation
and lectured widely on his nationalist vision.
Reported on the Boer War
in South Africa
, wrote for
from Cuba
ing the Spanish-American War
of 1898, and wrote feature articles for the new
The Wave
Influenced by the French school of Naturalism
Regionalism and Realism

Regionalism and Realism
The student of this period in American literary history will learn soon enough
that there are a great many “ism” words used in connection with it—Regionalism
, Realism, veritism
, provincialism
, Impressionism
, and the like. One
should not conclude, however, that the writing produced under these labels came
from a stable and agreed-upon theory or doctrine. To the contrary, these forms
At one point, “Regionalism” and “local color
” were used more or less interchange
ably; Hamlin Garland
used the word “provincialism” to describe the same literary
manner. However, more recently the phrase “local color” has been avoided by
some because it seemed to imply an inferior literary mode, or because critics have

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
stories as Alice Dunbar-Nelson
’s “The Goodness of St. Rocque
,” where Creole
magic plays a role, or Charles Chesnutt
’s “Po’ Sandy
” and Tennessee
writer Mary
Murfree’s “The ‘Harnt’ that Walks Chilhowee
,” where supposed ghosts
have a part.
Regionalism often renders characters as types representative of the locale
rather than highly individualized people, though there are important exceptions
to this generalization, as with Mary Wilkins Freeman
’s fiercely independent
women who tend to defy established tradition. Some Regionalist stories are
written as first-person narratives. In these instances, the student has to remem
ber that the vernacular narrator is usually part of the region itself. Third-person
narratives tend to establish a distance between the author and the characters or
the place, and the student will need to discern whether that distance is ironic or
sympathetic. Thematically, Regionalist stories are often regarded as nostalgic,
their authors mindful of the great social changes occurring and a bit wistful
about the passing of rural and communal values. However, more recently liter
ary historians have tended to see Regionalist authors as participating in the
unification of a so-called national identity after the rupture brought about by
the Civil War.
Regionalism is no longer regarded as the poor cousin of Realism. Nevertheless,
Regionalism and Realism

of course, and there is a great deal of slippage involved when the student grapples
with individual texts.
The Realist writer tends not to confine subject matter to the local but to
bring characters of varying backgrounds (in terms of race, gender, class, education,
or geography) into close contact. This is true of Henry James
, who often has an
American character confront the burden of the past by visiting Europe and being
tested by an older and more conservative environment. It is also true of Edith
, who moved her heroine in
The House of Mirth
through the social
economic strata of New York City
, as does Stephen Crane
in a very different way
when he inspects the life of the poor in the flophouses or the Bowery, or Har
old Frederic in
The Damnation of Theron Ware
Since Realism and Regionalism are related movements, the distinctions
between them tend to blur. Mark Twain’s
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Kate Chopin’s
The Awakening
may be read either as Realist or Regional
ist works, depending on what aspects of the novel are foregrounded. How
might a certain work be read and understood in different ways? Is this a
problem of analysis or an enhancement and enlargement of the meaning of
the work?

women writers. Why should this be the case?
Realism is generally considered a “democratic” movement. William Dean
Howells said the “true standard of the arts” is within every man and woman’s
power. How is reading and understanding literary texts different when one
disregards the authority of critics and reviewers? Are the requirements placed
upon the reader more difficult in some ways?
Regionalist and Realist writing often uses regional dialects, many of which
have changed or passed away by this time. How can the contemporary reader
learn to appreciate dialect in literature?
One of the aims of Regionalist and Realist writers was to overturn stereotypes,
Students should not overlook a generally available and accessible resource—the
anthology. The introductions and headnotes to individual works are pertinent and
often insightful. Among those anthologies worth examining are:

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Primary Works
mington: Indiana University Press, 1971).
Cady argues that Realism cultivates a certain “common vision” in readers and
that successful Realist works dramatize the relation between ordinary experience
and art.
Josephine Donovan,
New England Local Color Literature: A Woman’s Tradition
(New York: Ungar, 1983).
Posits a distinctly female literary tradition among New England Regionalists,
one that existed apart from and opposed to the male-dominated world and that
represented strong and independent women characters.
Harold H. Kolb Jr.,
The Illusion of Life: American Realism as a Literary Form
(Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1969).
Begins with chapters defining American Realism in lucid and convincing ways,
followed by chapters on individual writers. Kolb’s book emphasizes Realism as
a literary manner, and his treatment of the rejection of omniscient narration in
favor of a restricted narrative consciousness in Henry James, Mark Twain, and
William Dean Howells is instructive.
Literary Movements;&#x-14t;&#x-14t;&#x-19p;&#x-14:;&#x-14/;&#x-14/;&#x-14w;&#x-14w;&#x-14w;a.-;w-;s-;u-;.-;Ŏ-;ō-;u-;/-;~-;Ō-;Ɋ-;m-;p-;ŋ-;Ŏ-;l-;l-;ō-;/-;Ŋ-;m-;l-;i-;t-;/-;l-;i-;t-;ŏ-;tr-;ƚ-;m-;.-;h-;t-;m-;l-;m
[accessed 20 August 2009].
A particularly valuable website created and maintained by Donna Campbell. In
addition to time lines, profiles of individual authors, and literary movements, this
Regionalism and Realism

David E. Shi,
Facing Facts: Realism in American Thought and Culture, 1850–1920
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
A solid and highly readable cultural and social history of the period. Of particu
George Washington
Born in
New Orleans. Cable’s parents freed their slaves long before the Civil
, and though he served in the Confederate army
, he wrote passionately for
racial equality, particularly in
The Negro Question
(1890). His first collection,
Creole Days
(1879), established him as a Southern Regionalist writer; his Realist
The Grandissmes
(1880) is considered his masterwork. He was known for
local-color Realism combined with keen psychological insight and a willingness
to confront social issues of the day.
Harold Frederic
Born in upstate New York
. Frederic was an editor for a pair of upstate New York
newspapers before becoming the London correspondent for
The New York Times
in 1884. He wrote his fiction mostly in England
; his work ranges from historical
Born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee
. After a childhood illness left her lame, Murfree
turned to writing. The family’s summers were spent in the Cumberland Moun
, where she became fascinated with the Tennessee mountain people she
wrote about in local-color stories. She published more than ten volumes of stories,
Down the Ravine
(1885) and
The Mystery of the Witch-Face Mountain
(1895), and several novels. She blended lyrical and somewhat romantic descrip

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
War Writing
War Writing

Carter, a Union officer from Virginia
. The romantic subplot plays out against
the backdrop of the war, with Lillie eventually abandoning both her Confederate
leanings and her home in favor of Colburne and the North.
A Southern counterpart to De Forest is Sidney Lanier
. Lanier began work on
his war novel,
(1867), while serving in the Confederate army
. The novel
is composed of three books: the first introduces the Sterling family
of Tennessee,
who, in addition to a German named Paul Rubetsahl,
are the protagonists of the
work. The scene shifts suddenly in book 2 to the Civil War, where the novel follows
the adventures of Philip Sterling
and his friends, as well as the treacherous plotting
of Cranston
and a Confederate deserter named Gorm Smallin
. Here Lanier draws
considerably on his personal experiences of the war. Sterling, like Lanier, spends
time in a Union prison, and the description of prison life is noteworthy. The novel
ends abruptly in the brief book 3 with the fall of
Richmond and the reunion of the
surviving characters.
While war fiction was largely replaced by writing that told stories of Recon
and the aftermath of the conflict during the 1870s, nonfictional accounts
of the Civil War
began to become more prominent during this decade. Walt
published a prose account of his time in the hospitals in
during the War
(1875–1876), which draws on notes he kept. William Tecumseh
Sherman, the Union general famous for his “march to the sea” through Georgia
published the first edition of his memoirs in 1875. Works such as these helped

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Civil War ended, his novel is considered one of the best pieces of war writing of
the period and, indeed, in American literature. It tells the tale of Henry Flem
, a young volunteer who goes off to war fired with romantic ideals of combat,
only to confront the realities of war and his own uncertainty about his courage
under fire. Crane also produced the well-received collection
The Little Regiment
and Other Episodes of the American Civil War
(1896) and a collection of Spanish-
American War
Wounds in the Rain
Ellen Glasgow
The Battle-Ground
(1902) offers an interesting combination
of what is generally referred to as the romance of the “Lost Cause
,” highly senti
mentalized and idealistic portrayals of the Confederacy, with the Realism of writ
ers such as De Forest
and Bierce
. It tells the story of Dan Montjoy
, a Confederate
who goes to war accompanied by his loyal slave Big Abel. Although Montjoy
and many of the other Southern characters speak in favor of both the Union
and abolition
, they fight for their states, paying high personal costs. The novel
is noteworthy for some graphic battle scenes and for its portrayal of the efforts
How does one define and evaluate “war writing”? Must it feature graphic
What role does gender play in war writing? How are women portrayed in
these texts? One might consider Lillie Ravenel in
Miss Ravenel’s Conversion
or Henry Fleming’s mother in
The Red Badge of Courage,
for example. Ellen
Glasgow’s novel
The Battle-Ground
has recently gained more attention and
could inform exploration of war writing by women.

istic in its portrayal of “The Lost Cause.” Are such critiques valid? Compare
The Battle-Ground
with book 2 of Lanier’s novel
What does war writing suggest about the writers’ attitudes toward particular
conflicts or war itself? Some critics have seen
The Red Badge of Courage
as a
War Writing

profoundly antiwar novel, despite its hero’s assertion that he emerges from
Daniel Aaron,
The Unwritten War: American Writers and the Civil War
(New York:
Knopf, 1973).
A thorough cataloguing of authors who wrote on the war from its beginning and
John W
De Forest
Union veteran credited with providing the first “realistic” portrayal of the Civil War
in fiction in
Miss Ravenel’s Conversion from Secession to Loyalty
(1867). De Forest
published several other novels, including a “reunion romance” set during Recon
The Bloody Chasm
(1881), but he died in relative obscurity.
Ellen Glasgow
Born and raised in Virginia
and went on to become a leading literary figure, win
ning the Pulitzer Prize
for fiction in 1942.
The Battle-Ground
(1902) is Glasgow’s
only Civil War novel, and although both Wilson and Aaron are generally dismis
sive of it (Wilson pays it no mention), other critics have argued that it provides a
realistic account of the Civil War South.
Sidney Lanier
Began work on his Civil War novel
(1867) while serving in the Con
federate army
; his tour of duty ended in a federal prison when he was captured in

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Herman Melville
Wrote several novels and short stories but is best known today for
(1851). In addition to
(1866), Melville published an extended poem

Few literary forms conform as rigidly to formulaic definition as does the Western,

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Dime novels served as a crucial conduit for the mythological Western narra

Sui Sin
Mrs. Spring Fragrance
and Willa
O Pioneers!
(1913) are deeply concerned with the history, stories, and
people of the western United States, their focus on the perspectives of Native
, Asian
immigrants, or women places them outside the boundaries of
the Western genre. In other words, these works, along with such canonical texts
as Mark Twain
Roughing It
(1872), Stephen Crane
’s “The Bride Comes to
Yellow Sky
” (1898), and Frank Norris
The Octopus
(1901), are widely acknowl
edged as “Western literature” but not as “Westerns.”
Although Wister’s novel gained currency within the sphere of high culture,
one of the most prominent inheritors of Wister’s legacy was Zane
Grey, among
the local church elders, watches the arrival of
western sky, coming riding out of the sage,” she intuitively understands what he
represents. The combination of strength and vulnerability and of skepticism and
idealism marked the prototypical hero of countless Western stories and reinforced
In his famous address “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”
How has the success of the Western been facilitated by changes in the pub
lishing and entertainment industry? How does the form and impact of the
Western reflect such phenomena as the spread of magazine publishing and the
How do the dynamics of gender operate in Westerns? Are male and female
Westerns have always laid claim to a level of truth and authenticity. How do
the mythical elements of the Western complicate assertions of historical accu
racy and the veneer of Realism typical of the genre?

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
The Western has proven adaptable to other storytelling conventions, from
mysteries to science fiction. What are some identifiable characteristics of the
Western that have been translated into other genres and other cultures? What
are some examples of the lasting prominence of the Western?
Primary Works
Bill Brown, ed.,
Reading the West: An Anthology of Dime Westerns
(Boston: Bedford,
mington: Indiana University Press, 1987).
Analysis of the ways in which the Western form has adapted and evolved, provid
ing a comprehensive overview of the Western genre. It is among the first recent

works to present a wide-ranging argument that encompasses both “high” and
“low” literature.
John G. Cawelti,
The Six-Gun Mystique Sequel
(Madison: University of Wiscon
sin Press, 1999).
A revision of Cawelti’s 1970
The Six-Gun Mystique,
provides a thorough gene
alogy of the development of the Western as a genre, as well as a useful chapter
updating the critical debates surrounding the subject. Cawelti deploys a histori
cally grounded notion of myth indebted to the work of Henry Nash Smith and
Richard Slotkin.
William Handley,
Marriage, Violence, and the Nation in the American Literary West
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
A revisionist argument about Westerns centering on the impact that these works
have had outside the Western genre itself, particularly in their focus on issues of
marriage and family. Handley traces the ways in which notions of race, gender, and
religious Otherness are negotiated in Wister’s and Grey’s best-known novels.
Lee Clark Mitchell,
Westerns: Making the Man in Fiction and Film
University of Chicago Press, 1996).
Responding to contemporary studies of gender and masculinity, asserts that a fas
cination with the male body is among the defining characteristics of the Western.
Susan Rosowski, “The Western Hero as Logos,” in her
Birthing a Nation: Gen
der, Creativity, and the West in American Literature
(Lincoln: University of
Nebraska Press, 1999).

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
gender, seeking to explore the ways in which several canonical Westerns respond
ed Buntline
(aka Edward Z. C. Judson) (1823–1896)
One of the most successful writers of pulp westerns after the Civil War, totaling
some four hundred novels, many of them featuring Buffalo Bill Cody.
William F
(Buffalo Bill) Cody
American soldier, hunter, and showman, founder of the circus-like Buffalo Bill’s
Wild West in 1883.
James Fenimore Cooper
Edward S
A prolific writer of dime-novel Westerns best known today for
Seth Jones, or Cap
tives of the Frontier
(1860), published by the New York firm of Beadle and Adams.
Zane Grey
Was a popular writer of Westerns and other adventure novels and one of the first
millionaire authors. He also was instrumental in the adaptation of the Western
formula to film.
Edward L
(circa 1854–1885)
Sensational dime novelist best known for his “Deadwood Dick” series inaugu
rated in 1877.
Owen Wister
A Harvard graduate, began to travel to Wyoming in 1885 to treat his “neurasthe
nia.” His first Western story appeared in
in August 1892, and a decade
later his novel
The Virginian
established the classic Western formula and became
a best seller.
—John Dudley
Women’s Writing

Women’s Writing
Although women

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
1886) wrote about New England
and the North Atlantic coastal area,
while others sought to represent the Southern region. For example, Chopin
Bayou Folk
(1894) depicts Creole culture in Louisiana
, Mary Noailles
In the Tennessee Mountains
(1884) looks toward the rustic men and women who
inhabit the Tennessee
mountains, and Constance Fenimore
For the
(1883) paints a world redolent of Southern gentility. Helen Hunt
a New Englander by birth, is best known for her novel
(1884), which
Women’s Writing

’s collection
Scribbling Women: Short Stories by 19th-Century American
(New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1997) reprints short
stories by key women writers and includes brief biographies of the authors.
Students wishing to read criticism on the body of work produced by women

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
How do works by women of different ethnicities and from within and outside
of the literary canon, such as those by Winnemucca, Hopkins, Mena, Chopin,
Wharton, and Zitkala-Ša, sustain or problematize a female literary voice?
How are the characters and description in women’s realistic and regional writ
ing different from their male counterparts, and what are the continuities?
How do these works alter our view of women’s writing and the literary tradition
in general?
Some possible answers to these questions can also be obtained from a help
ful website dedicated to American women’s writing at http://www.wsu.
edu/~campbelld/ssaww/index.html� [accessed 9 September 2009].
Maurice Duke, Jackson R. Bryer, and M. Thomas Inge,
American Women Writers:
Bibliographical Essays
(Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1983).
Fourteen bibliographical essays on individual works by twenty-four major Ameri
can women writers, with information on editions and manuscripts.
Barbara A. White,
American Women Writers: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism
(New York: Garland, 1977).
Critical assessments of American women’s writing, including such topics as biog
raphy, literary history, contemporary analyses, and feminist literary scholarship.
Denise D. Knight,
Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers: A Bio
cal Critical Sourcebook
(Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997).
An invaluable resource that gives biographical information on representative
American women writers, including lesser-known authors. Each entry also dis
cusses the author’s major works and central themes and provides an overview of
the scholarship pertaining to particular texts.
Willa Cather
While managing editor of the widely read
in New York City, met and
befriended Sarah Orne Jewett
. She later moved to the Southwest.
Rebecca Harding
Led a literary career that spanned five decades and included works in the genres
of local color, Realism, travel literature, and children’s stories.
Pauline Elizabeth
Editor of the
Colored American Magazine,
where she published sentimental fiction
that dealt with miscegenation
and racial prejudice.
Cindy Murillo
Part III
Study Guides
on Works and Writers
Ambrose Bierce,
“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
San Francisco Examiner
13 July 1890, pp. 11–12; collected in
Tales of Soldiers and
(San Francisco: Steele, 1891)
Ambrose Bierce (1842–1914?) was a journalist and writer of satire who developed
an international reputation as an ironist. At the beginning of the American Civil
, he enlisted as a private in the Ninth Indiana Infantry
, and he fought at
Chickamauga, and
Chattanooga. After being discharged
as a first lieutenant in 1865, Bierce worked as a night watchman for the U.S. Sub-
treasury in
San Francisco, where he began reading classic authors such as Voltaire
Swift, Francis
Bacon, and Plato
Ambrose Bierce

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
The main character in the story is Peyton Farquhar
, a civilian planter who
ardently supports the Southern cause. Enticed by a disguised Union scout into
taking action on behalf of the Confederacy
, Farquhar tries to burn down the
Union-held bridge on Owl Creek. He is hanged for his attempted crime, but
he appears to have been given a reprieve when the rope apparently breaks and
he plunges into the creek. Most of the rest of the story takes place in Farquhar’s
imagination as he makes his grueling but exhilarating escape. The stress of flight
heightens his perceptions so that he sees his surroundings with an almost hal
lucinatory intensity. As he makes his way back home to his wife and children, his
once-familiar environs become strange and nightmarish. Finally, just as Farquhar
is about to embrace his wife, he feels a blow on his neck and the reader finds out
that he has indeed been hanged.
“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” can be studied from several different
angles. One is to consider Bierce’s literary Impressionism, which involves the
idea that perceptions of reality are affected by one’s state of mind. Illustrations
of this concept abound in the story; the most obvious one is the time dila
tion that Farquhar experiences as he is being hanged. From his point of view,
he lives out the rest of the day after supposedly escaping, but to the soldiers
hanging him, his execution lasts for only a few seconds. Moreover, Farquhar’s
while in imaginary flight, he sees the sand of the creek bed as “diamonds,
rubies, emeralds” and the trees as “giant garden plants.” Many more examples
of what has been called Farquhar’s “postmortem consciousness” may be found
to examine Bierce’s use of Impressionism.
Another major approach to analyzing the story is to view it as a satire of the
The story may also be seen as a literary prank played on inattentive readers
who share Farquhar’s values and read the narrative as a heroic adventure tale.
Bierce uses narrative strategies that cause readers to participate in the mental
experiences of Farquhar even as he also provides readers with enough infor
Another fertile area for inquiry is to examine the adaptations of “An Occur
rence at Owl Creek Bridge” for other media. This story lives on in American
popular culture in the form of audio books, comic books, television shows, and
movies. The audio and comic book versions are recent phenomena, but the
story has a long history on the screen. It has been made into TV programs at
least twice, once as an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (NBC, 1959)
and once as an episode of “The Twilight Zone” (CBS, 1964). It has also been
made into short films at least four times, in 1929, 1962, 1980, and 2005. Other
Ambrose Bierce


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Charles W
Chesnutt (1858–1932)
Charles Waddell
Chesnutt was the most successful African American
fiction writer
of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. At a time when most black
writers did not have access to mainstream audiences or major publishing houses,
Chesnutt’s stories appeared in the
Atlantic Monthly
the period’s preeminent liter
ary magazine and champion of such major American Realists as Mark Twain
Henry James
; and Houghton Mifflin
published his two short-story collections,
Conjure Woman
(1899) and
The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line
(1899), and two of his novels,
The House behind the Cedars
(1900) and
The Marrow
of Tradition
(1901). Chesnutt’s final published novel,
The Colonel’s Dream
in 1905. While he was most famous during his career for his stories written in
dialect, modern critics have deemed Chesnutt an important figure not just in Afri
can American and local-color
fiction but also in American Realism more broadly.
Because of increasing scholarly interest in his work and the issues he addressed,
since the early 1990s most of his unpublished manuscripts, an edition of his journals
between 1871 and 1882, two volumes of his correspondence, and an edited collec
tion of his essays and speeches have been published.
Until William Dean Howells
noted that Chesnutt was “of negro blood” in a
review of his story collections, readers of his conjure stories likely assumed that
Charles W. Chesnutt


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
ments, and Julius and/or his friends and family members
often materially
benefit at story’s end. Nevertheless, John usually misses what Annie calls “the
stamp of truth” in Julius’s tales because he is caught up in their factuality. Even
on their surface, Julius’s tales ought to remind John and Annie that slavery was
a brutal and oppressive system whose effects continue into the present, not the
benevolent patriarchal arrangement depicted in nostalgic tales of the plantation
tradition. Through John, Chesnutt illustrates Northern capital’s tendency to for
The celebrated title story of this collection features Mr. Ryder,
a former fugitive
slave who has turned himself into a cultured and successful member of the mixed-
race community in “Groveland
” (Cleveland). He chooses to acknowledge his
illiterate, aged, and dark-skinned slave wife, though he was about to propose to a
woman more suited to his current situation in life. In the context of growing color
and class divisions among blacks, Mr. Ryder’s decision can be read as a rejection
of colorism and an affirmation of upwardly mobile blacks’ continuing obligations
Chesnutt’s first published novel addresses directly the tragedy of the racial caste
system that makes passing seem necessary for some mixed-race individuals. John
has assumed the name John Warwick
and passed as a white man for a
Chesnutt’s most overtly political novel is a fictional treatment of the 1898
, North Carolina
, massacre in which white supremacists staged a
coup, violently forcing Fusion Party
and Populist
) elected officials
and appointees from office and restoring white Democrats to power. Chesnutt
examines this key betrayal of Reconstruction
promises and American ideals
through several interwoven plots, but the primary characters are the Carterets
and Millers. Major Carteret
and his wife Olivia
are white aristocrats who have
lost some of their wealth and power since the war but are still among the leading
citizens of Wellington (Wilmington). Janet Miller
is Olivia’s free-born, near-
identical, mixed-race half sister, whom Olivia refuses to acknowledge; Janet’s
physician husband William
is a particular target of Major Carteret’s dislike
because the Millers now own the old Carteret mansion. Chesnutt builds around
these characters several sensational plots involving family secrets, romantic
rivals, a murder and near-lynching, and post-Reconstruction racial and class
politics. These plots come together in the Wellington “riot,” a plan hatched by
Major Carteret and coconspirators General Belmont
and Captain McBane
provide cover for their seizure of political and economic power. Their show of
force quickly devolves into mob violence and murder that Carteret first tries
ineffectually to halt and then washes his hands of.
Contemporary newspaper accounts tended to frame the Wilmington mas
as a “race riot,” thereby justifying white violence and disregard for the rule
of law. One of Chesnutt’s primary goals in
The Marrow of Tradition
Chesnutt’s concern with the position and plight of mixed race blacks makes
him a figure of interest to scholars interested in hybridity. His fiction repeat
edly challenges the truth of racial categories. Dean McWilliams notes that
Chesnutt during his career “straddled and confounded several important
American categories” and periods. As such, his work can be fruitfully studied
and taught from various perspectives. For example, Chesnutt’s Uncle Julius
stories may be contrasted with Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus tales. Did
Chesnutt simply rewrite Harris’s folktales? Or was his response to them more
Charles W. Chesnutt


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
complicated? What risks did Chesnutt run in using the tropes of the planta
tion tradition in order to refute it? Did he manage to avoid these pitfalls?
Slave narratives were the most important literary form for African Americans
before the Civil War, and they continued to appear into the twentieth century. Is
it appropriate to think of Uncle Julius’s stories as slave narratives? If so, in what
ways has the achievement of freedom, at least nominally, changed (or not) the
form and purposes of the genre? Making such a comparison also raises questions
about literacy and orality—whether and why one might be privileged over the
other at a particular historical moment or within particular texts.
In his review of
The Wife of His Youth
and Other Stories of the Color Line
Howells championed Chesnutt as a literary Realist of the first order. Can the
conjure tales also be classified as realistic? Is Realism sufficient to convey the
“truth” of slavery?
Though he did not practice law, Chesnutt passed the Ohio bar exam, and lawyers
are important, though not central characters in
The House behind the Cedars
The Marrow of Tradition
. Moreover, Chesnutt was writing at a time when much
of the legal framework for Jim Crow (antimiscegenation laws, voting restric
tions, the U.S. Supreme Court decision
Plessy v. Ferguson
sanctioning “separate
but equal” public facilities) was erected. What do Chesnutt’s novels suggest
about the law’s role in constructing racial-identity categories? What is the con
nection between the law and lawlessness like that depicted in
The Marrow of
? Does Chesnutt seem to regard the law as an effective means to redress
the wrongs inflicted on black Americans? (The strategy was later adopted by the
NAACP, of which Chesnutt was an early member.)
Helen M. Chesnutt,
Charles Waddell Chesnutt: Pioneer of the Color Line
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1952).
A documentary biography by the author’s daughter.
Frances Richardson Keller,
An American Crusade: The Life of Charles Waddell Ches
(Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1978).
Largely ignores Chesnutt’s fiction to focus on his nonfiction, particularly his
autobiographical writing. Keller situates his life in the context of contemporary
William Andrews,
The Literary Career of Charles W. Chesnutt
(Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1980).
A pioneering study of the whole of Chesnutt’s literary career, including his
unpublished late novels, with a focus on his racial progressivism.
Charles Duncan,
The Absent Man: The Narrative Craft of Charles W. Chesnutt
(Athens: Ohio University Press, 1998).
Examines the subtlety of Chesnutt’s treatment of racial identity in his short fiction
to explain his idiosyncratic and ambiguous place in American literary history.
Joseph R. McElrath Jr., ed.,
Critical Essays on Charles W. Chesnutt
(New York:
G. K. Hall, 1999).
A rich selection of contemporary reviews and recent scholarship, including three
previously unpublished essays.
Dean McWilliams,
Charles W. Chesnutt and the Fictions of Race
(Athens: Univer
sity of Georgia Press, 2002).
A study of the whole of Chesnutt’s oeuvre, including his recently-published late
novels, short fiction, and nonfiction. McWilliams argues the case for Chesnutt as
a literary modernist in his attitude toward race.
Ryan Simmons,
Chesnutt and Realism: A Study of the Novels
(Tuscaloosa: Univer
sity of Alabama Press, 2006).
Pleads the case for Chesnutt as a literary Realist, particularly in
The Marrow of
his most autobiographical novel.
Eric J. Sundquist,
To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature
(Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1993).
Argues for the centrality of African American literature in the American literary
tradition, rooted in the period 1830–1930, with Chesnutt one of its central figures.
Matthew Wilson,
Whiteness in the Novels of Charles W. Chesnutt
(Jackson: Univer
sity Press of Mississippi, 2004).
An analysis of Chesnutt’s six novels, including the three that have been recently
Kate Chopin


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
at the crossroads of a progressively changing nation,
The Awakening,
subtitled “A Solitary Soul,”
dealt unabashedly with marital and maternal oppres
sion as well as infidelity to the extent that even women’s-rights reformers did not
quite know what to make of such female sexual freedom. Interestingly, though,
Chopin’s marriage to Oscar
Chopin, whom she wed in 1870, in no way seemed
an unhappy union, although biographers disagree as to how to characterize her
marriage and her reaction to the six children she bore in the span of nine years.
Twelve years after their marriage, Oscar died of malaria, leaving Kate in
charge of his cotton business in Louisiana
. Shortly afterward, she sold the busi
ages to earn a small income. After a romantic tryst with Robert, she is called to
The novel may be located at the intersection of several important literary
movements, including local color, Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, Impres
sionism, and modernism. Chopin’s accurate portrayal of Creole culture speaks
to its regional character, while the ambiguous ending, absence of a narrative
point of view, and lack of linear plot point to modernism. The unifying symbol
Chopin was greatly influenced by French writers, particularly Charles Baude
laire, Gustave Flaubert, and Guy de Maupassant, whose short stories she trans
lated from French. The subtitle of
The Awakening,
“A Solitary Soul,” is perhaps
an allusion to Maupassant’s “Solitude” (1895). Edna not only reads Emerson,
but she also reads the Goncourt brothers. The theory of literary Naturalism
is central to Chopin’s message. Chopin was greatly influenced by the works
of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer, and she appropriated their theories
within a specific social context. This influence can be witnessed in a particularly
potent scene where Dr. Mandalet says to Edna (regarding motherhood), “It
seems to be a provision of Nature, a decoy to secure mothers for the race.” In
1899 there was no reliable method of birth control, so Edna was, indeed, bio
logically trapped.
Many of the thematic elements are identified in the opening chapter. Femi
nist critics have been quick to associate the caged parrot in the first scene
with Edna’s plight as an oppressed woman who attempts to escape her “cage
of domesticity.” Edna does escape briefly by committing adultery and mov
ing out of her house, but she ultimately fails. We can perhaps see the fate
of such transgressive behavior in the falling bird Edna witnesses before her
final swim, which recalls the myth of Icarus. When Mademoiselle Reisz
feels Edna’s shoulder blades, the implication is that Edna is not strong
enough to maintain her flight and will plummet. Although Edna awakens
to her limitations, in the process she undergoes four types of awakenings:
psychological, emotional, intellectual, and sexual. All of these awakenings
speak to the emerging New Woman at the fin de siècle, a figure the patri
Kate Chopin

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
archal establishment excoriates. Both Adèle and Mademoiselle Reisz serve
as alternative female models for Edna: whereas Adèle epitomizes the True
Woman (she is covered head to toe in white throughout the narrative), Reisz
signifies the emerging New Woman.
Nature symbols play an important role in how to read the novel. Water, as
an archetypal symbol for baptism, represents both death and rebirth. It is
the Gulf where Edna feels most alive and awakens to her sensuality and this
same body of water contributes to her death. Such imagery becomes prob
lematic in light of the novel’s ending which concludes but does not resolve.
The manner in which Chopin closes her novel deserves careful consider
ation. Questions students should ask are: how are we to understand Edna’s
final swim? Is it triumphant or an indication of defeat? If we read the final
scene as redolent of Walt Whitman, then Edna’s drowning is life-affirming
because it points to a rebirth. Edna’s steps are regressive: the water recalls the
womb and Edna recollects her childhood. This scene presages Freud, whose
Studies in Hysteria
(1895; translated, 1909) and
The Interpretation of Dreams
(1900; translated, 1913) were contemporaneous with
The Awakening.
last swim could be seen as a step toward a new beginning. Conversely, we
could also read the ending as indicative of self-annihilation and defeat.
Along these lines, Edna’s regressive behavior is a sign of arrested develop
ment, her loss of her mother at an early age contributing to her immaturity
and her threatened sense of self. Students should also consider the role of
race in the novel since a quadroon cares for Edna’s children, but she is never
given a name.

The Awakening
is clearly concerned with female proscription, Cho
pin was never intimately involved with the suffragist movement and took very
little interest in any organized feminist groups. What can we make of such
radical feminism? One way to understand this is to note that Chopin seemed
Students reading
The Awakening
for the first time are encouraged to consult
Margo Culley’s Norton Critical Edition (1994). Its critical apparatus will open
the door to further study.
Kate Chopin’s
The Awakening:
A Sourcebook,
Primary Work
The Awakening: An Authorative Text, Biographical and Historical Contexts, Criti
second edition, edited by Margo Culley (New York: Norton, 1994).
Originally published in 1976.
Marlene Springer,
Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin: A Reference Guide
G. K. Hall, 1976).
A good overview of critical work on Chopin up and through 1976. Includes both
primary and secondary sources.
Suzanne Disheroon Green and David J. Caudle,
Kate Chopin: An Annotated Bibli
ography of Critical Works
(Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999).
An excellent book that is clearly organized and provides annotations for Chopin
Kate Chopin


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Phillip Barrish, “
The Awakening
’s Signifying ‘Mexicanist’ Presence,”
Studies in
American Fiction,
28 (Spring 2000): 65–76.
denouement. Though Chopin does not use real names, places, or events, the story
is plausible in every way.
A riveting and shocking story, especially for its time, “Desirée’s Baby” addresses
topics that were controversial, including miscegenation, patriarchal marriage,
and racial bias. Especially for readers unfamiliar with customs and standards
in the Old or New South, it was provocative, heart wrenching, and a sharp
indictment of social hypocrisy. It treats several hot-button issues for students
to question and research, particularly miscegenation. The antebellum Louisiana
setting allows Chopin to discuss the sexual exploitation of slave women, a closely
related subject students may also choose to investigate. Students interested in
this topic should especially look in the story to the character of the slave woman
La Blanche, whose name means “white woman.” Further, students should ques
tion just how La Blanche’s son came to be described as a “little quadroon boy”
by exploring the possibility of a forced or coercive relationship between Armand
and La Blanche, an unfortunate but common occurrence at the time.
Another topic for students to research is the role of women in the story, in
Kate Chopin


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
of family history: Desirée may have an unknown background, but she is not
the one whose background is mixed. Armand ironically passes for white. How
common in American literature was the plot of racial “passing” at the time
“Desirée’s Baby” was published? How were such stories as “Desirée’s Baby” and
Mark Twain’s
Pudd’nhead Wilson
received by contemporary reviewers?
Chopin presents the marriage of Desirée and Armand as initially blissful,
which is an unusual depiction of marriage in her works. Why is their happiness
short-lived? Because Armand believes it is Desirée’s “fault” their baby is racially
mixed, she takes the baby and disappears. What alternatives were available to
her? Desirée’s biracial baby must have been fathered by a slave, or so the skewed
logic of the period would insist. What other explanations are possible? After her
disappearance, Armand reverts to his old abusive ways. Is Armand personally
responsible for his misbehavior, or does Chopin condemn patriarchal marriage
as an institution and/or a society that would condone such misbehavior?
Primary Work
Per Seyersted, ed.,
Stephen Crane


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
of nature, seeking both relief and, in the fleeing of a squirrel from a pinecone he
flings, justification for his actions. His hopes for solace are dashed when, upon
entering a “chapel” of tree boughs, he is confronted by the corpse of a Union sol
dier. He later falls in with a group of injured soldiers leaving the battle; there he
is reunited with his friend Jim Conklin
, who has been seriously injured. Fleming
and another soldier, “the tattered man,” follow Conklin as he walks off into the
Criticism of
The Red Badge of Courage
has inevitably centered on the question
of how readers are to make sense of Henry Fleming’s experience and his final
assessment of his actions. Has war truly made him a man, or is this another
example of the same naive misapprehension that led him to enlist in the first
place? One of Crane’s earliest biographers, Robert W. Stallman, argues that
Henry Fleming’s is a story of Christian redemption, noting the religious sym
bolism of Jim Conklin’s death, most significantly a much-discussed image that
ends chapter 9: “The red sun was pasted in the sky like a wafer.” For Stallman,
this is a sacramental image, and Fleming is saved through the death of J. C.
Other critics, while uneasy with elements of Stallman’s religious readings, have
nevertheless embraced the notion that Fleming emerges strengthened and
transformed by his ordeal. In what some term the “literal” reading, Fleming’s
assessment of his manhood is taken as accurate, his earlier misunderstandings
and bravado replaced with self-assurance. He has passed through a kind of
initiation ritual into manhood.
Those who see irony in Fleming’s assessment of his manhood point out that
he has been repeatedly mistaken in his assessments of events throughout the
novel. He is inordinately swayed by what he sees, and, as with the squirrel
who flees his pinecone, he has a mind that rationalizes his behavior and
throws it into the best light. Even when contemplating his desertion of the
dying tattered soldier, “gradually he mustered force to put the sin at a dis
tance.” Moreover, his bravery, like his flight, seems to be the product more
of instinct than deliberate courage. While the majority of recent critics seem
to have adopted the ironic reading of Fleming’s views of his manhood, the
debate persists.
Related to these questions is the novel’s relation to Naturalism, a movement
in literature commonly associated with European authors Émile Zola and
Leo Tolstoy, whose war novel
(1856; translated, 1888) is cited as an
inspiration for
The Red Badge of Courage
. In the commonly understood defini
tion of Naturalism, human events are seen as insignificant in the face of an
uncaring, often destructive, natural world. Proponents of reading the novel in
terms of Naturalism cite Fleming’s confrontation with the corpse in the “cha
pel” of trees as one of many examples that demonstrate how Crane eschews a
more Romantic view of nature. One of the earliest critics to offer this view is
Charles C. Walcutt in
American Literary Naturalism, a Divided Stream
More recently, in a tribute to Donald Pizer, James Nagel has argued that read
ing the text solely in terms of Naturalism tends to reduce rather than enlarge
our understanding and appreciation of the novel (“Donald Pizer, American
Naturalism, and Stephen Crane” [2006]).
Given the paucity of formal names, the absence of any discussions of ideology
or causes for conflict,
The Red Badge of Courage
has been seen by some as less
a historical novel than a meditation on war in general and the human psyche.
However, the historical accuracy of Crane’s depiction of battle has long been
a topic of discussion. In 1963 Harold R. Hungerford first documented the
Stephen Crane


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Other critics, notably Amy Kaplan, have read the novel more for what it sug
gests about the 1890s than for its depiction of the 1860s. For Kaplan, the novel
is caught up in a rhetoric regarding “strenuous” action and masculinity and a
culture that emphasizes spectacle as a means of representing conflict (Norton
Critical Edition, third edition, pp. 269–294). More recently, Andrew Lawson has
argued that the novel needs to be read in the context of the economic upheaval
of the late nineteenth century (“The Red Badge of Class: Stephen Crane and
the Industrial Army” [2005]). While Lawson’s reading is suggestive and points
toward the kind of creative work that can still be done in considering the context
of the novel’s creation, a great deal of critical attention continues to be paid to the
accuracy of Crane’s portrayal of war and to questions of theme.
Primary Works
The Red Badge of Courage: A Facsimile Edition of the Manuscript,
two volumes,
edited by Fredson Bowers (Washington, D.C.: NCR/Microcard Editions,
1972, 1973).
Robert W. Stallman,
Stephen Crane: A Biography
(New York: Braziller, 1968).
One of the earliest biographies of Crane. Stallman argues for a religious interpre
tation of
The Red Badge of Courage.
Charles Johanningsmeier, “The 1894 Syndicated Newspaper Appearances of
The Red
Badge of Courage,
” American Literary Realism, 40 (Spring 2008): 226–247.
Andrew Lawson, “The Red Badge of Class: Stephen Crane and the Industrial
Literature and History,
14 (October 2005): 53–68.
Perry Lentz,
Private Fleming at Chancellorsville:
The Red Badge of Courage
the Civil War
(Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006).
James Nagel, “Donald Pizer, American Naturalism, and Stephen Crane,”
in American Naturalism,
1, no. 2 (2006): 30–35.
Donald Pizer, ed.,
Critical Essays on
The Red Badge of Courage (Boston: G. K.
Hall, 1990).
Charles C. Walcutt,
American Literary Naturalism, a Divided Stream
lis: University of Minnesota Press, 1956).
Includes the chapter “Stephen Crane: Naturalist and Impressionist.”
Stanley Wertheim and Paul Sorrentino,
The Crane Log: A Documentary Life of
Stephen Crane, 1871–1900
(New York: G. K. Hall, 1994).
Stephen Crane


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
which he published to wide acclaim. A subsequent collection of short stories,
Little Regiment and Other Episodes of the American Civil War
(1896), reinforced
Crane’s reputation as a writer of war tales. In late 1896, Irving Bacheller,
headed a newspaper syndicate, hired Crane to visit Cuba
and report on the Cuban
insurrection. “The Open Boat,” which many readers consider Crane’s finest short
story, resulted from his disastrous attempt to reach Cuba.
In late November 1896 Crane found himself in Jacksonville, Florida
, with
many other journalists searching for a way to reach Cuba. Finally, on New Year’s
Eve, Crane sailed aboard the
which was loaded with supplies and
ammunition for the Cuban insurgents. Sailing in a dense fog, the
struck a sandbar less than two miles offshore. After several hours, a revenue cut
ter towed the
off the sandbar and sent it on its way. The night of
January 1, 1897, a leak developed, the mechanical pumps proved defective, and
criticism was based on Beer’s fraudulent information that previous work must be
scrutinized and, in many cases, scrapped entirely. Christopher
Benfry’s biography,
the first since Beer was discredited, makes a good start. The finest biographical
work is a documentary biography, not a narrative one.
The Crane Log
edited by
Wertheim and Sorrentino, contains the fullest gathering of facts available about
Crane’s life and work. For further critical studies, see the secondary bibliographies
by Patrick K. Dooley and R. W. Stallman.
Readers can approach “The Open Boat” in many ways. A historical approach
can help put the work in context. Warner’s essay is the best place to go for
understanding the Cuban insurrection and American attitudes toward it.
Similar studies could enhance the appreciation of “The Open Boat” sig
nificantly. This short story can also be appreciated in terms of its literary
style. Crane has alternatively been labeled a Realist, a Naturalist, and an
Impressionist. P. Adams identifies Naturalist elements in the story. Charles
R. Metzger demonstrates Crane’s use of Realist techniques. Stefanie Bates-
Eye takes a different look at its style, identifying its affinity with Crane’s
With “The Open Boat” Crane anticipated techniques that would be developed
by the New Journalists of the 1960s and 1970s. Crane’s sophisticated use of
narrative point of view offers many opportunities for study. Kevin J. Hayes
compares the point of view in this story with that in other Crane stories. James
Nagel provides the fullest treatment of the subject. Sura P. Rath and Mary
Neff Shaw apply the critical theory of Mikhail Bakhtin to look at how Crane’s
third-person narrative incorporates multiple voices.
“The Open Boat” also lends itself to different philosophical approaches. Oliver
Patrick K. Dooley,
Stephen Crane: An Annotated Bibliography of Secondary Scholar
(New York: G. K. Hall, 1992).
Divided into sections treating biography, general criticism, and criticism focused
on individual works or groups of works. Supplement Dooley with reference to
the periodical bibliographies in
Stephen Crane Studies
Stephen Crane


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
R. W. Stallman,
Stephen Crane: A Critical Bibliography
(Ames: Iowa State Univer
sity Press, 1972).
While superseded by Dooley’s list of modern criticism of “The Open Boat,” still
useful for its list of reviews of
The Open Boat and Other Tales of Adventure
Christopher Benfey,
The Double Life of Stephen Crane
(New York: Knopf, 1992).
This thesis-driven study elaborates Willa Cather’s idea that Crane lived a double
life, first writing about subjects that interested him and then attempting to live
what he had written.
Stanley Wertheim and Paul Sorrentino,
The Crane Log: A Documentary Life of
Stephen Crane, 1871–1900
(New York: G. K. Hall, 1994).
Midwest Quarterly,
4, no. 4 (1962): 47–54.
Analyzes Crane’s use of description and irony to show how the story exemplifies
the practice of literary Realism.
George Monteiro, “The Logic beneath ‘The Open Boat,’”
Georgia Review,
(Fall 1972): 326–335.
Identifies some new sources for Crane’s story, showing how they clarify his depic
tion of human behavior.
Emily Dickinson


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
cicles”), some of which she sent to her many correspondents, and some of which
The 1890, 1891, and 1896 collections of Dickinson’s poems separated them
One way to study Dickinson’s often dense and confusing poems is to start with
those that take their readers on a journey. “I started Early—Took my Dog—”
is a poem that, in many ways, tells a very simple story: the “I” starts early, takes
Once comfortable with the mappable poems, students can move onto the slightly
more complicated fractured journey poems, such as “Because I could not stop for
Death—.” Who are the figures on this journey? What are they doing in the same
carriage? Where do they go and why do they go there? It quickly becomes clear
to any reader that this poem is not a depiction of a simple carriage ride, but is the
narration of how the speaker is grappling with her memory of how both space
and time were ordered in her own death scene. How does Dickinson move from
what seems like a simple declaration about the situation of the “I” in the present
to this complicated reflection on death, eternity, and time?
While some poems begin and end a journey (“I started Early—
Took my
Dog—”) and others begin and disrupt a journey (“Because I could not stop
for Death—”), still other poems have no stake at all in the movement a jour
Emily Dickinson


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
ney requires. Instead, many of Dickinson’s poems capture the still moment of
looking and hearing. “There’s a certain Slant of light,” for example, situates
its reader at a certain time of day (afternoon) and at a certain time of year
(winter), a moment when that “certain slant of light” can be both seen and felt.
Each reader imagines some kind of light, and the poem evokes this light with
out revealing anything about it. What are the different senses that Dickinson
employs to describe this light? If this light leaves “no scar” and is unteachable,
what is Dickinson doing writing a poem about it? Is there any narrative to
follow in this poem?
One might say that the complicated nature of the light that Dickinson is
describing demands a complicated explanation, and this would hold true
for many of her poems. Whether she is describing watching a bird (“A Bird
came down the Walk—”), imagining the specific sound a fly makes (“I heard
a Fly buzz—when I died”), or describing her life in metaphorical terms (“My
Life had stood—a Loaded Gun—”), Dickinson finds some unexpected and
startling ways of describing her experience in language so rich and with turns
so abrupt. While most of her poems are written in short alternating lines of
iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, their rhyme schemes are almost always
a-b-c-b, she rarely includes a title, and she breaks with standard uses of punctu
ation (including, most dramatically, unconventional capitalizations and dashes);
no two Dickinson poems work exactly the same way. In order to see this, stu
dents can take two poems that are ostensibly about the same thing and note all
of the different formal tactics that Dickinson uses to render them unique.
Because many of Dickinson’s manuscripts are accessible, there are also sev
eral approaches that looking at the materials themselves makes available to
students. For instance, look at the manuscripts that Franklin reproduces in
The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson
(1989) or online at the
Electronic Archives
(www.emilydickinso&#xwww7;.em;&#xil-1;y12; ic-;ki;&#xnso5;&#xn.or;&#xg000; [accessed 25 August 2009]),
and grapple with the variant words and phrases that Dickinson often copied
at the bottom of her poems, analyze the different choices that her editors
have made when publishing her poems, and look at drafts of the same poem
Primary Work
Alfred Habegger,
My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson
(New York: Random House, 2001).
roux, 1974).
The first major study of Dickinson’s life, with chapters largely organized
around her relationships with individual family members, friends, and
Sharon Cameron,
Choosing Not Choosing: Dickinson’s Fascicles
(Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1992).
Explores how reading poems in relation to the others bound into the same fas
cicle can shift our sense of what a poem is about.
Jack L. Capps,
Emily Dickinson’s Reading: 1836–1886
(Cambridge, Mass.: Har
vard University Press, 1966).
Offers description and analysis of the books found in Dickinson’s library, the peri
odicals to which her family subscribed, Dickinson’s marginalia, and any mention
ton University Press, 2005).
Emily Dickinson


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Marta L. Werner, ed.,
Emily Dickinson’s Open Folios: Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of
(Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995).
Looks closely at Dickinson’s understudied late scraps, which were often written
on pieces of household paper, including the backs of kitchen lists, advertisements,
and bills.
—Alexandra Socarides
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906)
Paul Laurence
Dunbar is regarded as one of the most significant African American
writers. He was born in
Dayton, Ohio, on 27 June 1872, the son of Matilda
(a former
slave) and Joshua
(a former slave, plasterer, and soldier), who married six months
before his birth and divorced by the time he was three. Raised by his mother, he had
three siblings: two older brothers from his mother’s first marriage and a younger
sister, who died at age three of malnutrition. Like his sister he was sickly and his
mother took every precaution and spared no expense, despite their overwhelming
poverty, to maintain his health and ensure his education. Unlike his brothers, who
had to leave school to work and support the family, Dunbar completed high school.
His mother’s efforts paid off, as Dunbar earned high marks and evidenced a bright
intellect and artistic ability. He presented his first original poem
(“An Easter Ode
at thirteen; had his first published poem (“Our Martyred Soldiers
”) appear in the
Dayton Herald
at seventeen; and started the short-lived
Dayton Tattler
an African
American newsletter printed by Orville and Wilbur Wright, at eighteen.
both the time and money afforded him. He purchased a home for himself and his
mother, spent time reading literature and composing works, gave public recitals, and
sold his first short story (“The Tenderfoot,
” 1891). During this time he also made
important connections that would lead to the publication of his first two books
of poetry:
Oak and Ivy
(1893) and
Majors and Minors
(1895). Invited by a former
teacher, he gave a well-received recitation of a welcome poem—before a predomi
nately white audience—at the meeting of the Western Association of Writers
Dayton in 1892, which marked a turning point in his career. The audience was
Paul Laurence Dunbar


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Given that Dunbar’s fame is acknowledged as having come on the heels of
Other topics for research and discussion might consider Dunbar’s use of sig
nifying (playful goading) in his depiction of Negro and white characters. Spe
cifically, students might approach Dunbar’s use of stereotypes from multiple
An alternative view of reading his writing is to analyze Dunbar the man as a
key element, or extension, of his works. That is, Dunbar might be considered
One of the most recent and provocative perspectives on Dunbar comes from
research in the intersecting areas of gender and race. In particular, scholars
such as Eleanor Alexander have called into question the extent to which
Dunbar’s own troubled marriage and his relationship with women in general
might serve as a model for understanding not only his work, but also black
emerge. One vital question should not be overlooked: given that both his
womanizing and his violence toward women—Alice Dunbar-Nelson, in
particular—was well documented, why has this issue been largely ignored
by critics (during and immediately after his life and in recent scholarship)?
Research that considers Dunbar’s work from this perspective will necessarily
guide students into research that considers the less-than-celebratory aspects of
Primary Works
ville: University Press of Virginia, 1993).
Paul Laurence Dunbar


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
African American Review,
Special Issue, Paul Laurence Dunbar, 41 (Summer 2007).
Twenty-five essays taken from the 2006 Paul Laurence Dunbar Centennial
Conference at Stanford that “uncover neglected aspects . . . challenge [existing]
assumptions” and analyze “forms and genres [he] helped to pioneer, such as epis
Alice Moore, 1895) and
The Goodness of St. Rocque
and Other Stories
(as Alice
Dunbar) collected her literary work in book form. She also edited two volumes
of African American speeches (
Masterpieces of Negro Eloquence: The Best Speeches
Delivered by the Negro from the Days of Slavery to the Present Time
[1914] and
Dunbar Speaker and Entertainer
[1920]). She died in Philadelphia in 1935.
The Goodness of St. Rocque and Other Stories
is regarded as Dunbar-Nelson’s
finest literary work. Whereas her first book contained poems, reviews, essays,
and short fiction, this collection is devoted to short stories. Since most of them
All fourteen stories assembled in Dunbar’s second anthology exhibit more or
Alice Dunbar-Nelson


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
graceful, and beautiful, emerges as Theophilé’s bride at the end of the story,
In several of the stories, the protagonists become victims of circumstances
over which they have no control. In an intellectual atmosphere that resembles
Stephen Crane’s view of an indifferent universe in “The Open Boat,” Dunbar’s
characters suffer and die for reasons that are incomprehensible to them and
be asked about “A Carnival Jangle,” in which a young girl is a victim of mistaken
identity. Dunbar actually heightens the effect when she allows Sylves (“When
the Bayou Overflows”) and Sophie (“Little Miss Sophie”) to come very close to
their goals only to deny them their realization. “Tony’s Wife” ends on a similarly
depressing note when the reader learns that a dying man refuses to acknowledge
as his legitimate wife the woman with whom he has lived. Why does he refuse to
deny her legitimacy? Does Dunbar’s emotionless narration provide a clue? The
student may also wish to consider whether his cold and harsh decision to leave
her destitute is the unavoidable result of an abusive relationship. What about the
ethnic differences between the two? Is it relevant to a reading of the text that the
man is Italian and his consort is German?
The impact of a dramatic turning point in a person’s life also lies at the heart
of “M’sieu Fortier’s Violin,” in which an elderly musician loses his job at the
French Opera in New Orleans partly because he has gradually lost the dexter
ity needed to handle a violin and partly because the new management of the
opera house hires younger talent from France. Is this drama of an aging artist
The problem of identity is posed in other stories in the collection. In “A Car
A pair of stories illustrate Dunbar’s refusal to oversimplify her plots and her
tendency to show both the virtues and the flaws of her characters as in “Titee,”
a story about a problem child, who sacrifices himself in order to feed a poor old
man. These techniques are also apparent in “The Praline Woman,” technically
the most unconventional story in the collection, mostly narrated in monologue
Perhaps surprisingly, among the many engaging themes and topics addressed
in Dunbar’s work, the problem of race does not figure prominently. Does the
apparent lack of racial consciousness mar her fiction? Certainly a lively debate
over the issue has erupted among critics. While some of them have criticized her
Alice Dunbar-Nelson


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
for apparently ignoring racial themes (Hull), others have praised her complex
representations of race (Strychacz) and the subtleties involved in the depiction of
her Creole characters (Brooks). Students may wish to weigh these arguments for
themselves. Does Dunbar really ignore race, or is her treatment of racial themes
Lori Leathers Single, “Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson (1875–1935),” in
African Amer
ican Authors, 1745–1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook,
edited by
Emmanuel S. Nelson (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000), pp. 139–146.
A comprehensive list of Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s publications.
Eleanor Alexander,
Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow: The Tragic Courtship and Mar
riage of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore
(New York: New York
University Press, 2001).
One of the earliest extensive studies of Dunbar-Nelson’s short fiction by the
scholar who recovered the author’s work, edited her diary, and wrote an intro
duction to a modern reprinting of her writings in the Schomburg Library of
Nineteenth-Century Black Women.
Thomas Strychacz, “‘You . . . Could Never Be Mistaken’: Reading Alice Dunbar-
Nelson’s Rhetorical Diversions in
The Goodness of St. Rocque and Other Stories,

Studies in American Fiction,
36 (Spring 2008): 77–94.
“The Love Song of J
Alfred Prufrock”
T. S. Eliot


Realism and Regionalism, 1865

title, with its invocation of the traditional “love song,” and the epigraph from
(XXVII, 61–66):
The speaker, Guido da Montefeltro, continues to fear infamy on earth even
while condemned to hell. He is willing to address Dante truthfully because

As the poem progresses, it becomes less clear whether the speaker is addressing
a (female) beloved, the reader of the poem, or, in fact, anyone at all. A related
approach to this poem could therefore attempt to determine the status of the
addressee. Though the “you” makes several reappearances (at lines 10, 27, 30,
31, 56, 78, 89, and 95), the forms of address and the subjects on which the
speaker meditates become increasingly bizarre if the addressee is a beloved. At
lines 37–46, the speaker repeatedly questions his own ability to take action:
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
Another potential, but not necessarily related, approach to the poem would
entail an analysis of the themes of failed communication, especially those
Prufrock shares his fantasies of heroic action—and they do remain, fun
damentally, fantasies—with his beloved, but her reaction seems to indicate
utter incomprehension. How is this theme related to the overall structure of
a poem that purports to be a “love song”?
One of the most important aspects of the structure of this very strange,
“modern” love song is the way in which Eliot has adapted the form of the
dramatic monologue, a concept popularized by the nineteenth century
poet Robert Browning, through his own concept of the “persona.” That
is to say, Eliot is
Prufrock, though they may appear to share some
similarities, at least superficially (Eliot was at one point well-known for
wearing his hair “part[ed]. . . behind,” in what was considered a fashionable
style). The dramatic monologue is a poetic form not unlike the monologue
in a play, where the speaker speaks uninterrupted to another, usually silent,
interlocutor (who may be named or, as in “Prufrock,” implied). Readers
are “listening in” on this one-sided conversation, becoming aware through
the performance of the speaker of information that he often inadvertently
reveals—and may not even fully realize himself. The dramatic monologue
in the Browning tradition tended to direct heavy irony toward characters
who were criminal, insane, unsavory, or possibly all three. For Eliot, this
new notion of the person
persona becomes an integral part of the subject
of the poem as well as the form.
An approach to the poem that attends to the notion of the modernist
dramatic monologue might assess what type of speaker Eliot has created
for the poem, and why? That is, what kind of person is Prufrock? Is the
T. S. Eliot


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
reader meant to admire him, sympathize with him, despise him, or some
tenuous combination of these reactions? The dramatic monologue form
allows the reader insight into Prufrock’s mind even while it ensures a
kind of ironic distance from him. What insights does this notion of the
“persona” provide for this speaker? This approach could be extended to
reveal the way the poem represents the “persona” as theme as well as form:
Prufrock, the persona, admits repeatedly that his “self” is propped up, if
not wholly supported, by such surface niceties as clothing, hair style, and
social graces.
Though Eliot adapted Browning’s use of blank verse (unrhymed iambic
pentameter) in the dramatic monologue into what is purportedly free verse
in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” he uses other formal effects to
structure his poem. A formal approach to this poem could focus on any
of these. One of the first of these is his use of repeated sound structures
and rhyme. Though “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” does not
have a regular rhyme scheme, the use of rhyme within the poem remains
important. Why would a poet who chooses to eschew both meter and a
traditional rhyme scheme retain the use of such structured sounds? What
effects do these patterns of sound add to the poem?
Eliot’s use of end rhymes exemplifies a principle that is repeated in differ
The poem employs a type of repetition without a difference in the refrain,
“In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo.” This
refrain is repeated after the first and second verse paragraphs, and, as
refrains go, it seems a strange one. Rather than tying together or summa
rizing ideas put forward in the previous lines, it seems to come from out
of nowhere; it emphasizes pointless movement and phatic speech in two
lines of pentameter, the first characterized by rising rhythm, the second
by falling rhythm. What is the meaning of this refrain? And what is its
structural purpose within the poem? Who are these “ladies” and where
are the “rooms” in which they “come and go”? It may be that the “present”
of the poem takes place in the “rooms” in which the ladies come and go,
and the opening invocation and street scene occurs only in the speaker’s
mind—or the reverse may be true. Or both settings could be fantasies of
sorts. The interpretive option the reader chooses helps to determine the
ultimate “meaning” of the poem.
A final approach to “Prufrock” would consider the conclusion of the poem,
which is marked by a very striking extended image, in relation to the poem
as a whole:
I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown. (lines 119–131)
While Prufrock’s ruminations on aging seem to lead to a renewed assurance
of risk-taking, the next three lines, unusually suffused with color, describe
the speaker’s vision of the mermaids, “Combing the white hair of the waves
blown back.” Curiously, in the next line, the first-person singular pronoun
shifts to the first-person plural with the final lines 129–131. The pronoun
“we” has not been used in the poem until these final lines, and readers are
left to wonder, who is this “we”? Is it the speaker and his listener, the “you
and I” from line 1? If so, how can the reader reconcile the image of the
relationship that is created here, which is vastly different from the one given
off as a scavenging crab underneath the ocean, is the only other moment
of such imagery in the poem, but it resonates with the “mermaid” section,
invoking very different reactions to and depictions of a dramatically dark
solitude. This imagery and affect offer additional opportunities for thematic
analysis and close reading.
The mermaid section, unlike the silent and solitary crab fantasy, involves
T. S. Eliot


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
of the poem as a statement on art, and art’s efficacy to intervene in the daily
human world? “We”—perhaps humanity? the speaker and his beloved? or
Jewel Spears Brooker, “Eliot Studies: A Review and a Select Booklist,” in
Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot,
edited by A. David Moody (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 236–246.
The most definitive, accessible, and recent of many bibliographies.
Ronald Schuchard,
Eliot’s Dark Angel: Intersections of Life and Art
(New York:
Oxford University Press, 1999).
The most current and authoritative study of Eliot’s life, which interprets his literary
contributions in order to generate insights about his career, relationships, and times.
John Xiros Cooper,
The Cambridge Introduction to T. S. Eliot
(New York: Cam
bridge University Press, 2006).
Offers an approachable, jargon-free overview of Eliot’s life and work that is spe
cifically intended for an audience of readers with little background in modernist
James Longenbach,
Sui Sin
Mrs. Spring Fragrance
(Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1912)
The Asian American author Sui Sin Far was named Edith Maude
Eaton at birth in
in 1865. Her father was an English merchant who had met her mother in
Shanghai. Edith Eaton was the second of fourteen children. Her family immigrated
to the United States, where they lived briefly, before moving to
Montreal, Quebec.
She left school at the age of ten to work and help support her family. Eaton wrote
articles for newspapers in Canada about the Chinese
before moving first to Jamaica
and then to
San Francisco and
Seattle, where she lived in the Chinatowns. She
later wrote fiction about the experience of the Chinese who had settled in North
America during the period of the so-called “Yellow Peril
.” Her short-story cycle
Mrs. Spring Fragrance,
a seminal text in the history of Asian American writing,
appeared in 1912, and she died from heart disease two years later.
Other Asian American writers had published before Sui Sin Far, a pseudonym
referring to the narcissus flower popular in Chinese culture. The earlier writers,
however, set their tales in Asia or wrote in Asian languages. Sui Sin Far’s fiction is
the first to explore the Chinese experience in North America and in E
glish. The
writer’s mixed-blood perspective and international experience allowed for a range
of insights into the struggle between East and West at a time China was the target
of colonization by European, North American, and Japanese interests.
Mrs. Spring Fragrance
begins with the introduction of the title character as
she arrives in Seattle. She speaks no English. Within five years, however, she has a
complete knowledge of “American” vocabulary. One of her friends, so thoroughly
Americanized that her parents call her Laura
, is in love with a young native-born
American of Chinese descent, Kai Tzu
, whose assimilation
is represented by his skill
at baseball. Laura’s parents live in an American house and dress in American fash
ion, but they adhere to some Chinese customs and honor the ideals of their Chinese
ancestors. As a result, they have arranged a marriage between their fifteen-year-old
daughter and the son of a Chinese Government teacher in San Francisco. As Lau
ra’s confidante, Mrs. Spring Fragrance
is the only person who knows of the young
woman’s relationship with her American-born beau. She comforts Laura with the
words of the “American” poet, Alfred Tennyson
: “

Tis better to have loved and lost,
/ Than never to have loved at all.” Mrs. Spring Fragrance’s mistake—Tennyson was
glish, not American—underscores her assimilation into American society.
Mrs. Spring Fragrance chats with Laura for a long time, and when the con
versation ends Laura is much happier. The story shifts at this point to a visit Mrs.
Spring Fragrance makes to her family and friends in San Francisco. From there
she writes to Laura to say that the man she had expected to marry but did not
love will in fact marry Ah Oi
, whose name is clearly Chinese and who is given
no “American” name. The son of the government teacher will marry according to
tradition, leaving Laura free to marry with Kai Tzu.
Sui Sin Far


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
the other from a cousin in San Francisco. The latter reports his wife’s frequent
company with the government teacher’s son, adding an admonition that women
who are allowed to stray from under their husbands’ mulberry roofs become
butterflies. Although Mr. Spring Fragrance concludes that his cousin is old and
cynical and in America men and women might converse without an evil pur
pose, he harbors a small kernel of doubt. That kernel takes root as he considers
compliments he and his wife have received for her assimilation into American
Sui Sin Far’s stories focus on the issues of immigration and assimilation. How
do they handle notions of cultural transplantation? What is the purpose of
Sui Sin Far’s floral imagery? How does the author treat the idea of romantic
love? How does she contrast arranged Asian marriages with marriages based
on courtship and romance? How does Sui Sin Far portray Asian femininity
and Asian masculinity transplanted to the New World?
Much as Henry James is well known for his treatment of the “international
theme,” Sui Sin Far contrasts the social codes of the Asians and Asian Ameri
cans with the customs of Euro-Americans in the New World. Why does Mr.
How do the repeated references in the story to “American” language, in which
the Chinese characters conflate the dialects of America and England, critique
Western caricatures and stereotypes of Asians and Asian Americans?

nese Exclusionary Act of 1882, which was renewed in 1892 and again in 1902.
In what ways does Sui Sin Far satirize Western bias against the Chinese? Why
does Mrs. Spring Fragrance describe the “magniloquent” lecture she attended
with an American friend and why is the description ironic? In what ways does
Mrs. Spring Fragrance
contrast the customs of East and West in the lives of
Chinese immigrants in America? How do these stories present Westerners as
different or “Other,” their ways mysterious and strange to the Chinese who
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
, and Mary and her siblings were brought up with intense religious
instruction. Her father was a carpenter, but financial circumstances forced him to
abandon that trade. The family moved to Brattleboro, Vermont
, when Mary was
still a young child, and Warren Wilkins opened a dry-goods store there. Mary
graduated from high school in Brattleboro in 1870 and then attended Mount
Holyoke Female Seminary
. The religious indoctrination at the seminary was too
intense for her, and she came home a “nervous wreck” at the end of a year and
concluded her formal education. She taught for a brief time at a girls’ school. In
addition to her household duties, he pressed his wife to write more and more fic
tion for the money needed to support his addiction. In 1919 Freeman had him
committed to the New Jersey State Hospital for the Insane
to be treated for his
drinking. They were legally separated in 1922, and he died the next year. Now in
her seventies, Mary Wilkins Freeman was recognized for her achievement as a
writer, winning the William Dean Howells Gold Medal for Fiction
in 1926. The
same year, along with Edith Wharton
As a “local color” writer, Freeman wrote about what she knew best—the
farms and villages of New England; very rarely do her narratives take place
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
and Reinhardt’s book,
A Web of Relationship,
provide a foundation for critical
examination of the story as feminist.
“A Church Mouse” begins with the elderly, impoverished, and now homeless
Hetty Fifield applying for the job of church sexton. As the titles indicates,
she is as poor as a church mouse; it will turn out that she is the mouse that
roared. The deacon, Caleb Gale, is stubbornly resistant to the idea, for no
woman has ever been a sexton, and makes a series of lame excuses why she
cannot occupy the position. Hetty has nowhere to stay that night and pro
poses to sleep in the church. Caleb objects until Hetty proposes that she
could sleep in his house; he relents. Hetty becomes the sexton, moves into
the meeting house, dutifully cleans it, and just as dutifully rings the bell at
the appointed times. Clearly, Hetty Fifield poses a problem for this com
munity: no one wants to take her because they know that she does not bend
to voice of authority, nor is there a poorhouse in the village, and with some
perplexity alongside the voice of their “Puritan consciences” the villagers
accept the situation, for a while. Hetty moves her small store of belongings
into the church, cordons off a space beside the chimney with her bright,
sunflower quilt, and takes up residence. Hetty Fifield is a feisty New England
woman, but she may also be shrewd and she senses she is the “propounder
of a problem,” but she knows too that so long as the exact nature of that
problem remains unguessed by the village, she has the advantage.
But what sort of problem does she pose? Is it a moral or religious one, or is
it social and political in nature? More important, perhaps, does the solution
to the problem have long-lasting and transformative effects on the village?
For three months things go well enough until she overplays her hand and
cooks turnips and cabbage for Saturday dinner, and the odor lingers in the
church on Sunday morning. Caleb Gale decides that Hetty must leave the
church, and on her part she feels like a “little animal driven from its cover,
for whom there is nothing left but warfare and death.” Hetty slyly bolts
herself inside the church, and makes her “sacred castle impregnable except
to violence.” Befuddled, Mr. Gale hands the situation over to the authority
of his wife, and thus there is a quiet transfer of power from the patriarchs
to the matriarchs of the village. It is from the gallery window that Hetty
pleads her case, mostly to the women of the village, in a direct, homespun
dialect, and it is Mrs. Gale who makes a judgment. Hetty can move into the
little room beside the pulpit, where the minister hangs his hat; that will be
her new home.
Is it possible that Freeman is making an oblique and wry comment on the
widespread anti-Catholic hysteria in the country at this time? On Christmas
Eve, Hetty is filled with joy for her “little measure full of gifts.” She awakes
the next morning with the promise from Mrs. Gale of some turkey and
plum pudding. So grateful is she that, without knowing why, she rings the
church bells to awaken the town. Hetty, who had earlier been suspected of
“popery” for putting a wax cross on the pulpit, has now violated an unspoken
taboo, for never before had the church bell been rung on Christmas; it glad
dens the villagers nonetheless. This simple little tale subtly dramatizes the
change of gender roles, the loosening up of orthodox religious sensibility, and
implicitly asks the question that is plaguing the nation at large—what are
we to do with our poor, homeless, and elderly? At the same time, it creates
in Hetty Fifield something of a village hero (fearless, determined, and in
her own fashion eloquent) out the most unlikely materials. Students of this
story might want to investigate how villages dealt with the problems Hetty
presents to them, whether the comedy of the situation detracts from or
enhances the feminist qualities in the story, and perhaps whether this piece
of local color had broader reference to the social problems of the nation at
large during this time period.
Edward Foster,
Mary Wilkins Freeman
(New York: Hendricks House, 1956).
Somewhat dated but straightforward account of Freeman’s life. Foster is more
interested in the writer’s craft and the influences upon her than in providing a
psychological portrait of the woman.
Leah Blatt Glasser,
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Mary R. Reichardt,
Mary Wilkins Freeman: A Study of the Short Fiction
(New York:
Twayne, 1997).
nder the Lion’s Paw

Harper’s Weekly
(7 September 1889): 726–727; collected in
(Boston: Arena, 1891)
Hamlin Garland (1860–1940) grew up on farms in Wisconsin
, Iowa
, and the
s before moving to
Boston in 1884 to begin his writing career. A pro
lific writer and active social reformer, Garland published books, stories, articles,
ing was easy, relaxing, and highly lucrative. In his preface to the book Garland
explained that these stories of “historical fiction” record “[t]he ugliness, the end
Hamlin Garland


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
self-respecting, independent farmers to serfdom. He has become a lord, spending
his days in leisure and living off the labor of others.
Haskins agrees to lease Butler’s land, and with Council’s financial help and
moral support he begins to farm it. After a year of desperately hard work—the
Although “Under the Lion’s Paw” addresses broad sociopolitical themes, its
Soon the Haskins family arrives, and the wives immediately begin discussing
common domestic concerns over tea while watching the children. One of these
children, Haskins’s nine-year-old son, will literally step into his father’s boots once
they move to their new farm, laboring “in his coarse clothing, his huge boots, and
his ragged cap, as he staggered with a pail of water from the well.” Garland writes
that although a “city-bred visitor” might see this as child abuse, Haskins loves his
son and would save him from this life if he could. Students might research what
farm life was like for children during Garland’s time and today.
Students might also discuss Garland’s use of local color, particularly dialect.
The story features regional dialects, a standard convention in local-color fic
tion. Council, the first character in the story to speak, says to his horse: “None
o’ y’r tantrums, Kittie. It’s purty tuff, but gotta be did.
” How does
Garland’s use of the Midwest farmers’ voices reflect his own populist politics?
Are his yeoman farmers politically engaged? What does Council read and
discuss after a day of exhausting manual labor?
Students might also examine the animal imagery in the story. How does
the oppressive “paw” in “Under the Lion’s Paw” symbolize selfish, ruthless
speculators? How does it represent the entire American economic and political
system? Students should research the Grange movement and populist politics
of this time period. Garland campaigned for Populist candidates during the
1890s, often reading “Under the Lion’s Paw” aloud at campaign rallies and
public lectures to arouse support for farmers, land speculation, urban labor,
and the populist movement. How does the story discourage the speculation in
land values in particular?
Finally, students might research the other progressive movements at the time.
In addition to writing and speaking on behalf of farmers, Garland advocated
other progressive social reform, including preservation of Indian land and
women’s rights. Many of Garland’s stories, including “Under the Lion’s Paw,”
feature a capable, hardworking farm woman. Do such portrayals promote gen
Primary Work
Joseph B. McCullough and Keith Newlin,
Hamlin Garland


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Charlotte Perkins
“The Yellow Wallpaper”
New England Magazine
5 (January 1892): 647–656
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935), born Charlotte Anna Perkins, was
low Wallpaper” finally appeared in January 1892. Though Gilman published the
equivalent of two dozen volumes during her career, the story remained her best-
known fictional work at her death in 1935.
Although “The Yellow Wallpaper” was republished at least twenty-two
times prior to 1973, it largely escaped scholarly attention until that year, when it
appeared in a Feminist Press
edition. This publication included an afterword by
Elaine Hedges
, who decried the story’s neglect. Since then, it has been elevated
to the canon, republished throughout the world, and adapted to opera, film, and
Elaine Hedges, along with other scholars, views “The Yellow Wallpaper” as
autobiographical. Gary Scharnhorst notes that Gilman warned against such a
reading due to discrepancies between her experiences and those of her protago
nist, who is named Jane. Gilman’s story can also be understood as an example
of American Realism. Gilman stated that the tale was about a woman’s “nervous
breakdown.” Loralee MacPike examines the story as an example of Realist
symbolism. The room’s wallpaper represents the state of Jane’s mind as a result
of her imprisonment in a nursery that works to keep her in a state of childish
dependence. Beate Schöpp-Schilling praises the tale for its realistic documenta
tion of Jane’s decline into mental illness. Hedges calls it a true account of the
sexual politics between men and women. Denise Knight concludes that the
story is a psychologically accurate portrayal of the effects of the rest cure and
inequitable marriages. Knight also posits that the narrator may not be insane
but rebelling as a result of the tremendous anger that she feels toward John.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” incorporates Gothic elements. In her autobiography,
Gilman speculates that Scudder rejected her story because it was similar to the
tales of Edgar Allan Poe. Juliann Fleenor argues that the Gothic has long been
a genre by which women voice rebellion and anger at their second class status.
According to Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, the disturbed doppelgänger
helps the female protagonist escape from male-dominated houses and texts in
order to imagine what health and freedom would be like.
standing of the story. Susan Lanser incorporates cultural fears of racial impu
rity to explain it. The yellowness of the wallpaper is evocative of the “yellow
Charlotte Perkins Gilman


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
male linguistic order imprisons women, and the wallpaper represents feminine
Primary Work
The Living of Charlotte Perkins: An Autobiography
(1935; reprinted, Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1991).
Based on Gilman’s diaries.
Julie Bates Dock, ed.,
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and the
History of Its Publication and Reception: A Critical Edition and Documentary
(University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998).
Juliann E. Fleenor, “The Gothic Prism: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Gothic
Stories and Her Autobiography,” in her
The Female Gothic
(Montreal: Eden,
1983), pp. 227–241.
Observes that the Gothic has been used to voice rebellion and anger over the
status of women.
Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar,
The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Knight and Cynthia J. Davis, eds.,
Approaches to Teaching Gilman’s “The Yellow
Wallpaper” and
Herland (New York: MLA, 2003).
Reminds teachers of Gilman’s didacticism and guides pedagogical approaches to
“The Yellow Wallpaper” and
, where he spent his teen years as a drugstore clerk. At twenty he went
to Texas
to help out on the ranch of some family friends. He later wrote for
the Houston
Daily Post
and other newspapers, finally settling in Austin, Texas,
where he took a job as teller at First National Bank
. He also wrote, illustrated,
and published a humorous weekly called the
Rolling Stone
which failed after
only a year.
When he was accused of embezzlement at the bank, he fled to
but returned in several months to be at his wife’s deathbed. He was
convicted and served three years in the Ohio
at Columbus. His
job in the prison dispensary left him much time to read and write, and after his
release in 1901 he went to New York City
to write for magazines. Employing
a variety of pen names to conceal his criminal record as well as his unnatural
productivity, he settled on “O. Henry” when that name began to command edi
tors’ attention and higher prices.
The decisive event in his career was an offer from the New York
of a contract for a story a week. Until then his fiction had drawn largely
on his experiences in Central America and the western and southern United
States. But the
wanted tales of New York, and the teeming life of the
city, combined with continual deadlines, drove him to produce what is widely
considered his best work. The
with a circulation of half a million, was
the most popular newspaper in the country, and his New York stories made
him nationally famous. From late 1903 through 1906, O. Henry published 113
stories in the
while continuing to write for
, McClure’s
and other
In 1904 O. Henry stitched together his magazine stories set in Honduras
to create a continuous narrative. The resulting book,
Cabbages and Kings
poorly, but his next collection extended his fame around the world. The stories
The Four Million
(1906), nearly all from the
depict the impoverished
lives of shop girls, the serial occupants of rented flats, and other members of
New York’s working class as well as of the leisure class. Other New York–themed
collections followed:
The Trimmed Lamp
The Voice of the City
(1908), and
Strictly Business
Heart of the West
collects tales of cowboys, law
men, and outlaws, and
The Gentle Grafter
(1908) takes up the con man types
that O. Henry met in prison. In all, he published nine books during his life; and
his uncollected stories filled several posthumous collections.
O. Henry’s eccentric work habits influenced the shape and even the con
tent of his stories. Despite his popularity, his casual handling of money often
left him strapped for cash. Too impatient to wait for royalties, he sold his
manuscripts outright to publishers and badgered editors for advances against
final payment. He alternated between procrastination and periods of intense
work when he attempted to fulfill his many commitments. He rarely delivered
an entire manuscript, instead dispatching his stories in what one editor called
“propitiatory fragments.” His distinctive style, rambling and discursive, was
well suited to this propensity for working close to deadline. Many of the stories
begin with miniessays on broad subjects such as adventure or destiny, providing
O. Henry


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
just enough information for an illustrator to begin work while buying the writer
more time to work out the details of his plot.
O. Henry saw himself more as pieceworker than litterateur. In 1908, however,
critical approval was added to popular acclaim with an appreciative essay about
his stories in the prestigious
North American Review
O. Henry began to take his
work more seriously and developed plans for a novel. But, drinking heavily and in
worsening health, his facility had already deserted him and he found it increas
ingly difficult in his final years even to produce short stories. He died destitute.
More critical appreciation followed his death—he was called “the Ameri
can Maupassant” and “the Bret Harte
of the City.” The first biography of O.
Henry, which appeared in 1916, claimed him as a major American short-story
writer who had built on the tradition of Washington
Irving, Edgar Allan
and Nathaniel Hawthorne
. That same year, however, a backlash set in, begun by
“The Journalization of American Literature,
” an essay by F. L. Pattee,
who saw
in O. Henry’s technical skill only superficiality. The Canadian writer Stephen
counterattacked with “O. Henry and His Critics
,” and the battle over
O. Henry’s literary stature continued to be fought throughout the 1920s. With
the rise of modernism and the “new” fiction, O. Henry came to seem passé and
the argument over his reputation moot.
It did not help matters that even his supporters did not bother to read him
closely. One early essay, according to Eugene Current-Garcia
, “set the pattern
for such critical analysis by skimming rapidly through each collection, synop
sizing action, situation, and/or personae in a succession of stories.” Critics who
subjected the stories to close readings did so in order to identify their short
comings: “thin and sketchy characterization,” a “mawkish and wheedling tone,”
“far-fetched coincidence,” and an ending that is “a shabby trick” was the verdict
of Cleanth
Brooks and Robert Penn
Warren in their study of “The Furnished
” in
Understanding Fiction
Though O. Henry’s work lived on in anthologies, and some of his char
acters—such as the Cisco Kid
(“The Caballero’s Way
”) and the safecracker
Jimmy Valentine
(“A Retrieved Reformation
”)—gained new life through dra
matic adaptations, many surveys of American literature took no notice of him.
O. Henry scholarship picked up somewhat in the 1960s and at intervals since
but is always at low ebb compared to the attention paid to his contemporaries
Stephen Crane
, Frank Norris
, Theodore Dreiser
, and Jack London
O. Henry was one of the several American short-story writers who began
as journalists in the late nineteenth century. Trying to find his place in the
magazine and newspaper market, he took as his models Crane, London,
Ambrose Bierce, and Richard Harding Davis. Newspapers competed for
their kind of exotic short fiction, and O. Henry’s peripatetic life provided
him with material that he could exploit in the same fashion. Other influ
ences were the tradition of humor from the Old Southwest and the local-
color genre, which was still popular. Students might consider what effect
O. Henry’s target market
periodical publications and their readers—had on
the shape and content of his fiction. His first biographer, C. Alphonso Smith,
gives details on his voracious reading, and Current-Garcia is a useful resource
for a discussion of the genres on which he drew.
Consider Smith’s argument that O. Henry’s worth resided not in his trade
mark surprise endings—skillful as they are—but in the fact that he “enlarged
the area of the American short story by enriching and diversifying its social
themes.” Smith was the first to attempt to catalog those themes: “turning
the tables” (rich folks masquerading as poor and vice versa, as in “While the
Auto Waits” and “Lost on Dress Parade”); attempts to conquer deeply rooted
habits or attachments (“From the Cabby’s Seat,” “The Romance of a Busy
Broker”); the lure of adventure and “what’s around the corner” (“The Green
Door,” “The Enchanted Kiss”); shop girls and others struggling to make
their way in the city (“A Lickpenny Lover,” “An Unfinished Story”); the city
as a collective entity with a distinct personality (“A Cosmopolite in a Café,”
“The Making of a New Yorker”); and contrasts between different regions of
the United States (“The Duplicity of Hargraves,” “The Pride of the Cities”).
Subsequent critics have suggested other useful frameworks for grappling
with O. Henry’s three-hundred-odd stories. Karen Charmaine Blansfield,
for instance, examines the formulas used to generate their plots. Some useful
areas for research are the social and intellectual developments that O. Henry
responded to in his stories: How does his treatment of habit, for example,
compare with writings on the subject by his contemporary William James?
O. Henry’s curiosity and sympathetic nature led him throughout his life to go
“slumming” in the poor sections of town; he found his material in the streets.
In so doing, he not only created the myth of New York City as a modern-day
land of Arabian Nights—“Bagdad-on-the-Subway,” as he called it—but also
tapped into the major currents of change that transformed the country in the
years between the Civil War and World War I: “Rapidly increasing wealth,
the rise of the city, expanding immigration, a widened spirit of reform, mass
education, a new scientific point of view, and the acceptance of technology”
(Jay Martin,
Harvests of Change
). O. Henry’s stories, especially the New York
stories, touch on all of these to some extent. Students are advised to choose
one of these currents of change and investigate how O. Henry treated it in
one or more of his stories.
The Four Million
in its range of protagonists casts a wider net than the typi
cal local-color collection. The title of O. Henry’s breakthrough book was his
response to Ward McAllister, who coined the phrase “the Four Hundred” to
define the number of people in fashionable New York society. An author’s note
explains that a “larger estimate of human interest has been preferred in marking
out the field of these little stories.” O. Henry stressed the individuality of the
oppressed; in showing how they counted their pennies and parceled out their
small luxuries in stories such as “The Gift of the Magi,” he revealed the human
dimension behind social statistics in a way that even Jacob Riis’s famous photo
graphs of tenement dwellers could not. His aims, in fact, were similar to those
of his contemporary John Sloan and other painters of the New York Realist
O. Henry


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
school. See David E. Shi’s
Facing Facts
for a discussion of how Sloan found his
material in the same streets that O. Henry frequented. Students might compare
an O. Henry story and a painting by a New York Realist and discuss the effect
the author’s and painter’s medium has on their artistic expression and the reader/
viewer’s perception of it.
O. Henry was a champion in particular of the shop girl and her sisters in the
workforce, and it was for his series of workingwoman stories in the
he was most renowned in his time. His factory workers, typists, and waitresses
The famous “O. Henry twist,” or trick ending, seems less important now
than his unique style. O. Henry peppered his stories with puns, dialects,
arcane words and allusions, and unexpected digressions. His style was
baroque yet playful and confiding, prefiguring humorists and metafictionists
such as S. J. Perelman and Donald Barthelme. There was a performance or
“stunt” aspect to his stories in the
they demanded endless invention, and
O. Henry no less than his readers took pleasure each week in discovering how
he would manage to pull it off yet again. He loved to pull back the curtain
and share the tricks of the writer’s trade, as when he second-guessed his own
choices: “It was a day in March. Never, never begin a story this way when you
write one” (“Springtime à la Carte”). Identify examples of O. Henry’s verbal
trickery and discuss its effect on the reader. For a focus on this aspect of his
work, see the formalist critics B. M. Ejxenbaum and Cesare Pavese as well
as Margaret Cannell’s “O. Henry’s Linguistic Unconventionalities,” in which
she argues that “O. Henry’s language is as surprising as his plots.”
Paul S. Clarkson,
A Bibliography of William Sydney Porter (O. Henry)
Idaho: Caxton, 1938).
Be warned: these books contradict each other on key points, and one should be
careful about accepting any statement at face value.
Gerald Langford,
Alias O. Henry: A Biography of William Sidney Porter
(New York:
Macmillan, 1957).
Still the most thorough and dependable biography, this was the first to address
C. Alphonso Smith,
O. Henry Biography
(New York: Doubleday, Page, 1916).
Superseded in many ways by Langford and others, but an excellent starting
William Wash Williams,
William Dean Howells


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Most of the early criticism of “Editha” centers on the story’s indictment both of
the war and Editha’s romantic notions of warfare and courtship. Early on, the
narrator reports that their courtship “was contemporaneous with the war feel
ing.” George appears indifferent to the public furor, while Editha literally pants
as she contemplates sending him off to battle. She parrots the papers, and George
speaks in tones that confuse Editha but are clearly ironic, as when he remarks,
“Our country—right or wrong.” Why does his mother condemn Editha, her
views, and the patriotic fervor at the end of the story? How is Editha ultimately
able to recover from her confrontation with Mrs. Gearson? An influential article
on the story by William J. Free will help students evaluate the ending of the
story, particularly Editha’s conversation with the artist (“Howells’ ‘Editha’ and
Pragmatic Belief,”
Studies in Short Fiction,
3 [Spring 1966]: 285–292).
While these readings tend to present Editha as ignorant and naive at best and
villainous at worst, some critics argue that George is also culpable in his down
fall (
The Portable American Realism Reader,
edited by James Nagel and Tom
Quirk [New York: Penguin, 1997], p. 412). To what extent is George complicit
in the events that lead to his undoing? In an interesting counterpoint to this
argument John W. Crowley argues that the story reveals Howells’s own guilt
and ambivalence regarding his decision not to take part in the decisive event
of his generation (“Howells’s Obscure Hurt,”
Journal of American Studies,
[August 1975]: 199–211). In this reading George’s death serves as an attempt
at self-vindication for Howells’s failure to volunteer during the Civil War. Is
there additional evidence for a biographical reading of the story? Is such a
biographical reading persuasive?
The story poses some fundamental questions about Editha: is she a villain

geography influence the opinions of the characters? How does Howells link
Ruth Bardon,
Selected Short Stories of William Dean Howells
(Athens: Ohio Uni
versity Press, 1997).
A concise introduction to much of the criticism of “Editha.” While a few stud
ies have been published in the years since, Bardon’s introduction to the story
still provides an effective entry to most of the scholarship on the story.
William Dean Howells


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Edwin H. Cady,
The Road to Realism, 1837–1885
(Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse
University Press, 1956) and
The Realist at War: The Mature Years, 1885–1920
(Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1958).
James first submitted “Daisy
Philadelphia, but
the story was declined because the editors deemed it an affront to American
womanhood. He next sent the manuscript to the
in London, where
it was first published. The story was soon pirated in the United States in the
absence of international copyright laws
. It proved to be a critical, if not entirely
a commercial, success. Several reprints of the novella were published, some with
extensive illustrations, and James later even converted the story into a play. The
script, published privately in 1882 in England and in the
Atlantic Monthly
following year, is quite different from the original, especially in its happy end
ing. In 1909 James substantially revised the story for the New York edition of
his works.
Daisy Miller
and the vacationing Winterbourne
meet in Vevey, Switzerland
when Daisy’s younger brother introduces them. While the boy is convinced that
New York surpasses anything found in Europe, Daisy is fascinated with high
society, to which she aspires. An American living abroad since childhood, Win
terbourne is unsure what to make of his young countrywoman’s attitude and
initially regards her as a mere flirt. He pursues his interest in Daisy despite the
efforts of his Aunt Costello
to discourage it. Her primary objection is the rela
tionship the Millers have with Eugenio
, their courier, a servant whose function
is to lead the family on their tour of Europe. Eugenio’s apparent intimacy with
the family prompts the disapproval of the American expatriate community, who
consider it vulgar. Mrs. Costello refuses to meet Daisy and studiously avoids her
throughout the story. Despite these objections, Winterbourne tours the Châ
teau de Chillon
with Daisy—significantly, without a chaperone.
The two young people inadvertently meet again in
Rome when he visits the
parlor of his American friend Mrs. Walker, who submits to the rules and fash
ions of European high society. When Daisy persists in behavior Mrs. Walker
considers risky or “unsafe,” such as meeting a man alone in the middle of the
afternoon, Mrs. Walker
also criticizes her. Mrs. Walker invites the Millers to a
party, but, as if to demonstrate how little she understands, Daisy asks to bring
a friend, the “third-rate” Italian Mr. Giovanelli
, who apparently is her suitor.
Both unaware of and unconcerned with the way she is seen by other expatriate
Americans in Rome, Daisy behaves as she pleases. Following the lead of Mrs.
Walker, Winterbourne tries to convince Daisy of the need for caution and
discretion in her public activities, particularly her casual attitudes about her
frequent rendezvous with men. She is dismissive, refusing to take any advice
seriously, and insists on her right to do precisely as she pleases, regardless of the
opinions of others.
When Daisy arrives at Mrs. Walker’s salon with Giovanelli, she becomes
something of a spectacle. Mrs. Walker turns her back on Daisy and prom
ises Winterbourne she will ostracize her in the future. Throughout the story
Winterbourne has persisted in defending Daisy, suggesting she is merely
“uncultivated,” but walking through the Colosseum
one night he sees her and
Giovanelli there together in the darkness. He decides that the “riddle” that is
Daisy had become “easy to read,” that she is common, if not compromised.
Warning of the dangers of “Roman fever,” or malaria to her health, he con
Henry James


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
vinces her to return to her hotel, although she insists that she does not care.
She returns too late, however, and falls ill. While Daisy is dying, Winterbourne
visits her family regularly; Giovanelli, not at all. At her burial Winterbourne
learns from Giovanelli how innocent Daisy truly was. Winterbourne realizes
he has “misread” Daisy’s character and admits to his aunt that he has “lived too
long in foreign parts.” Nevertheless, he returns to Geneva and a “very clever
foreign lady” there.
The fiction of Henry James is best known today for its treatment of the so-
James is sometimes regarded as a writer with a comic sense. Can “Daisy Miller”
be read as a burlesque, or parody, of a sentimental romance with its standard plot
of love triumphant? Or consider the different meanings the characters assign to
such terms as “intimate,” “flirt,” “society,” and “cool.”
Even though “Daisy Miller”
ends on a sorrowful note, can it be regarded as a comic novella of manners? Read
and evaluate Ohmann’s argument in this regard.
James also selected suggestive names for many of his characters. How is Daisy
like the flower and what does her surname suggest? How is Winterbourne an
appropriate name? Does it suggest reasons he fails to understand Daisy?
Viola Dunbar, “The Revision of ‘Daisy Miller,’”
Modern Language Notes,
65 (May
1950): 311–317.
An analysis of James’s revision of the novella for the New York Edition and his
more-carefully nuanced characterization of the heroine.
Lisa Johnson, “Daisy Miller: Cowboy Feminist,”
Henry James Review,
22 (Winter
2001): 41–58.
Summarizes much of the feminist criticism on the story, emphasizing Daisy’s
activities in the middle of the story rather than the approbation she receives
in its beginning or her untimely end. Johnson regards Daisy as a free agent in
control of her life, an admirable figure who makes her own decisions.
Paul Lukacs, “Unambiguous Ambiguity: The International Theme of ‘Daisy
Studies in American Fiction,
16 (Autumn 1988): 209–216.
Argues that from its first publication James’s novella has always invited two dis
tinct readings: that Daisy’s innocence is a virtue or that it is willful ignorance.
George Montero, “What’s in a Name? James’ ‘Daisy Miller,’”
American Literary
39 (Spring 2007): 252–253.
Discusses character names and their thematic significance.
Carol Ohmann, “Daisy Miller: A Study of Changing Intentions,”
36 (March 1964): 1–11.
Argues that the novella is a comedy of manners, “of different ways of living,”
and Daisy is nothing if not ignorant.
Philip Page, “Daisy Miller’s Parasol,”
Studies in Short Fiction,
27 (Fall 1990):
An analysis of James’s narratological technique in the novella.
Dennis Pahl, “‘Going Down’ with Henry James’s Uptown Girl: Genteel Anxi
ety and the Promiscuous World of Daisy Miller,”
12 (June 2001):
Reads James’s work as an effort to understand the complexities of class differ
ence between the uptown elite and the downtown nouveau riche.
Kimberly C. Reed and Peter G. Beidler, eds.,
Approaches to Teaching Henry
Daisy Miller
The Turn of the Screw (New York: MLA,
A valuable resource for students and teachers, with background readings and
several critical essays. As the title indicates, this text emphasizes pedagogical
approaches to two of James’s novellas. Three of the essays treat issues of gender
and sexuality in “Daisy Miller.”
William T. Stafford, “Henry James the American: Some Views of His Contem
Twentieth Century Literature,
1 (July 1955): 69–76.
A compilation of early responses to the fiction of Henry James, and hence a
helpful guide to understanding how “Daisy
was first received by readers
and scholars.
Sarah A. Wadsworth, “Innocence Abroad: Henry James and the Re-Invention
of the American Woman Abroad,”
Henry James Review,
22 (Spring 2001):
Notes similarities between “Daisy Miller” and Mary Murdoch Mason’s
suggesting that James designed his story around a popular literary
theme at the time, that of the American woman abroad.
—Rick Waters
Henry James


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
“A White Heron

A White Heron and Other Stories
(Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1886), pp. 1–21
Sarah Orne Jewett (1849–1909) was a popular writer in the late nineteenth century,
when literary Realists and local-color writers were in vogue. Jewett came from a
prestigious family in South Berwick, Maine
, and much of her writing is about life
in this area and in New England
generally. As a child she suffered from rheumatoid
arthritis and, as a consequence, would often miss school and travel with her father, a
prominent doctor, on his calls to local farms. These experiences became the basis for
A Country Doctor
(1884). She seems to have had no serious romantic relationships
in her life, and this fact has led to speculation about her sexuality; but as her biogra
pher Paula Blanchard
explains, “the choice of serious mates must have seemed rather
thin.” This scarcity was partly because her family represented a coterie of Maine’s
gentry in an otherwise rural farm community and partly because she was a teenager
during the Civil War
when the number of young men was seriously depleted. In any
case, many women of the time chose to stay single, and they were respected socially.
It is also clear that even as a young girl Jewett had career ambitions and recognized
that marriage for women was limiting. Her first short story was published when
she was only eighteen, and she managed to publish approximately seven or eight
short stories a year for the rest of her life; many of these stories were later reprinted
in collections, such as
A White Heron and Other Stories.
As one of the first women
in America to support herself by her writing, she was an important role model for
later female authors, particularly Willa Cather
Some recent critics have suggested that works of local color are often racist
or elitist in that the descriptions usually involve an upper-class, white narrator
describing some other ethnic group or social class from a bemused distance,
but this seems a difficult charge to level against Jewett, who is sympathetic,
appreciative, and involved with her “rustics.”
“A White Heron” comes relatively late in Jewett’s career and shows her as a
mature writer in control of her material. It is one of her most famous and often
anthologized works, and rightfully so. Meticulously crafted and often lyrical,
it has a style reminiscent of Nathaniel Hawthorne
, another of her early influ
ences. Like much of Hawthorne’s writing, however, it is a romance, and as such
is uncharacteristic of her work. Though set in Maine, the specific location is
purposely vague, suggesting a pastoral Eden outside of place and time.
The plot is straightforward. Nine-year-old Sylvia
has been sent to live with
her grandmother on a farm because she was unhappy living with her family in
the city. Rescued from the modern industrial town, symbolized by the aggressive,
red-faced boy who taunted her, Sylvia thrives in her new and isolated environ
ment; the grandmother and the girl live an idyllic life, until a young ornithologist
appears, searching for an elusive white heron. He suspects that Sylvia knows how
to find the bird and attempts to bribe her (first with the gift of a knife and later
with the promise of a ten-dollar reward) if she tells him where it is. Sylvia wants
to help, partly because, though only nine, she is attracted to him: “the woman’s
heart, asleep in the child, was vaguely thrilled by a dream of love.” However, she is


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
a loving dog to its master. Still another reading sees Sylvia as representing a par
ticularly feminine approach to understanding—intuitive, organic—whereas the
young man represents a stereotypically male approach: rational and dispassionate.
Another reading sees the story as a feminist remake of the traditional fairy tale:
according to this view, Sylvia is the modern woman, strong and independent, and
the ornithologist is a rejected Prince Charming.
Jewett’s stories often dramatize the conflict between older, primarily Chris
tian virtues and “modern” values associated with capitalism and the Gilded
Age. How could this dichotomy be applied to “A White Heron”? Not sur
prisingly, Jewett is particularly interested in the plight of women, and her
stories focus on issues stereotypically associated with women, such as mar
riage, the struggle for independence, and social/community harmony. How
does “A White Heron,” which is about a nine-year-old girl, address these
issues? Paradox and the difference between appearance and reality are also
common themes in Jewett’s work. Often, seemingly foolish country people
prove to be wise while sophisticated city folk are shown to be shallow and
self-serving. How does this play out in “A White Heron”? In terms of style,
Jewett often uses rhetorical techniques to create a sympathetic attitude
toward nature. Examine how Jewett describes the natural world in “A White
Heron” and consider how these descriptions affect the reader and advance
Jewett’s thesis.
While the phallic imagery—the gun, the knife, the pine tree, even the red-
faced boy who chases Sylvia—is obvious, critics have long speculated about
the significance of the white heron. Does it represent nature, purity, the girl’s
innocence, spiritual transcendence, artistic inspiration, or even a clitoris, to
name a few possibilities? Some recent critics have refocused the discussion
of Jewett’s work to the historical context and questioned her acceptance of
social Darwinism, particularly Anglo-Norman superiority, and challenged her
portrayal of racial, ethnic, and class stereotypes.
Paula Blanchard,
Colby Library Quarterly,
special Jewett issue, 22 (March 1986).
Includes Elizabeth Ammons’s “The Shape of Violence in Jewett’s ‘A White
Heron,’” a feminist reading that sees the story as a subversion of the traditional fairy
tale and Sylvia’s journey as a symbolic resistance to heterosexuality (pp. 6–16).
Karen L. Kilcup and Thomas S. Edwards, eds.,
Jewett and Her Contemporaries:
Reshaping the Canon
(Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1999).
A collection of critical essays that includes a review of Jewett criticism in addition
to several new critical approaches to her major works.
Karen K. Moreno, “‘A White Heron’: Sylvia’s Lonely Journey,”
Connecticut Review,
13 (Spring 1991): 81–85.
Sees “A White Heron” as “the quest myth in feminist terms.” Sylvia “becomes one”
with the natural world that the ornithologist attempts, but fails, to master through
Gwen L. Nagel, ed.,
Critical Essays on Sarah Orne Jewett
(Boston: G. K. Hall,
Includes two essays on “A White Heron”: “Heart to Heart with Nature: Ways of
Looking at ‘A White Heron,’” by George Held and “The Language of Transcen
dence in Sarah Orne Jewett’s ‘A White Heron,’” by Gayle L. Smith.
Elizabeth Silverthorne,
Sarah Orne Jewett: A Writer’s Life
(New York: Overlook,
A sympathetic biography with brief biographical readings of the major works,
including “A White Heron.”
Jules Zanger, “‘Young Goodman Brown’ and ‘A White Heron’: Correspondences
and Illuminations,”
Papers on Language and Literature,
26 (Summer 1990):
Claims to reveal “a series of shared elements: themes, settings, narrative sequences,
images” showing Jewett’s indebtedness to Hawthorne.
—Richard Randolph
Jack London
The Call of the Wild
(New York: Macmillan, 1903)
Jack London (1876–1916) was a man of great contradictions: a worshiper of lit
schean superman, and a Spencerian uncertain of his own heritage. Born to Flora
, London
’s childhood was never what one would call structured. His
father, almost certainly astrologer William Chaney
, was never present in his life.
Instead, Flora’s new husband, John London
, filled this patriarchal vacancy. After
Jack London


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
educational system, London briefly attended
Berkeley, although he never claimed
to be an “educated man.” Rather, his strength flowed from the books he read and
and tasting of the noblest game, man, Buck becomes the leader of the local wolf
pack, assuming the legendary status of the Ghost Dog
and gaining a more noble
lordship over the wilderness.
For many Naturalist writers, the main goal of their works was to understand
the fundamental laws that govern the universe and society. In what ways
does London use Buck’s situation to this end? Consider in particular the two
worlds in which Buck must survive. Are these worlds opposing, or do they
simply have a different set of values?
Whether London intended it or not, the two systems that Buck must work
under, those of civilization and the wild, also seem to apply to the human
characters within the book, making
The Call of the Wild
an allegory of the
human condition. London makes it clear that the wild and civilization are
not opposing forces; rather, they are complementary, two parts of the world
with different sets of values. When Buck served under Judge Miller in
the civilized world, he “would have died for a moral consideration, say the
defense of Judge Miller’s riding-whip.” Once in the wild and forced to accept
the “law of club and fang,” however, Buck can only worry about his own
survival. In fact, Buck’s development is often shown through his successful
moral degradation, as when he steals food for the first time. In a human
character such moral lapses would be deplored. Why do we not condemn
Buck for these moral lapses?
How do the lessons Buck learns about survival in these two worlds reflect
on the human characters within the story? John Thornton, who is the closest
thing to an equal that Buck finds among mankind, also seems to live in the
Jack London


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
world of the wild, although he is still limited to some degree by his civility.
Despite London’s apparent support of his pioneer spirit, Thornton still meets
his demise when he turns away from the spirit of the wild and begins the
idle process of collecting gold, sacrificing his balance with nature. Similarly,
Buck’s temporary masters Charles, Hal, and Mercedes are unable to make
the transition away from the laws of civilization, and they too pay with their
lives when the ice opens beneath them. It seems clear that, for London, the
laws of the wild cannot be transcended, and that one must have the ability
to operate under these laws in order to survive.
Why is it that human characters fail so dismally, while Buck succeeds—not
only surviving but also becoming a lord of the wild? What might the appear
ance of primordial man in Buck’s visions by the fire suggest? While few of
the human characters within the story are able to make this transition flaw
lessly, Buck succeeds due to his genetic predisposition to greatness and the
powerful influence of nature. The harsh conditions of the North serve to
bring out Buck’s long-repressed instincts, both in the physical form, as his
body adapts to the environment, as well as in a more psychological form, as
Buck recalls the racial memories of his ancestors. By tying Buck’s memories
of the primordial man with Buck’s reversion throughout the novel, London
narrows the gap between civilization and the wild, suggesting that, just as
Buck’s instincts quickly surface, perhaps mankind too is closer to his instinc
tual and wilder self than was previously thought.
The Call of the Wild
may also be considered a story about gold fever. While Lon
don may not have been successful in his Yukon travels, he did manage to gain
enough material to represent this part of American culture vividly and accurately.
How does the novel reflect London’s own history in the Yukon? Students will
Jack London and the Klondike
particularly helpful in researching this topic.
Students should also take care to observe the continuing battle for supremacy
throughout the novel. If Buck is destined to lead, is his path to mastery an easy
one? Students should note that each step in Buck’s linear atavistic growth is
complemented by his rise in importance, first in the pseudo-wild of the sled
team, then in the cultural lore of the miners, and finally in the true wild of the
wolf pack.
Joan R. Sherman,
Jack London: A Reference Guide
(Boston: G. K. Hall, 1977).
An annotated bibliography for London research up to 1975, including historical
Charmian London,
The Book of Jack London
(New York: Century, 1921).
A personal look at the life of Jack London, by his wife. There are some omissions
Jack London


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Jack London
“To Build a Fire

76 (August 1908): 525–534; collected in
Lost Face
(New York:
Macmillan, 1910), pp. 63–98
Jack London (1876–1916) was one of the most popular and respected American
authors of his time. He created literary characters who, like himself, were active
and adventurous, and many of his stories, including “To Build a Fire,” argue that
humans must either adapt to the Naturalistic universe or be annihilated by it.
London was born John Griffith
Chaney to a working class family in
Francisco. At ten he took menial jobs to help support his family, and at fourteen
he dropped out of school to work full-time. At sixteen he bought a boat and
harvested oysters illegally, becoming known as the “Prince of the Oyster Pirates.”
Educating himself with books from public libraries, London discovered social
length of the Yukon Territory
. Confident in his independent nature, strong will,
and ability to reason, the man believes he, not an unpredictable universe, controls
his fate. He consults his watch several times, calculating his speed and planning
precise times for meals and his arrival at camp. The man takes care to follow a
faint sled trail and avoid thin ice that hides dangerous pools of frigid water, which
could soak him and threaten his life. He forces his dog to lead, and when the dog
breaks through into the water, it instinctively bites the ice from its forepaws. This
“To Build a Fire” follows many of the tenets of Realism. Students should
research literary Realism as they examine London’s stark, journalistic style.
Students might discuss the effect of London’s verisimilitude, such as the man’s
spittle crackling sharply and explosively in eighty-below temperatures, the
amber colored ice on his beard from his tobacco spit, and his symptoms of
frostbite and hyperthermia.
London’s protagonist takes a cavalier attitude about his journey across the frozen
tundra. He is brave and strong; he can reason; and he is observant. Is he abnor
mal, or are his experiences extraordinary? He begins his journey arrogantly self-
confident, unconcerned about traveling alone or his rapidly freezing cheeks: “A
bit painful, that was all; they were never serious.” Why is he surprised by the cold
and its effects on him? Also, why doesn’t his technology and talents (the ability
to build a fire) protect him from hyperthermia and death in the end?
Students should conduct research on Naturalism in literature. “To Build a Fire”
follows Émile Zola’s instruction on how to construct a Naturalistic literary
work: placing the protagonist at the center of a scientific experiment and allow
ing the reader to observe how heredity and environment shape his character
and determine his destiny. Why does London characterize his failure to build a
fire as “his mistake” rather than “his own fault”? What is the difference? Why
is London’s protagonist unnamed? How does his background explain his failure
to adapt to a hostile environment?
Jack London


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Many literary scholars have cited the man’s lack of imagination as a reason
for his failure. What kind of imagination would he need to survive? Why is it
important for him to “meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and
upon man’s frailty in general”? The man is proud of his ability to travel and sur
vive alone, rejecting the “womanish” fears and warnings of the old-timer never
to travel in these conditions without a partner. Why is asking for help or taking
advice gendered female? London’s protagonist considers himself a true man and
is shocked when he fails, realizing by the end that the old-timer was correct.
The man’s final words are an admission of wisdom gained too late. Discuss the
didactic nature of literature; why is it better to learn a lesson from the experi
ences of a fictional character rather than through one’s own experience?
The dog, on the other hand, has evolved to survive in this climate. The man
considers the dog an inferior being; yet, when the man realizes his own lack of
warmth and endurance, he begins to envy the dog. The dog, whose ancestors
lived in this region, has evolved a natural covering that protects it in the cold.
However, it has more than fur to protect it; as a “brother” to the wild wolf, it has
the instinct of self-preservation, a biological heritage of knowing when not to be
outside: “It knew that it was no time for traveling. Its instinct told it a truer tale
than was told to the man by the man’s judgment.” Although it lacks the man’s
knowledge of thermometers, its brute instinct enables the dog to survive the cold
and the man’s murderous desperation. Students should find examples in the text
that show what the dog does to obey “the mysterious prompting that arose from
the deep crypts of its being.” Also, discuss how and why the dog chooses instinct
over social training. When does it obey the man and when does it disobey? Dis
cuss London’s message that instinct and fur covered skin are superior in this envi
ronment to human reason and human-made tools like matches and clothing.
Carolyn Johnston,
Jack London—An American Radical?
(Westport, Conn.:
Greenwood Press, 1984).
A study of the development of London’s politics, particularly his socialism. John
ston argues London should be considered a rebel rather than a radical and that
Alex Kershaw,
Jack London: A Life
(New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998).
A passionate, insightful biography of London, written in a breezy style.
Jonathan Auerbach,
Male Call: Becoming Jack London
(Durham, N.C.: Duke
University Press, 1996).
An important critical study of London’s early life and writing career, particularly
his contributions to literary Naturalism.
Leonard Cassuto and Jeanne C. Reesman, eds.,
Rereading Jack London
Cal.: Stanford University Press, 1996).
A collection of essays by noted scholars, who examine London’s Naturalism from
Nancy A. Walker, ed.,
Jack London
(New York: Twayne, 1994).
A collection of essays that includes “The Literary Frontiersman,” by Earle Labor
and Jeanne Campbell Reesman, which analyzes London’s imagery and symbol
Charles Child Walcutt,
Jack London
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 1966.
Edwin Arlington Robinson


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
the Night Before
(1896), just ten days after his mother’s death. The collection dem
onstrated his mastery of various verse forms such as the sonnet and his lifelong
preference for rhymed and blank verse as opposed to the more formless free verse
popularized by Whitman
. Despite the collection’s small print run (some three hun
dred copies) and the fact that Robinson personally mailed editors copies of the col
The Torrent and the Night Before
received a surprising amount of press, with
notices appearing in prominent outlets such as
. In part because Robinson
eschewed the elevated language of poets such as James Whitcomb
Riley, Thomas
Aldrich, and Richard Henry
Stoddard, his outlook was misinterpreted as
stark and pessimistic. As he complained to a friend, “Because I don’t dance on [an]
illuminated hilltop and sing about the boblinks and bumble-bees, they tell me that
my world is a ‘prison house, etc.’”
In 1897 Robinson expanded
The Torrent and the Night Before
with forty-
three additional poems in his first commercially distributed collection,
The Chil
dren of the Night
. Among the new inclusions was “Richard Cory
,” a portrait of
gilded gentility reputedly based on the suicide of a prominent Gardiner resident.
Narrated from the perspective of “we people on the pavement,” the poem explores
the deceptiveness of public appearances. Despite Cory’s enviable wealth and
social poise (“In fine,
we thought that he was everything / To make us wish that
we were in his place”), this epitome of gentlemanly grace commits a desperate act
that those admiring him from a distance cannot begin to fathom:
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
In his later years Robinson expressed disgruntlement that anthologists selected
“Richard Cory” to represent his entire career. His ambivalence toward the poem
may reflect its muted autobiographical origins. At the time of its composition, the
author was living in the family home in Gardiner with an increasingly embittered
and volatile brother. Robinson did enjoy the support of a coterie of artistic friends
in Gardiner, including the city’s most famous author, Julia Ward
Howe’s daughter
Laura E.
Richards (1850–1943).
Yet, family tensions proved too stifling for Robinson to remain at home. His
middle brother, Herman
, had wooed away the love of Edwin’s life, Emma Shepard
creating an irreparable fracture between the brothers. After one particularly explo
sive confrontation, Robinson agreed to leave Gardiner, even though he and not
Herman had maintained the house over the course of their parents’ decline. Despite
his exile, Robinson’s feelings for Emma never faded. He would ask her to marry him
on the heels of Herman’s death in 1909 and again in 1918 and 1927. Not surpris
ingly, romantic triangles are a recurrent motif in Robinson’s poetry. “Eros Turannos

(1913), in particular, is an empathetic exploration of Emma’s dependency on Her
man. The poem at once condemns the traditions that lock a woman in an unhappy
marriage while respecting its protagonist’s dread of being alone: “But what she
meets and what she fears / Are less than are the downward years, / Drawn slowly
to the foamless weirs / Of age, were she to lose him.”
After leaving Gardiner, Robinson briefly affiliated with a group of bohemian
writers in New York. Among them was Alfred H.
Louis, a colorful tale-teller who
inspired the title poem of Robinson’s third book,
Captain Craig
(1902). At two
thousand lines,
Captain Craig
is the poet’s first foray into the long-form verse that
dominated his later career. The poem is also Robinson’s most overt statement of
philosophy, rejecting pessimism and despair in favor of an Emersonian optimism
tempered by the wizened awareness of life’s ultimate defeats. “There is no servitude
so fraudulent / As of a sun-shut mind,” the Captain preaches. “For ’t is the mind
/ That makes you craven or invincible, / Diseased or puissant.” Robinson found
this roseate outlook difficult to sustain during a nearly two-year effort to find a
publisher for the piece. Houghton Mifflin
finally agreed to issue it—but only if
Robinson’s chief supporters, Laura E. Richards and John Hays
Gardiner (a Harvard
professor), agreed to subsidize printing costs. The poem’s tortured journey may
explain its author’s wavering opinion of its merits over the years; ultimately, the
poem is more intriguing as a character sketch than compelling as a credo. Of more
interest is one of the half-dozen shorter poems Robinson also included in
. “Isaac and Archibald
,” a meditation on aging, accomplishes the technical feat
of creating a dual point of view in which the narrating “I” speaks as both a child and
an adult, not unlike James Joyce
’s story “Araby
The old men smoked while I sat watching them
And wondered with all comfort what might come
To me, and what might never come to me;
And when the time came for the long walk home
With Isaac in the twilight, I could see
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.
Edwin Arlington Robinson


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
For many biographers, the poem represents Robinson’s mocking of his own sus
ceptibility to nostalgia and his disinterest in material possessions. The character’s
Because Robinson was opposed to verbal abstraction and preferred to write
poem, “Richard Cory” (1897), which the folk-pop duo Paul Simon and Art
Garfunkel adapted to song in 1965. Consider the effect of the transformation
of Robinson’s poem to music.

The Torrent and the Night
introduced Robinson’s fictional “Tilbury
Town” poems, proto-
Winesburg, Ohio
character sketches that glimpse into
the despair beneath the placid surfaces of small-town life. In efforts such as
the oft-anthologized “Luke Havergal” as well as “John Evereldown,” “The
Dead Village,” “The Clerks,” and “The House on the Hill,” Robinson fused
deceptively simple language with a tonal Realism that demonstrated how
even within the formal rigor of a meter and rhyme scheme poetry could
speak disconcertingly directly in expression. Discuss the effect of Robinson’s
character sketches. Is his simple, direct language and formal meter and
rhyme effective?
3. The apparent simplicity of Robinson’s style has worked against his reputa
tion, with the directness of his expression seeming to leave little room for
interpretation. Nevertheless, his Realism and diction mark important breaks
from the contrived, self-consciously poetic language of the preceding gen
eration, and his empathy for the Miniver Cheevys and Mr. Floods—the
beautiful losers of the world—offers a compassionate alternative to the satire
with which modernists treated their Mauberlys, Prufrocks, and Sweeneys. Is
poetry less effective or less interesting if it fails to invite interpretation?
Scott Donaldson,
Edwin Arlington Robinson


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Upton Sinclair
The Jungle
(New York: Doubleday, Page, 1906)
“wage slaves of the Beef Trust.”
Although the characters and setting for
The Jungle
emerge from his time
interacting with the laborers and examining the filthy and oppressive working con
ditions, the book was just as much a reflection of Sinclair’s personal life. In his auto
biography he explains that “externally, the story had to do with a family of stockyard
workers, but internally it was the story of my own family.” The suffering he, his wife,
and infant son endured while living in a small, rustic cabin in New Jersey
during the
harsh winter while he was writing
The Jungle
and the periods of want and hunger
he suffered as a child clearly inform this text. After having been rejected by five dif
ferent publishers because of the story’s graphic and controversial nature,
The Jungle
was finally published in hard covers by Doubleday, Page
in February 1906.
The impact of
The Jungle
was monumental. While Sinclair’s objective was
to convey the plight of the American worker to a national audience, the novel
exposed the horrendous conditions characterizing the country’s meat supply. As
Sinclair observed, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the
stomach.” Americans called for immediate inspections of the nation’s meat indus
try, while the owners of the packing plants rejected Sinclair’s claims by providing
Consider the relationship of
The Jungle
to two of the primary literary trends at
the turn of the century: Naturalism and Realism. What evidence do you find
that aligns
The Jungle
with these movements? Various critics have considered
Sinclair a lesser naturalist writer than his contemporaries Theodore Dreiser,
Frank Norris, and Stephen Crane. What reasons can you find in the text to
support this claim? In your response, consider Sinclair’s depictions of Jurgis
Upton Sinclair


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
throughout the text and particularly in the final chapters. How do various
conclusions of
The Jungle
noted above affect a Naturalist reading?
Along with the works of French Naturalist writers Honoré de Balzac and Émile
Zola, Sinclair was influenced by the father of American Realism, William Dean
Howells. Despite Sinclair’s concern for the “truth” to be revealed in his portrayal
of the plight of America’s laboring classes, how authentic is this work to their
experiences in light of the depictions of Jurgis throughout the text? How would
you argue for or against a Realist reading based on the representation of the
American immigrant experience Sinclair portrays?
Many readers have commented on the conclusion of
The Jungle
as a bizarre shift
from the rest of the narrative. What do you make of the final chapters? In your
response compare the traditional conclusion to
The Jungle,
which ends with a
speaker urging a crowd to believe that “CHICAGO WILL BE OURS!” with
the original ending, that appeared in
One Hoss Philosophy
, which is available in
The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition.
How does their difference influence
how you interpret the text? How does Sinclair justify the differences?
In the final chapter of
The Jungle
Nicholas Schliemann addresses a particular
view of marriage and its effects on women. A few pages later, Sinclair references
the work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, whose
Women and Economics
is most cer
tainly the work from which Schliemann derives his ideas. What do Schliemann’s
and Gilman’s commentaries regarding marriage and women say about gender
in turn-of-the-century America? Do such positions justify the fate of Ona and
other women throughout
The Jungle
How would you describe Sinclair’s portrayal of Chicago’s minority groups? Are
there differences in the amount of sympathy by which they are depicted? How
would explain such discrepancies, if any?
Following the death of Antanas, Jurgis flees Chicago to take up as a tramp
riding the rails through the Midwest looking for work. This flight from the
city to the country represents a powerful theme in Western literature that
Primary Works
The Jungle: An Authoritative Text, Contexts and Backgrounds, Criticism,
edited by
Clare Virginia Eby (New York: Norton, 2003).
Includes the 1906 Doubleday, Page version along with the conclusion that
appeared in the
Appeal to Reason
. The book contains useful excerpts by the author
about his literary program as well as commentary from Sinclair’s day on the
meatpacking industry and the life of the immigrant laborer. A range of criticism
The Jungle
concludes this text.
The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition
(Tucson, Ariz.: Sea Sharp Press,
One-third longer than the commercial version.
Kevin Mattson,
Upton Sinclair and the Other American Century
(Hoboken, N.J.:
Wiley, 2006).
Frank R. Stockton


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
seen in “The Lady, or the Tiger?” (1882), his most anthologized short story. It
remains compelling because of its timeless themes: the notion of free will, the
cruel arbitrariness of fate, and the twin emotions love and jealousy. The open-
Hardy’s explication of “The Lady, or the Tiger?” in
Short Stories for
volume 3 (1998) connects the story’s subversive nature with Stockton’s
manipulation of the fairy-tale genre. Jack Zipes
argues in his book
When Dreams
Came True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition
second edition (2007), that
Stockton’s fairy tales are important because his mature themes influenced L.
Baum (1856-1919), who wrote the
Wizard of Oz
books. Tanya Gardiner-
, in an essay also included in
Short Stories for Students
expands on some of
the religious themes in the story that Henry Golemba
noted in his critical biog
Frank R. Stockton
(1981). Golemba does not spend a great deal of time on
“The Lady, or the Tiger?” but focuses on Stockton’s other works in an effort to
revive Stockton’s reputation as a writer generally.
The gender issues raised in the story account for a large part of its appeal.
According to the fan mail Stockton received, women tended to believe the
tiger would emerge from behind the door, whereas men thought it would
be the maiden. What explains this difference? A quick survey of males and
females in a modern classroom would likely renew many of the enthusiastic
gender debates this story triggered more than a century ago.
Students’ understanding of the story and the gender issues it raises will be
enhanced by recognizing the fairy-tale paradigm that Stockton subverted
when he wrote it. As Madsen Hardy has noted, the story contains many of
the elements common to fairy tales: it takes place in an indeterminate time
and place; its main characters include a king and a princess; and the male
lead in the story, a man too far “beneath” the princess to be considered suit
able, might well be compared with the kiss-seeking frog, Beauty’s Beast, or
even Cinderella, all characters who found similar obstacles to their ambi
tions. Fairy tales of this type operate as literary comedies: young lovers,
mixed identities, and happy marriages are the raw materials here. Readers
of fairy tales have come to expect that obstacles will be overcome and true
love must be vindicated by a “happy ever after” conclusion. Stockton denies
such expectations. Instead, he places the essential ingredients of the fairy-
tale comedy inside the king’s arena, the classic domain of tragedy. Given the
story’s parameters, neither of the two choices Stockton offers his readers
allows the princess and her lover to become united. It is worth noting that
many of Stockton’s fans, desperate for a happy ending, suggested elaborate
and contrived ways that the lovers might have outmaneuvered the king, but
the text supports none of these possibilities. Support your conjectures with
specific passages.
Stockton does an excellent job manipulating reader response and using dra
matic irony to create tension. Opinions naturally split on which of the two
possible outcomes seems most likely. Students should look closely at how
much text Stockton devotes to describing each outcome, particularly in the
last section, where the narrator speaks directly to the audience. Based strictly
on this single measure, the princess’s lover appears headed for trouble. Stock
Frank R. Stockton


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
ton ratchets up the tension even further by describing the princess’s jealousy
of the maiden who, she suspects, has flirted with her lover in the past. Finally,
students may overlook the simple fact that the princess actually debates
whether or not she should send her lover to a gruesome death—in effect, she
considers a kind of premeditated murder. Thus, while the fairy-tale genre has
conditioned the audience to seek a happy resolution, Stockton emphasizes
details that suggest (but certainly do not guarantee) a tragic outcome. It is
worthwhile to explore the dynamic schism between these expectations.
Like her father, the princess is described as barbaric, although exactly what
Stockton implies by this word is unclear. Barbarism in this story relates to
power, specifically the power to determine the lover’s fate. The princess uses
“gold, and the power of a woman’s will” to divine what no one has been able
to learn: the secret of what lies behind the doors. Connections between
different kinds of power, barbarism, and “the feminine” suggest themselves
throughout the story and should be explored.
Knowing the depths of the princess’s power, her lover comes to the arena fully
This question becomes more complex if students consider the arena and its two
doors metaphorically. Stockton would not be the first author to suggest that we
are but pawns in a chaotic world ruled by chance. In Stockton’s other works mar
riage serves as a bulwark against life’s absurdities. With a good partner, Stockton
seems to say, a person can overcome and even laugh at life’s obstacles. But in “The
Lady, or the Tiger?” Stockton undermines this thesis with the terrifying possibil
ity that in fact—and unknown to us—we stand in life’s arena alone. What makes
the story so compelling is that this idea ultimately remains only a possibility, not
a certainty. Without a clear ending, readers must decide for themselves whether
the story is a comedy or a tragedy. As Stockton rightly explained when he was
asked, the way in which a reader interprets the ending may say more about that
reader and how that reader views the world than anything else. Consider what
their interpretation of the ending says about them.
Henry L. Golemba,
Frank R. Stockton
(Boston: Twayne, 1981).
Claims that Stockton deserves to be read again and includes a solid biography in
the first third of the book followed by literary analysis of the novels and stories. To
highlight Stockton’s other achievements, Golemba delays analyzing “The Lady, or
the Tiger?” until the end. The book includes an excellent annotated bibliography
of primary and secondary works.
“The Lady, or the Tiger?” in
Short Stories for Students,
volume 3, edited by Kath
Mark Twain


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Twain’s young hero is a brash, self-confident raconteur who quickly wearies of
humdrum routines and longs incessantly for excitement and escape. Along with
his friend Joe Harper
, he often skips school to fish. With Huckleberry
Finn, the
outcast son of the town drunk, Tom
and Joe
play Robin Hood on Cardiff Hill
Tom Sawyer among the Indians
(written circa 1885), “Tom Sawyer’s Con
” (written between 1897 and 1900), and “Tom Sawyer’s Gang Plans a
Naval Battle”
(written circa 1900). Indeed, so compelling is the character Tom
Sawyer that Mark Twain could never entirely forget him; neither have critics
or readers.
“Church ain’t shucks to a circus,” as Tom Sawyer phrases it, sums up the
attitude toward divine services in the book. As a form of entertainment,
church has little to recommend it—except when untoward events happen.
One of these is when Tom’s pinch bug gets loose and pinches a dog on the
nose during the sermon. The dog becomes a “wooly comet” that adds a bit
of diversion to the usual Sunday fare. Twain’s depictions of church services
in the book stem from a letter he wrote his wife, Olivia, in 1871 in which
he recounts attending a small country church that transports him back to
his childhood. His description of the pastor, the unruly choir, the bored
children, and others directly contributed to his writing of such scenes in
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
. Discuss Twain’s attitude toward religion in the
novel. Is he critical or simply using the solemnity of the service as a means
of characterizing Tom?
Serious thematic concerns about religion include the hypocrisy of religious
people who seem much more devoted to the “letter that killeth” than they
are to “the spirit that giveth life.” The book’s chapter 4 is a perfect example.
Oblivious to the beauty of the natural world that has its own “benedic
tion,” Aunt Polly delivers a “grim sermon” that seems Mosaic in its legalism.
Despite such depictions, Twain’s book is not antireligion per se. Indeed, the
author lavishes such attention to the details of organized religion that one
must say the tone is affectionately ironic. Does Twain feel that the devout
characters in his book are better than their religion?
Twain wrote his masterpiece,
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
(1884), as
a sequel of sorts to
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
but chose to foreground
issues of slavery and racial justice in the later work. By comparison,
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
has suffered from the assumption that it has little
to say about race. The books do differ, of course, but the earlier book has
its own ways of bringing up issues of race. In some instances the African
American characters are used primarily for their “comic darky” aspect com
mon to literature of the time. The figure of the slave Jim, for example, rises
above caricature in some instances in the later work, but in
The Adventures
of Tom Sawyer
he remains ever the gullible, superstitious slave, incapable of
even reflecting on his involuntary servitude. Does Twain’s attitude toward
race differ in the two novels?
Despite the fact that Tom and Huck are close friends, in chapter 27 the nar
rator informs readers that Tom does not like to be seen with Huck in public.
In the very next chapter Huck, though at the very bottom of white society,
is seen to have his prejudices as well. Despite the fact that a slave named
Mark Twain


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Uncle Jake generously provides him food and shelter, Huck is anxious not to
have that fact widely known, for “A body’s got to do things when he’s awful
hungry he wouldn’t want to do as a steady thing.” Discuss the divisions of
class and race that exist even among Petersburg’s most honest citizens, and
pay particular attention to the children.
Mark Twain is one of the most written about American writers. Books and
articles on the writer and his work abound. The most important book-length
treatments of
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
are Charles A. Norton’s
Tom Sawyer
(1983), which includes chapters on the composition history of
the work, Clemens’s involvement in adaptations of the book for the stage,
and early reviews of the work. Walter Blair’s
Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Huck,
and Tom
(1969) is important for bringing together many of the working
notes and related material. Research the composition of the novel. How did
Twain’s method of composition affect his novel?
Samuel L. Clemens,
The Autobiography of Mark Twain,
edited by Charles Neider
(New York: Harper Perennial, 1990).
Reflects on his childhood in Missouri and provides invaluable commentary on
his own life and work.
Justin Kaplan,
Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain
(New York: Simon & Schuster,
The classic biography of Mark Twain, more critical in its judgments than
Paine’s important work.
Albert Bigelow Paine,
Mark Twain: A Biography
(New York: Harper, 1912).
The official biography. Paine had unparalleled access to the author and his
records. At the same time, his judgments are frequently hampered by that inti
macy. This work remains an indispensable resource but should be supplemented
by other biographies.
Dixon Wecter,
Sam Clemens of Hannibal
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1952).
A meticulously researched volume that is an invaluable scholarly tool and
eminently readable story of the author’s early years. The work includes many
obscure facts about Twain’s family and background that other biographers have
Walter Blair,
Mark Twain and Huck Finn
(Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1960).
A critical and analytical work that is important for understanding the relation
ship between
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Adventures of Huckleberry
Blair, ed.,
Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Huck and Tom
(Berkeley: University of Cali
fornia Press, 1969).
An important compendium of many of Clemens’s working notes for his various
projects involving Tom Sawyer.
Richard Chase,
The American Novel and Its Tradition
(Garden City, N.Y.:
Doubleday, 1957).
Helps situate Twain between the aesthetic practices of Romance and Realism.
Chase also discusses the character Tom in relation to the “good boy” and “bad
boy” in American literature.
Joe B. Fulton,
The Reverend Mark Twain: Theological Burlesque, Form, and Con
(Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006).
Discusses the structure of
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,
paying close attention
to the generic contributions such as the Sunday School book.
Charles A. Norton,
Writing Tom Sawyer: The Adventures of a Classic
N.C.: McFarland, 1983).
Provides a valuable discussion of the book’s genesis and development as well as
a discussion of Twain’s other projects involving the character Tom Sawyer.
—Joe B. Fulton
Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
(London: Chatto & Windus, 1884); republished as
Adventures of Huckleberry
(New York: Charles L. Webster and Co., 1885)
Mark Twain was a prominent figure in the American Realist movement. Samuel
Langhorne Clemens (1835–1910) adopted the pen name Mark Twain while a
reporter for the
Virginia Territorial Enterprise
in 1863 and used the literary per
Mark Twain


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
in King Arthur’s Court
The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson
Recollections of Joan of Arc by the Sieur Louis de Conte
(1896), and
Following the
(1897). From 1900 until his death in 1910 Twain shifted his attention
primarily to nonfiction with a series of anti-imperialism essays, a diverse collec
tion of aborted manuscripts, and his autobiography.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
was written from the late summer of 1876
through late 1884. The novel was begun as the sequel to
The Adventures of Tom
The novel is essentially the tale of a runaway, Huck, who teams with a run
away slave, Jim
, on an improvised and ultimately failed attempt to find freedom.
gerford and Shepherdson
feud, the arrival of the con men the Duke and the King
and their several scams, the Sherburn episode, and (with the aid of Tom Sawyer)
an attempt to free Jim from bondage after he is imprisoned at the Phelps farm.
Finally, after a harrowing and absurd escape plot, Tom Sawyer delivers the news
that Jim has already been manumitted and Huck once again faces the possibil
ity of social constraints from Aunt Sally
Phelps, who wants to adopt him. He
announces his intention to flee into the West, but it not clear in the novel about

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
has had a long and complex critical his
tory. American readers and critics have adjusted their interpretations of the
novel because they have been influenced by the times in which they have lived
and in a profound way by the reactions of prior readers of the text. The novel,
however, does not change. Readers and critics and their interaction with the
novel change based on their own needs and interests during the decades
since publication. For example, the novel was immediately banned after its
publication in 1885; however, the reason was not tied to race or the conflicts
over racial image and language. The book was banned because Huck was not
a proper role model for young readers: he lied, stole, and used bad language.
Times and readers change. Our sensitivity to race has been a focal point to
the popular and academic discussions of this novel, especially since the mid
1950s and the arc of the modern Civil Rights Movement. Today the novel’s
pointed descriptions of alcoholism and abuse seem disturbing. It is the Real
ism of Huck’s point of view, his language, his interests, and his conflicts that
allow different generations of readers to approach the novel with fresh eyes.
That shift in perspective allows the novel to continue to live as a touchstone
Mark Twain


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
for our understanding of social and domestic relations, which is a primary
focus of Mark Twain’s storytelling. Students are advised to consider how their
own cultural experiences shape their response to the novel.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
can be viewed from a variety of perspec
tives. Students can enter the critical discussion by asking questions that focus
on aesthetics, with special attention to whether the final “evasion” chapters of
the novel adversely affect the novel’s structural integrity, as well as how Twain’s
use of dialect affects our understanding of his characters. Because the tale is
set in the 1840s antebellum South, it cannot be defined as an antislavery
novel; however, students should ask how nineteenth- and twentieth-century
political and social concerns affect and determine interpretation as well as
how the concerns with identity and the impact of race, issues prominent dur
ing the 1870s and 1880s when Twain is writing, affect their reading of the
novel. Do those concerns affect the actions of the characters as they interact
during their journey on and along the river? How do Huck and Jim struggle
with how they are defined by the society that holds them in thrall? How do
they define each other as they work to come to terms with who they are as
individuals within a hostile social system? Does Huck grow to an understand
ing of Jim as a person? Does contact with characters and communities along
the river affect Huck’s awareness of Jim’s humanity? And, if so, how? As the
novel introduces a series of episodes during which Huck must either turn Jim
in or take an active role in abetting his escape, how does the tension in these
scenes affect Huck’s self-awareness and his reliance on social and even theo
logical beliefs? Does that tension make an argument in favor of freedom? Of
course, the issue of freedom is complex, and Twain’s realistic treatment of race
and class may at times undermine the possibilities for full-throated freedom
for either character.
The novel’s concern with race has become more prominent during the past
fifty years as American society has addressed questions of racial identity and
racial prejudice. The novel is often still indicted for its use of racist language—
the fact that the word “nigger” appears over two hundred times in the novel
presents a challenge to those who would interpret the text as an argument for
racial transcendence. The issue is also made more complex by the image of Jim
in the final chapters and the interpretation of that image as embedded within
nineteenth-century minstrelsy. Students should consider how Twain’s use of
racial language and images affects Jim’s place in the novel both as a character
supporting racial stereotypes and as a character that challenges those stereo
types. How can readers remain open to and come to terms with the novel’s
range of contrasting interpretations of race?
Finally, it is also possible to use the novel to explore issues of class and the
impact of physical and mental abuse within a destructive domestic environ
ment; for example, how does Pap Finn’s treatment of Huck influence the novel’s
challenge to social order? How does the novel introduce the experience of the
disenfranchised and does its description of the reality of child and domestic
abuse prompt questions about the effects of abuse on the emotional and spiri
tual well-being of adults and especially children? Huck’s sense of self is affected
by his status within and the outside the various communities portrayed as well
as by his experience within his own family. How does Huck’s sense of self affect
his interaction with Jim and how does his reliance on and craving for friend
ship influence our reading of major episodes of the novel? Huck’s relationship
with Pap affects his understanding of race and family, but does it also affect his
potential for and search for compassion as he makes his way through experi
ences with the Widow Douglas, the Duke and the King, Mary Jane Wilkes,
Sally Phelps, Tom Sawyer, and, perhaps most importantly, Jim?
Primary Work
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,
edited by Victor Fischer and Lin Salamo with
Walter Blair (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).
The definitive text of the novel, edited at the Mark Twain Project. The text
includes material restored from the manuscript and the original illustrations.
Most useful is the introduction by the editors, which offers a full discussion of
the background for the text and the history of composition.
Fred Kaplan,
The Singular Mark Twain: A Biography
(New York: Doubleday,
Runs counter to the long-established idea in Twain biography, growing out of
Justin Kaplan’s
Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain
(New York: Simon & Schuster,
Mark Twain


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
careful editing process. This study is the primary examination of Twain’s precise
creation of dialect in the novel and offers insights into the creative mind.
James S. Leonard, Thomas A. Tenney, and Thadious M. Davis, eds.,
Satire or Eva
sion? Black Perspectives on Huckleberry Finn
(Durham, N.C.: Duke University
Press, 1992).
Some of the poems in
had been drafted before Whitman had
any direct contact with the war (“Beat! Beat! Drums!
” and “First O Songs for
” in particular), but the poems at the heart of this book describe and
were inspired by the war he saw firsthand. Unlike two of his brothers, who
enlisted in the Union army
, Whitman did not go to war. His contact with the
war came through the wounded soldiers whom he met first during his visits to
New York hospitals and later during his work as a volunteer nurse in Washing
ton, D.C.
He had made his way to Washington in search of his brother George,
whom he feared had been wounded, but upon seeing the makeshift hospital
and the injured soldiers from all over the nation, he stayed to help. Many of
the poems in
grew out of the interactions Whitman had with these
soldiers and were informed by the stories they told him and the deep attach
ment he felt to them.
After Abraham Lincoln
was assassinated in 1865, Whitman wrote eigh
teen more poems, many of which were tributes to the late president (“When
Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d
” and “O Captain! My Captain!
” are the
most famous of these), but because
had already gone to press, he
incorporated them into the next edition, which he published under the title
Sequel to Drum-Taps
(1865–1866). Whitman absorbed these poems into the
next edition of
Leaves of Grass
(1867) with their original order rearranged.
When people refer to “Drum-Taps” today, they are usually referring to the
forty-three poems that make up the section by that title in the final three edi
tions of
Leaves of Grass
“Drum-Taps” is often read as a sequence in which the poems move from one
outlook, perspective, or interest in the war to another. Some of these moves can
be characterized as a shift from a hopeful call to arms to an awareness of the
deaths that the call produces, or, put another way, from an interest in the more
abstract issues to those of individual existence and suffering. Reading “Drum-
Taps” as a sequence whose movements can be mapped in these ways not only
allows students to identify the themes and issues that recur, but exposes them
to Whitman’s use of a wide variety of formal and stylistic strategies. In other
words, while all of these poems are in some way about the Civil War, each one
approaches the problem of representing the war differently. What are some of
the different narratives about the war that are embedded in this sequence? What
poems rupture those narratives? Michael Warner’s essay discusses the narrative
strategy of “Drum-Taps.”
When dealing with the poems individually, there is a group of five at the center
that look closely at the lives and deaths of the soldiers. These are particularly
accessible poems because in them Whitman renders his own attachment to
these men in deeply emotional ways. Looking closely at these poems—“Come
Up from the Fields Father,” “Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night,” “A
March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown,” “A Sight in Camp
in the Daybreak Gray and Dim,” and “As Toilsome I Wander’d Virginia’s
Walt Whitman


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Woods”—allows you to identify and characterize both the different ways
that Whitman tells these men’s stories and the similarity of sentiment
that runs through all of them. You might, for instance, identify what the
relationship is between the poem’s level of remove from the battlefield and
the kind of story it tells. Even more specifically, how does the setting of
each poem affect the syntax Whitman uses? With every poem Whitman
attempts a new way to see these soldiers, and if students can characterize
the various relationships that he establishes in these poems, they can come
to understand the complex strategies he uses for making the soldiers’ deaths
real. In other words, how does Whitman balance his desire to represent the
horrors of mass death and retain the humanity and individuality of the dead
soldiers? He tells the story of a letter arriving to a soldier’s home, describes
in lush language the fields that his parents work in, and renders, in jagged
syntax, the worry they register on receiving a letter that is not in their son’s
handwriting. The poem navigates knowledge of the soldier’s state carefully,
as the omniscient poet-speaker is the only one who knows of his death, yet
the mother has intuitive knowledge of this fact. In “Vigil Strange I Kept on
the Field One Night” the people in the poem are no longer at one remove
from the war, but are the soldiers themselves. The setting now is in a field,
and the speaker is a soldier holding a vigil in the night for one of his fallen
comrades. This is a scene of both death and romance. Michael Moon will
be a useful resource as you begin to consider the physicality of Whitman’s
In “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” the soldier-
speaker comes upon a makeshift hospital during a night march. He lingers
on the sight of such a place that contains so much suffering, a place described
as “a sight beyond all the pictures and poems ever made.” In “A Sight in
Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim” the seeing takes place in the morn
ing, but the wounded are still present and he views three bodies—those of
an old man, a child, and a young man. It is as if with every poem Whitman
attempts a new way to see these people, and it is in this poem that he turns
the anonymous dead into a deeply meaningful figure: “Young man I think
I know you—I think this face is the face of the Christ himself, / Dead and
divine and brother of all, and here again he lies.” “As Toilsome I Wander’d
Virginia’s Woods” is the last in this set of poems and here readers are not
faced with the dying or the dead, but instead with the sign that a solder has
died in this spot: “a tablet scrawl’d and nail’d on the tree by the grave.” The
words written in haste on that tablet are haunting in what they say and can
not say:
“Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade
After consulting Davis’s
book, which analyzes the effect of Whitman’s experiences as a nurse dur
ing the war, consider whether the different perspectives in these poems are
related to experience or narrative strategy.
Whereas all of these poems are narrated by the poet, who brings himself
as close as possible to these different situations and then describes them in
all their complexity, some of the more challenging poems employ different
voices. “Song of the Banner at Daybreak,” “The Centenarian’s Song,” and
“The Wound-Dresser,” for instance, are at least more than one level removed
from the lives of the young boys on the battlefield. What is the effect of hav
ing so many different kinds of poems about the war in this sequence? Erkkila
may help clarify your approach to this topic.
Although it is not the last poem in the section, “Reconciliation”—a six-line
poem that can easily be memorized and recited—reads like a finale. A perfect
combination of the best of Whitman’s sounds and rhythms, and of his long
and short lines, this poem magnifies the emotions expressed in the individual
poems as its speaker looks at his dead enemy and slowly and deliberately
narrates his move of reconciliation. What does Whitman mean by “reconcili
ation” and how does he imagine the country might get there?
David S. Reynolds,
Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography
(New York:
Knopf, 1995).
Walt Whitman


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
M. Wynn Thomas,
as an exercise in improving her language proficiency. It was later translated into
English by Wharton as her marriage was dissolving and during her affair with
Morton Fullerton
One of the most structurally adept features of the novella is Wharton’s use of a
frame tale. The opening and closing of the novella is narrated by an unnamed
In addition to her masterful use of the frame device, Wharton also achieves an
extremely powerful counterpoint to her own life experiences. Both Ethan and
Wharton are caught in marriages that they desperately wish to escape. Wharton,
Edith Wharton


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
who eventually divorced her mentally ill husband, struggled to earn a place in
a New York society that prized women as wives and mothers, not as artists and
thinkers. Ethan too had dreams before he married Zeena. With an interest in
engineering, Ethan had hoped to move to Florida and follow his passion. Mar
riage to Zeena forced him to change his plans. As the narrator imagines, “She
chose to look down on Starkfield, but she could not have lived in a place which
looked down on her. Even Bettsbridge or Shadd’s Falls would not have been suf
ficiently aware of her, and in the greater cities which attracted Ethan she would
have suffered a complete loss of identity.” In addition, both Ethan and Wharton
were trapped caring for mates who suffered countless debilitating illnesses. The
sole difference between them is that Wharton escapes and Ethan does not.
This novella also prefigures the modernist juxtaposition of the individual and
the group. Faced with sending Mattie away because of the plotting of a jeal
Finally, one of the most significant features of the novella is Wharton’s
Wharton offers a realistic representation of rural New England life in the
novella, which she was at pains to distinguish from the more sentimental
Hermione Lee,
Edith Wharton
(New York: Knopf, 2007).
The first British biography of Wharton, demonstrating both her modernism and
her ties to Europe.
Cynthia Griffin Wolff,
A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton
(New York:
Oxford University Press, 1977; revised edition, Reading, Mass.: Addison-
Wesley, 1985).
A psychobiography that traces Wharton’s development as a writer.


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
men and women that are psychological, at times compromised, and always
complicated. Born into a wealthy family in New York City
, Wharton lived on
inherited wealth as an adult, which allowed her frequent and lengthy travels in
. Her early stories began to appear at the end of the Victorian era; early
reviewers praised her craftsmanship, but, Helen Killoran
explains, “they held two
culturally ingrained prejudices against her”—first, she was a female writer, one
of Nathaniel Hawthorne
’s “scribbling women,” and second, she belonged to old
money of
Manhattan. “Charges abounded,” Killoran notes, “that her upper-class
characters, based on the privileged ‘four hundred,’ constituted too narrow a subject
matter.” During Wharton’s life “critics grudgingly admired her craftsmanship,
but backhandedly referred to it as too clever and too artificial. Then, as if in an
attempt to explain the mystery of such artificially clever fiction, they created a
Charlotte Perkins
Gilman, and Alice James,
underwent neurologist S. Weir
Mitchell’s “rest cure,” as a way, Joslin and Price note, “to curb the intellectual and
artistic tendencies of women, whose duties supposedly belonged to the prosaic
Edith Wharton


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
But there are three last damaging admissions. Mrs. Slade admits to writ
ing the letter and signing her fiancé’s name. Cognizant of the concerns about
contracting “Roman fever” (malaria is the less romanticized name of the dis
ease) from the cold dampness that settled among the ruins at night and which
provided attractive cover for trysts between lovers, the young Alida deliberately
lured the young Grace to the same ruins in the hope that Grace would contract
the illness. Recounted family history of the “dreadfully wicked” great-aunt Har
, who sent her young sister out to the Forum after sunset purportedly to
gather flowers, but, according to speculation, because she and her sister were
in love with the same man, sets the scene for the revelation between Alida and
Grace to follow. That the great-aunt’s story ends in tragedy—her younger sister
did, in fact, die of the fever—establishes the awful stakes such women engaged
in as they sought to protect their futures as married women. (“Roman fever” also
is used by Henry James
in his novella
Daisy Miller
[1878] to punish the flirty
young American woman of the title, who contracts the fever after visiting the
Colosseum at night.)
What had seemed at the outset to be a story of middle-aged American
tourists resting for an afternoon on a restaurant terrace in Rome concludes
with incidences of sexual promiscuity and infidelity, pregnancy outside of
marriage, innuendo and lies, savage cruelty, and a now-chaotic microcosmic
family structure and macrocosmic social structure. Susan Elizabeth Swee
ney argues even more pointedly that the title of “Roman Fever” alludes to
the differences that Rome represents to each generation of women in this
story: “‘sentimental dangers,’ filial disobedience, love-sickness, sexual jeal
ousy, illegitimate pregnancy, and the longing for new or foreign experiences
that Wharton elsewhere calls ‘travel-fever.’ These different things have one
common characteristic: all are experiences prohibited to women.” And these
women’s experiences are worth exploring in “Roman Fever” and other works
by Wharton. How, for example, do Ansley and Slade live typical women’s
lives according to their class? How do their daughters, the next generation,
compare to them? Why are men absent in the story, particularly when com
pared to other Wharton stories and novels where men play more prominent
roles? Sweeney also notes how Henry James had used the trope of illness, or
“Roman fever,” in
Daisy Miller
. Does Wharton in effect respond to James
in her story?
As Cynthia Griffin Wolff argues, the satire Wharton employs in the short
story places an enormous amount of responsibility on the reader. “The
stakes are not clear (as they might be in a business transaction), nor is the
eventual outcome. Who was the winner of this convoluted game? . . . Can
an astute reader make a more accurate assessment?” For the story to end
with the declaration by Grace Ansley that the one-night tryst resulted in
a child requires that the reader, as Wolff avers, determine if there ever can
be “a winner in a competition that has been defined in the way this one
has.” And this is, perhaps, the striking subtlety of “Roman Fever,” a slowly
building story of longtime competitors who find that their real power lies in
their womanhood, and learn that such power is fleetingly compromised and
readily stolen, at best. As critics at the start of Wharton’s career and those
over the past century have noted, she possessed a keen and sharp sense of
human nature and women’s sensibilities and an exquisite pen that allowed
language to flourish and incisively cut through the social complications of
early-twentieth-century America.
Cynthia Griffin Wolff,
A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton
York: Oxford University Press, 1977).
A biographical account of Wharton’s development as an important novelist,
Edith Wharton


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Katherine Joslin and Alan Price,
Part IV
Annotated Bibliography

Lars Åhnebrink,
The Beginnings of Naturalism in American Fiction
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1950).
Locates certain American writers in terms of an emerging Naturalism but also
discusses European influences, particularly French, Russian, and Scandanavian,
most notably the work of Émile Zola, Ivan Turgenev, and Henrik Ibsen. Henry
James, William Dean Howells, Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, and Hamlin Gar
land are principal subjects.
American Literary Realism
(1968–present). Published since 1999 by the University
of Illinois Press.
The premier scholarly journal in the field of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-
century American fiction.
George Becker, ed.,
Documents of Modern Literary Realism

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Howells, and Mark Twain) or genres (including Regionalism); the third chapter
deals with what Berthoff calls the “literature of argument”—sociology, philosophy,
criticism, history; and the fourth takes up Naturalism as well as the “new poetry.”
Daniel H.
Century America
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).
Argues that high-culture literature did not render ordinary life so much as create
it for a status-conscious reading public. One of the ironies of Regionalist writing,
according to Brodhead, is that it reassured the upper middle class that America
remained homogenous, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, and that they
could feel superior to that same class. Sarah Orne Jewett and Charles Chesnutt
became victimized by this arrangement because they were restricted by editors in
their treatment of subject matter they knew well and wished to write about.
Edwin H. Cady,
The Light of Common Day: Realism in American Fiction
mington: Indiana University Press, 1971).
A series of interconnected essays on Realist writers that is more personable than
polemical in its approach to the subject. The volume begins with a sweeping but
reader-friendly attempt at a definition of Realism. Cady argues that Realism
cultivates a certain “common vision” in readers and has certain characteristics,
including a critical view of the past, a greater interest in character than in plot, and
Annotated Bibliography

Dreiser to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, and John Steinbeck. For Conder,

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Fleissner also proposes to replace the equation of Naturalism and pessimistic
determinism with the notion of compulsion. The typical plot of a Naturalistic
novel “is marked by neither the steep arc of decline nor that of triumph, but
rather by an ongoing, nonlinear, repetitive motion . . . that has the distinctive
effect of seeming also like a stuckness in place.” Her examples include Dreiser’s
Carrie Meeber, Norris’s Trina McTeague, Wharton’s Lily Bart, and Charlotte
Perkins Gilman’s Jane in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Such fiction is “as much (if
not more) about domesticity, details, and women’s inner lives” as they are about
Alfred Habegger,
Gender, Fantasy, and Realism in American Literature
York: Columbia University Press, 1982).
A lively book with a surprising argument—that American Realism did not
descend from European examples but from a group of popular American women
novelists who challenged male writers to respond. Two “sissies,” he says, effected
the transition from these popular women novelists to the masculine narratives
of the Naturalists: Henry James and Howells. Habegger argues that one cannot
understand Realism without also understanding gender and its influence on
Realist narratives.
Hamlin Hill, “There Ought to Be Clowns: American Humor and Literary
5 (1980): 413–422.
Argues that humor functions as defense mechanism and/or supplies comic relief
in some works of Naturalism, specifically in some of the humor writings of
Ambrose Bierce, Eugene Field, Harry Graham, and William Cowper Brann.
Barbara Hochman,
Getting at the Author: Reimagining Books and Reading in
the Age of American Realism
(Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press,
A reassessment of late-nineteenth-century reading practices. Hochman demon
strates the ambivalence of the Realists toward their own purported objectivity and
how their ambivalence shaped standards of literary merit for the modernists.
Richard Hofstadter,
Social Darwinism in American Thought
(Boston: Beacon,
An excellent intellectual history of the period. Particularly valuable is the chapter
“The Vogue of Spencer.”
June Howard,
Form and History in American Literary Naturalism
(Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1985).
A highly theoretical treatment of Naturalism as a genre. For Howard, literary
history may be studied in terms of forms that represent the cultural assumptions
of the period. Thus, for example, the representation of proletariat characters,
whatever their creators may have thought, in fact are ideological constructs
derived from the prevailing dominant culture. Howard analyzes selected texts
of Norris, London, and Dreiser, with briefer treatments of Crane and Upton
Annotated Bibliography

William Dean Howells,
Criticism and Fiction
(New York: Harper, 1891).
A literary and aesthetic credo by the leading American theorist of Realism and
prominent realistic novelist. Howells based the book on his editorial columns
Harper’s Monthly,
in which he repeatedly argued that “fidelity to experi
ence and probability of motive are essential conditions of a great imaginative
literature.” When Realists begin to “map” life rather than “picture” it, “Realism
will perish” just as literary romance became passé. The Realist “finds nothing
insignificant; all tells for destiny and character; nothing that God has made is
Gene Andrew Jarrett,
Deans and Truants: Race and Realism in African American
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007).
Interrogates the idea of “racial Realism” and the category of African American
literature, standards that have “shackled the creative decisions and objectives of
many black authors.” These standards have been promulgated by critics, “de facto
deans,” as different as Howells, Alain Locke, Richard Wright, and Amiri Baraka.
Jarrett calls for a definition of African American literature and an expansion of
the African American literary canon to include writings by black authors, such
as Paul Laurence Dunbar, George S. Schuyler, and Frank Yerby, who did not
always write about race.
Amy Kaplan,
The Social Construction of American Realism
(Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1988).
Undertakes to redefine Realism in terms of what Realist novels do and how
they function culturally. The work of Howells, Wharton, and Dreiser reflects a
sense of “unreality” in middle-class American life, brought about alternatively by
disruptive class conflict and a homogenizing mass culture, at the same time that
it combats these forces through social constructions of reality.
Harold H. Kolb Jr.,
Illusion of Life: American Realism as a Literary Form
ville: University Press of Virginia, 1969).
A relatively brief book that emphasizes Realism as a literary manner, though
Kolb also gives a lengthy and insightful definition of Realism that is not at all
limited to this element. He sees the rejection of omniscient narration in favor
of a restricted narrative consciousness in Henry James, Twain, and Howells as a
common quality that unites these three important Realists.
Robert Paul Lamb and G. R. Thompson, eds.,
A Companion to American Fiction,
(Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2005).
Important essays include Winfried Fluck’s “Morality, Modernity, and ‘Malarial
Restlessness’: American Realism in its Anglo-European Contexts” (pp. 77–95),
a thorough review of the influence of European Realists on American fiction in
the late nineteenth century; and Bert Bender’s “Darwin, Science, and Narrative”
(pp. 377–394), a précis of Bender’s books on the impact of Darwin’s theories on
such American Realists/Naturalists as Howells, James, Kate Chopin, Garland,
Crane, and London.

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Mary Lawlor,
Recalling the Wild: Naturalism and the Closing of the American West
(New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2000).
Proposes to
“get at the shifting meanings of the West as an imaginative geogra
phy and as the national concept at the moment when official recognition of the
frontier” ended at the turn of the twentieth century. Lawlor traces the making
of Western American myth in the writing of James Fenimore Cooper and how
the Romantic myth changed under the influence of Darwinism and French
Naturalism. American literary Naturalists such as Crane, Norris, and London
constructed the West in material terms, as a geography or landscape of forces
limiting individual volition and endeavor.
Richard Lehan, “American Literary Naturalism: The French Connection,”
teenth Century Fiction
, 38 (March 1984): 529–557.
Details the significance of Zola for the “hundreds of novels” by Americans
“which did for America after the Civil War what Zola did for the Second
Empire. . . . The cumulative effect of these novels is more impressive than the
individual achievement of most of these authors, almost all of whom have fallen
out of the canon.” According to Lehan, every Naturalistic novelist, “particularly
in America,” was “directly or indirectly in his debt.”
Realism and Naturalism: The Novel in an Age of Transition
University of Wisconsin Press, 2005).
A provocative intellectual, cultural, and literary history that considers the nar
rative mode of American, British, French, and Russian Realism/Naturalism not
as an evolutionary cul-de-sac but as a hinge between romance and modernism.
Sailing against the tide of the New Historicism, Lehan insists on treating scien
tific laws and historical events not as intellectual constructs or discursive prac
tices but as contexts for the novels. Such an approach invites intertexual study of
such novels as E. W. Howe’s
The Story of a Country Town
(1884) and Sherwood
Winesburg, Ohio
(1919); Norris’s
(1899) and Dreiser’s
(1900); and Chopin’s
The Awakening
(1899) and Wharton’s
The House of
Eric Carl Link,
The Vast and Terrible Drama:
American Literary Naturalism in the
Late Nineteenth Century
(Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2004).
Emphasizes “literary Naturalism as an aesthetic movement—an art form, a way
of writing” rather than a constellation of intellectual doctrines. Link challenges
the notion that American Naturalists were deeply influenced by Zola’s theory
and practice, given the differences between what Zola wrote and what Norris,
Dreiser, and others wrote. Link contends, like Norris, that American literary
Naturalism was a form of literary romance—an inner circle of romance—rather
than a development of Realism.
Sämi Ludwig,
Pragmatic Realism: The Cognitive Paradigm in American Realist
(Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002).
Traces the influence of William James and pragmatism on literary Realism.
Such an approach reaffirms Henry James’s position in the Realist canon beside
Annotated Bibliography

Howells and Twain. Ludwig also asserts the importance of Chesnutt’s conjure
tales in his chapter “The ‘Pragmatist Deconstruction’ of Racism.”
Jay Martin,
Harvests of Change: American Literature 1865–1914
Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967).
Surveys the monumental changes that occurred during this fifty-year period—in
education, immigration, science and technology, book publishing, and other are
nas—and analyzes a vast array of literary works as the harvest of those changes.
Martin is less interested in advancing some definition of Realism or Naturalism
than giving a panoramic view of the period. The author comments on Regionalist
writers, utopian writers, humorists, and others; he reserves separate chapters for
Twain and Henry James.
Ronald E. Martin,
American Literature and the Universe of Force
(Durham, N.C.:
Duke University Press, 1981).

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
theory informs their own dramatic literature and how the plays changed over
time; and explains how the work of the Realists anticipated the early plays of
Eugene O’Neill.
Thomas Peyser,
Utopia and Cosmopolis: Globalization in the Era of American Liter
ary Realism
(Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998).
Evaluates utopian and realistic fiction by
Edward Bellamy, Charlotte Perkins
Gilman, Howells, and Henry James in the light of contemporary notions of glo
balization, or “what it might mean to be a citizen of the world.” That is, Peyser
recontextualizes fiction of the period in regard to the emergence of consumer
culture, debates over immigration and imperialism, and the rivalry of socialism
and capitalism.
Donald Pizer,
The Cambridge Companion to American Realism and Naturalism:
Howells to London
(Cambridge, England & New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1995).
To a degree, conceived in response to poststructuralist assessments of Realism and
Naturalism as they were expressed in Eric Sundquist’s
American Realism: New
. In his introduction Pizer analyzes the problem of defining Realism and
Naturalism. The remaining essays are divided into three categories: “Historical
Contexts” (the American and European background); “Contemporary Critical
Issues” (recent critical approaches and the expansion of the canon of Realism);
and “Case Studies” (seven essays on individual works). This book is a useful vol
ume for the student of the period.
Pizer, “Late Nineteenth-Century American Literary Naturalism: A Re-
American Literary Realism,
38 (Spring 2006): 189–202.
Annotated Bibliography


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Studies in American Naturalism
(2005–present). Published by the University of
Nebraska Press.
Includes scholarship on American literary Naturalism across all genres from its
origins in the writings of Norris, Crane, and London to its contemporary mani
festations in the writing of Don DeLillo and Joyce Carol Oates.
Eric Sundquist, ed.,
American Realism: New Essays
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1982).
A collection of fourteen essays that do not cohere as a unified statement about
Realism. To the contrary, as the editor maintains, they propose “no specific
Annotated Bibliography

Part V

A social philosophy that asserts that a rural or semirural way of
life, with the farmer in control of the means of production, is more sustain
able and contented.
A political philosophy that holds that government itself is evil
and urges free associations of groups opposed to private property. In the
1880s anarchists unsuccessfully tried to infiltrate the American labor
A comic technique that ridicules, through exaggeration, the style or
tone of a certain kind of literary work. Unlike parody, which ridicules particu
lar writers or texts, burlesque typically satirizes literary forms.
During this period, censorship was actively practiced by United
States Postal Inspector Anthony Comstock
, who influenced the passage
of the so-called Comstock Law
of 1873, prohibiting the transportation or
delivery of any lewd or lascivious material in the United States. Comstock
The first act to exclude Chinese immigration, passed
by Congress in 1882. In part, the act was in opposition to so-called coolie
wages paid to the immigrants, but the Chinese were also demonized as a
threatening “yellow peril.”
Color line
A phrase given currency by the publication of W. E. B.
Du Bois’s
Souls of Black Folk
A phrase coined by economist Thorstein Veblen
The Theory of the Leisure Class
(1899) to describe the behavior of the nouveau
whose lavish display of wealth was an effort to establish their status in
An attempt to teach or preach.
Dime novels
juvenile readers; they often cost no more than ten cents.
Direct address
A literary device wherein the narrator speaks directly to the
Literary double.

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Dramatic monologue
which the speaker reveals his or her inner self. Unlike a soliloquy, an internal
monologue presumes a hearer or audience.
One who resides permanently or temporarily in a country other
and suffrage
The activist pursuit of equal rights for women, includ
ing their right to vote.
Literally, end of century; usually associated with decadence at the
featuring a genteel narrator who introduces the narrative and comes in
contact with a rustic vernacular narrator who tells a story in his own idiom.
Literally, the area beyond some boundary. The
American frontier was constantly receding due to what was understood
to be a civilizing process of the West
. Historian Frederick Jackson
however, maintained that what was best in the American character evolved
out of the tension between settlements and the rugged individualism just
beyond it. When the U.S. Census Bureau
declared the frontier officially
closed in 1890, some believed a new era had begun in the development of
the country.
Genteel tradition
ment, and complacent optimism. After World War I
, writers were in active
revolt against this tradition.
Higher criticism
Literary analysis of the Bible. It concentrates on chronol
ogy, sources, and historical analysis to understand Scripture instead of naive

A literary manner derived from the example of the French
impressionist painters. It attempted to paint with words, to disclose individ
ual impressions under given circumstances uncorrected by mental or moral
adjustments. The best of American impressionists is Stephen Crane
; Hamlin
and Henry James
also engaged in this form of writing.
Initiation story
or bildungsroman
A story of development (German
usually about a young male protagonist who undergoes rites of passage from
innocence to experience or from ignorance to knowledge.
Internal monologue
A conversation with oneself, or thinking in words, as in
stream-of-consciousness writing.
International novel
Unlike novels that emphasized American individualism
and mobility, usually to the West, a novel that dramatized the experience of
the American point of view as it confronted the old world of Europe. Henry
James is the most notable practitioner of this form, and some of his works
in this vein include
Daisy Miller
, The American
, Portrait of a Lady
A broad term referring to the recognition by characters or the reader that
expected consequences or meanings are far from reality. Irony may occur as
verbal phrasing, in dramatic situations, or even in cosmic terms. Stephen
Crane’s “The Blue Hotel
” is a good example of a story employing all of these
forms. Irony may be used for comic purposes; often, however, it is serious,
even tragic.
Leisure class
In the stratified class structure of the Gilded Age
, the wealthy
class that enjoyed privileges unavailable to the working or underclass. The
economist Thorstein Veblen
coined the phrase in his book
The Theory of the
Leisure Class
Local color
Writing that attempted to render the peculiarities or distinct quali
stock characters (unmistakable heroes, heroines, and villains), high drama,
and sensationalism. Naturalist
Journalistic writing designed to expose corruption in business and
politics. Lincoln Steffens
The Shame of the Cities
(1904) and Ida Tarbell
History of the Standard Oil Company
(1904) are the most famous exam
ples of this form.
arrative point of view
The perspective of the teller of a world of fiction. As
Harold Kolb
observed, Realist writing tends to be “antiomniscient” in the
sense that reality is essentially social and individuals have a common but still
partial understanding of the world. For that reason, first-person narratives
were common because they dramatized an individual sense of experience
Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn
is the most famous example of that sort
of narrative). Another form of first-person narration presents an unreliable

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Henry James
The Turn of the Screw
is an example. James, Edith Wharton
and others offer a limited omniscient perspective wherein the point-of-
view character offered a center of consciousness that was restricted but still
allowed for authorial commentary and clarification. Naturalist writers, on
the other hand, tended to favor third-person, omniscient narrators who
understood the significance of events according to biological or economic
and social forces that were quite beyond the grasp of their characters. For
that reason, authorial intrusion, wherein the author comments directly to
the reader on the significance of narrated events, was more common with
Although writers such as Jack London
, Frank Norris
, and Theo
dore Dreiser
called themselves Realists, their assumption about truth and
their literary manner differed markedly from Realists in the Howellsean vein.
The historian David
Shi has described these writers as “savage Realists.” The
Naturalist writer tends to take a scientific point of view toward his or her
subject; his or her characters are motivated by forces (biological and/or eco
nomic) beyond their understanding or control. Often those baser instincts are
best displayed in extreme circumstances; London favored the extreme cold
of the Alaska
n tundra, and Norris concludes his novel
in Death
. In other words, Naturalists embraced sensationalist and melodramatic
elements that Realists tried to avoid. Vernon Parrington
identified these
characteristics of Naturalism: attempted objectivity, frankness, an amoral
ouveau riche
French for “newly wealthy”: a class that has accumulated wealth
and influence but has neither the education nor refinement to know how to
behave according to more traditional and genteel standards. The so-called
Robber Barons
were seen in this light, and in fiction Henry James’s Chris
Newman or William Dean Howells
’s Silas Lapham
are somewhat
A magazine, such as the
Atlantic Monthly
Harper’s Monthly
designed for a middle-class to genteel readership.
The technique of satirizing a writer or work by lowering the signifi
cance or manner of treatment of the subject.
A literary “mask” often used by humorists as a comic device. Among
the masks were the Dandy
, the “Muggins
” (someone self-assured but lacking
judgment), the Tenderfoot
, and the Sentimentalist
Picaresque narrative
A highly episodic narrative, typically involving travel
and comic adventures, in which the main character is a “picaro” (Spanish for
rogue or rascal).
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The political movement that seemed to advocate the interests of the
common man. The People’s Party
was organized in 1892 to protect the inter
ests of farmers, including falling prices and foreclosures. It joined the Demo
cratic Party
in support of William Jennings
Bryan for president in 1896; when
Bryan lost, the Populists lost their national influence and eventually dissolved.

William James
published a volume by that name in 1907 and said
The movement that promoted the transition of American
, until 1917, the political establishment attempted to institute reforms
to correct the grosser abuses of corporations and to regulate and to combat
monopolies. Constitutional amendments also ensured a more direct form of
democratic representation.
A novel that exposes the exploitation of the workers under a
capitalist system. Upton Sinclair
The Jungle
is a notable example.
Psychological Realism
A form of Realism most often associated with Henry
. He emphasized the drama of consciousness in his characters and the
moment-by-moment apprehension of experience, which is often bewildering
and very nuanced.
Broadly speaking, a literary movement in France, England, and
America devoted to representing life as it is lived and experienced; thus,
the subject matter is often common or ordinary, and the literary manner is
representational (the subject is rendered in a certain way). Realist writers
were generally opposed to idealistic or sentimental fiction and often dra
matized the ill effects brought about by such sentimentality. Mark Twain
From 1865 until 1877 the U.S. government sought to repair
the devastated economy of the South
and, in an orderly fashion, to readmit
those states that had seceded from the Union, though a great deal of bitter
ness on both sides remained. In 1877 federal troops were removed from the
Revolt from the village
A phrase coined by Carl Van Doren
in 1920 to des
ignate those writers who challenged the Romantic idea that the village was
characterized by goodwill, virtue, and hospitality. He had in mind twentieth-
century works such as Sherwood
Winesburg, Ohio
(1919); however,
Edgar Watson
The Story of a Country Town
(1883), Twain
The Man
that Corrupted Hadleyburg
(1899), and Edgar Lee
Spoon River
(1915) are earlier examples of the same impulse to expose the
fraudulence, venality, and corruption of village life.
Both a genre and a literary manner in which the deficiencies of certain
attitudes or practices are pointed out through humor and wit. An author

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
may be satiric without writing a full-fledged satire. (Twain is a good case
in point.) The satirist may be gentle or biting in his or her treatment of the
subject matter but in either case should aim to correct rather than demean; in
that sense satire can be understood as a moral form of literary expression.
A literary device that cultivates in the reader responses exces
sive of the circumstances that occasion them. The death of Little Nell
The Old Curiosity Shop
is an epitome of sentimentalism,
but many writers recognized certain forms of affection, ideas about love and
marriage, or patriotism as other forms of sentimentality.
Social Darwinism
An application of evolutionary principles to social behavior.
Among other things, Social Darwinism, derived from the work of Herbert
justified or at least extenuated the existence of powerful millionaires
because they were specimens of the survival of the fittest.
Social gospel
Hamlin Garland
’s term for Realism.
The language native to a particular nation or locale, often con
sidered nonstandard and colloquial. Dialect is a form of speech marked by
A popular perception of the American West fostered by William
F. (“Buffalo Bill”)
Cody, who staged a type of Western show, often imitated,
that featured shooting contests, frontier warfare, and such celebrities as
Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull, and James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok
. Cody’s
Wild West Show
spent nine of its thirty-three years in Europe
, and an esti
mated fifty million people saw Cody in person, more than any other figure
in history to that time, and at his death in 1917 he was arguably the most
famous person in the world.
Cheap fiction novels with brightly colored covers, often reprints of
cloth editions. They were advertised as entertainment reading and created in
part as a response to increased rail travel. Routledge Publishing
called their
series of such books their “Railway Library
Yellow journalism
A type of cheap or sensational journalism usually associated
with the Hearst
newspapers (for example, the
New York American
Francisco Examiner
Boston American
Abraham Lincoln: A History,
Abraham Lincoln, the Backwoods Boy;
or, How a Young Rail-Splitter Became
Active Service,
Adams, Henry Brooks,
, 146
Addams, Jane,
Adeler, Max,
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The,
Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The,
Alcott, Louisa May,
Aldrich, Thomas Bailey,
Alger, Horatio, Jr.,
Alice of Old Vincennes,
Alves, Susan,
Ambassadors, The,
Ambrose Bierce: A Biography,
Ambrose Bierce: The Devil’s Lexicographer,
Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl
Creek Bridge”: An Annotated Critical
American, The,
American Federation of Labor,
American Heritage Dictionary,
American Historical Association,
American Literary Realism,
American Literary Scholarship 1992,
American Magazine,
American Protective Association,
“American Scholar, The,”
American Tragedy, An,
American Woman Suffrage Association,
American Women Regionalists, 1850–1910,
Annie (character),
Annie Kilburn,
Ansley, Barbara (character),
Ansley, Grace (character),
Antin, Mary,
Appeal to Reason, The,
, 166

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Association of Western Writers,
At Fault,
Atherton, Gertrude,
Atlantic Monthly,
Aubigny, Armand (character),
Auerbach, Jonathan,
Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, The,
Awakening, The,
Bacheller, Irving,
Backward Glance
Bacon, Francis,
Bailey, James M.,
Baker, Ralph Stannard,
Barnum, P. T.,
Battle-Ground, The,
Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War,
“Battle of Stone River,”
Little Bighorn,
Battle with the Slum, The,
Baudelaire, Charles,
Bauer, Dale M.,
Baum, L. Frank,
Bayou Folk,
Beadle and Adams,
, 72
Beardsley, Aubrey,
“Beat! Beat! Drums!,”
“Bee-Man of Orn, The,”
Beecher, Henry Ward,
Beer, Thomas,
Bell, Millicent,
Bellamy, Edward,
“Belles Desmoiselles Plantation,”
Belmont, General (character),
Bender, Bert,
Bendixen, Alfred,
Benfry, Christopher,
“Ben Jonson Entertains a Man from
Bergson, Henri,
Berthoff, Warner,
Black Hills,
Black Riders, The,
Blanchard, Paula,
Blithedale Romance,
Bloody Chasm, The,
“Blue Hotel, The,”
Boer War,
Bonaparte, Napoleon,
Bonnin, Gertrude (See Zitkala-Ša),
Book of Jack London, The,
Book of the American Indian, The,
Borges, Jorge Luis,
Boston American
Boston Brahmins,
Bowles, Samuel,
Boyesen, H. H.,

Butler, Jim (character),
“Caballero’s Way, The,”
Cabbages and Kings,
Cable, George Washington,
Caesar’s Column,
Cahan, Abraham,
Calamity Jane,
San Francisco,
San Joaquin,
California Fish Patrol,
Call of the Wild, The,
Call of the Wild: A Naturalistic Romance,
Carter, Lieutenant-Colonel (character),
Carter, Nick,
Chinese Americans,
Chinese Exclusion Act,
Chin Yuen (character),
Chopin, Kate,
Chopin, Oscar,
Churchill, Winston, 166–
“Church Mouse, A,”
Circular Staircase, The,
Cisco Kid (character),
City College of New York,
Civil War,
Clark, Charles Heber (See Adeler, Max),
Clemens, Orion,
Clemens, Samuel Langhorne (See Twain,
Mark), 43,
Cleveland, Grover,
Cocktail Party, The,
Cody, William F. (Buffalo Bill), 68,
Colburne, Edward (character),
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor,
Collected Poems of Edwin Arlington
Collected Works
Collier, P. F.,
Collier’s Once a Week,
Colonel’s Dream, The,
Colored American Magazine,

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
color line, 211
Colosseum, 147, 191
Columbia University, 29, 166
(ship), 100
Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, The,
Comstock, Anthony, 211
Comstock Law, 211
Comte, Auguste, 46, 50
Confederacy, 80
Confederate army, 61, 63, 65
Conflicting Stories: American Women


Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Finn, Huckleberry (character),
, 214
Freud, Sigmund,
, 23
From Canal Boy to President, or, The
Boyhood and Manhood of James A.
“Gilded Age, The,”
Gilded Age, The,
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins,
Giovanelli, Mr. (character),
Glasgow, Ellen,
Godey, Louis A.,
Godey’s Lady’s Book,

Grangerford, Buck (character),
Grant, Ulysses S.,
Grant administration,
“Great American Novel,”
Great Britain,
“Great Dark, The,”
Great Plains,
Greek Americans,
Green, Anna Katharine, 33,
Green Hills of Africa, The,
Grey, Zane,
, 72
“Griffin and the Minor Canon, The,”
Groveland (fictional location),
H.D. (Hilda Doolittle),
Haigh-Wood, Vivienne,
Haines, T. L.,
Hal (character),
‘Harnt’ that Walks Chilhowee, The,”
Harper, Joe (character),
Harper’s Bazaar,
, 72,
Harper’s Monthly,
Harper’s Weekly,
Hearne, Lafcadio,
Hearst, William Randolph,
Heart of the West,
Hedges, Elaine,
Helicon Home Colony,
Hemingway, Ernest,
“Her Virginia Mammy,”
Hickok, Wild Bill,
Higgins, William,
Higginson, Thomas Wentworth,
“Historical and Social Contexts,”
History of the Standard Oil Company, The,
“His Wife’s Deceased Sister,”
Hofstadter, Richard,
House of Representatives,
Houston Daily Post
Howe, Edgar Watson,
Howe, Julia Ward,
Howells, William Dean, 3,
, 134,
, 214–
Howells, Winifred,
How Fiction Works,
How the Other Half Lives,
, 31,
Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer among the
Hudson River,
Humble Romance and Other Stories, A,

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
humor writing,
Hungry Hearts,
Ibsen, Henrik,
Immigration Restriction League,
Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories of
Italian Americans,
Jackson, Helen Hunt,
Jacksons Island (fictional location),
Jim (character),
Jim Crow,
Joe (character),
Johanningsmeier, Charles,
John (character),
Johns Hopkins University,
Johnson, James Weldon,
Johnson, Thomas H.,
Joshua (father of Paul Lawrence Dunbar),

Klondike gold rush,
Knights of Labor,
Kolb, Harold,
labor organizations,
L’Abri (fictional location),
“Lady, or The Tiger?, The,”
Lady, or the Tiger? and Other Stories, The
“Lady Kate, the Dashing Female
“Life in the Iron Mills,”
Life of Frederick Douglass, an American
Life of Gen. Ben Harrison,
Life of Leo XIII, from an Authentic Memoir
Furnished by His Order,
Life on the Mississippi,
Lincoln, Abraham,
Literary Friends and Acquaintance:
London, John,
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth,

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Head Tide,
South Berwick,
Major, Charles,
Making of an American, The,
Male Call: Becoming Jack London,
Malory, Thomas,
“Man against the Sky, The,”
Man against the Sky, The,
Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg, The,
“Man with a Hoe, The,”
March, Basil (character),
Markham, Edwin,
Marrow of Tradition, The,
Marsena and Other Stories,
Martin Eden
Marx, Karl,
Mary, Cousin (character),
McDougal’s cave (fictional location),
McLean, Howard (character),
McWilliams, Carey,
Meat Inspection Act,
Mellon, Thomas,
Melville, Herman,
Memoirs of Gen. W. T. Sherman,
Memoranda during the War,
Mena, María Christina,
“Mending Wall,”
Mercedes (character),
Mérimée, Ernest,
Mexican Americans,
Mexican Revolution,
Michaels, Walter Benn,
St. Louis,
Miss Ravenel’s Conversion from Secession to
Mitchell, S. Weir,
Modern Literature Association,
Modern Mephistopheles, A,
Molly (character),
Montgomery, Charles B.,
Montjoy, Dan (character),
Moore, Alice,
More, Thomas,
Morgan, Hank (character),
Morgan, William A.,
Morte d’Arthur,
motor, electric,
Mount Holyoke Female Seminary,
Mrs. Spring Fragrance,
, 31,
, 213
Muggins, the (character),
Murder in the Cathedral,
“Murders in the Rue Morgue, The,”
Murfree, Mary Noailles,
, 61,
Murphy, Edward,

Mussel Slough gunfight,
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,
an American Slave,
, 31
Nationalist, The,
Nationalist clubs,
National Labor Union,
National Woman Suffrage Association,
Native Americans,
Piute, 29,
natural selection,
Negro Question, The,
Nelson, Robert J.,
New England Magazine,
“New England Nun, A,”
New England Nun and Other Stories, A,
New Exodus, The,
New Hampshire
New York Times, The,
New York Tribune,
New York Weekly,
Nicolay, John,
Night in Acadie, A,
Nye, Bill,

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
O. Henry,
O. Henry and His Critics,
Oak and Ivy,
“O Captain! My Captain!,”
“Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, An,”
O’Connor, Richard,
Octopus, The,
O’Flaherty, Katherine (See Chopin, Kate),
O’Flaherty, Thomas,
Of One Blood,
Ohio Penitentiary
Old Creole Days,
Old Curiosity Shop, The,
Out of the Hurley-Burley,
Owens, David M.,
Packingtown (fictional location),
Page, Thomas Nelson,
Parker, Hershel,
Parrington, Vernon,
Partial Portraits,
Pastime Stories,
Patesville (fictional location),
Pattee, F. L.,
Paule Méré,
Peck Social Union (fictional),
Philadelphia, 45,
Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art,
People of the Abyss, The,
People’s Party,
Perkins, Eli,
Perkins, Frederick Beecher,
Perry, T. S.,
Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant,
“Personal Narrative,”
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by the
Sieur Louis de Conte,

Populist Party,
Porcupine, The,
Portrait of a Lady, The,
Portraits of Places,
“Po’ Sandy,”
Pound, Ezra,
Price, Alan,
Prince and the Pauper, The,
Prince Saroni’s Wife,
Progress and Poverty,
Progressive Era,
Progressive movement,
race riots,
radio telegraphy,
Railway Library,
Ratignolle, Adèle (character),
Ravenel, Lillie (character),
nationalist school,
war against,
Roosevelt, Theodore,
Routledge Publishing,

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Russell, William,
Russo-Japanese War,
Ryder, Mr. (character),
Saltus, Edgar,
Sanford, Nellie (character),
San Francisco Examiner,
Seyersted, Per,
“Shadow Family, The,”
Shakespeare, William,
Shame of the Cities, The,
Shaw, George Bernard,
Shaw, Henry W. (See Billings, Josh),
Shepard, Emma,
Shepherdson clan (characters),
Sherburn (character),
“Sheriff’s Children, The,”
Sherman, William Tecumseh,
Sherman Antitrust Act,
Shi, David E.,
, 214
Short Stories for Students,
Showalter, Elaine,
Shumann, Alanson Tucker,
Sid (character),
“Significance of the Frontier in American
History, The,”
Silent Partner, The,
Silver, Mattie (character),
Sinclair, Upton,
single tax,
Sister Carrie,
Sitting Bull,
Six to One,
Smallin, Gorm (character),
Snark, The
Social Construction of American Realism,
Social Darwinism,
Social Gospel,
, 216
Socialist Party,
social reform,
Soitos, Stephen F.,
Some Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs,
Son of the Middle Border, A,
Sophia Sutherland
Sorrentino, Paul,
Souls of Black Folk, The,
, 65,
South Africa,
South Dakota,
Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its
Southern Pacific Railroad,
South Sea Tales,
Southwest, 76
Spanish-American War,
Spanish Americans,

Spargo, John, 54
Specimen Days,
Spencer, Edmund, 216
Spencer, Herbert, 15, 46
Sphinx’s Children and Other Peoples, The,
Spiller, Robert, 39
Spirit of the Times, The,
spiritualism, 56
Spitz (character, dog), 154

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
“Tom Sawyer’s Gang Plans a Naval
Torrent and the Night Before, The,
Toth, Emily,
Town Down the River, The,
Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, The,
Tramp Abroad, A,
Traveler from Altruria, A,
Trimmed Lamp, The,
Trina (character),
Trotsky, Leon,
“True Story, A,”
Tryon, George (character),
Tudor, Edward (character),
Turgenev, Ivan,
, 146
Turner, Frederick Jackson,
Turn of the Screw, The,
Tuskegee Institute,
Twain, Mark, 3,
, 212,
Tyler, Hanson,
Tyler, Thomas Pickman,
Ulysses S. Grant: His Life and Character,
Uncle Remus (character),
, 83
Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings,
Understanding Fiction,
“Under the Lion’s Paw,”
Undiscovered Country,
Union army,
Union Pacific Railroad,

Washington, Booker T.,
Washington, D.C.,
Washington, George,
Waste Land, The,
Watson, Miss (character),
Wave, The,
Wealth against Commonwealth,
Webster & Co.,
Webster, Noah,
Wellman, Flora,
Wells, H. G.,
“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard
White Fang,
“White Heron, A,”
White Heron and Other Stories, A,
Whitman, George,
Whitman, Walt,
Whittier, John Greenleaf,
“Why I am a Pagan,”
“Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper,”
Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the
Color Line, The,
Wilcox, Earl J.,
Wister, Owen,
, 72
Withersteen, Jane (character),
Wizard of Oz,
Wolfe, Tom,
rights of,
, 33, 51
Women and Economics,
Wood, James,
Woodberry, George Edward,
Woolf, Virginia,
Woolson, Constance Fenimore,
Wordsworth, William,
workers’ rights,
World Over, The,
World’s Columbian Exposition,
World War I,
Worth and Wealth,
“Wound-Dresser, The,”
Wounds in the Rain,
Wright, Orville,
Wright, Richard,
Yeehat Indians,
yellowback, 5,
yellow journalism,
Yellow Kid, The (cartoon character),

Realism and Regionalism, 1865
Yellow Peril,
“Yellow Wallpaper, The,” 4,
Yezierska, Anzia, 38,
Youth’s Companion
Yukon Territory,
Zerkow (character),
Ziff, Larzer,
Zipes, Jack,
Zola, Émile,

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