Mid-Western Realism in American Literature

Also Read

      In the more settled forming regions of the Midwest, the writing tone in poetry and prose, tended to become family and community. For many years the editor of the important Atlantic Monthly magazine, William Dean Howells (1837-1920) published realistic writing local color by Bret Harte, Mark Twain, George Washington Cable, and others. He was the champion of realism, and hit novels, such as A Modern Instance (1882), The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), and A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890), carefully inter weave social circumstances with the emotions of ordinary middle-class Americans. Love, ambition, idealism, and temptation motivate his character. Howells was acutely aware of the moral corruption of business tycoons during the Gilded Age of the 1870s.

      Howells’s The Rise of Silas Lapham uses and ironic title to make this point. Silas Lapham became rich by cheating an old business partner; and his immoral act deeply disturbed his family, though for years Lapham could not see that he had acted improperly. In the end, Lapham is morally redeemed, choosing bankruptcy rather than unethical success. Silas Lapham is, like Huckleberry Finn, an unsuccessful story: Lapham’s business fall is his moral rise. Toward the end of his life, Howells, like Twain, became increasingly active in political causes, defending the rights of labor union organizers and deploring American colonialism in the Philippines. James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) achieved fame and wealth by writing a series of poems in ‘Hoosier’ dialect of Indiana. The poems are light and sentimental.

      The poems like, ‘Little Orphon Anne’ (1883) and’ When the Frost is on the Punkin’ (1883) concentrate on the picturesque figures of pathos. Edward Eggleston (1837-1902) was born in Indiana and achieved fame by writing about the simplicity and community of Midwestern life and using the local dialect. He chose fiction as a way of recording and celebrating his small corner of America. His most famous book The Hoosier Schoolmaster (1871) is based on his experiences of his school teacher brother; it contains a grain of tough realism his depiction of coarseness and bigotry of a group of Indiana farmers who persecute the hero when a false accusation of theft was made against him. The hero and the oman he eventually marries are depicted as ideal human being.

      Poetry of The Chicago School: Three Mid-western poets who grew up in Illinois and Hatered the mid-western concern with the ordinary people are — Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay, and Edgar Lee Masters. Their poetry often concerns with obscure individuals. They developed techniques - realism, dramatic renderings - that reached out to a larger readership in Contemporary America. They are part of the Midwestern, or Chicago School that arose before World War I to challenge The East coast Literary establishment. The “Chicago Renaissance” as a watershed in contemporary American culture. It demonstrated that America’s interior had gradually matured.

Previous Post Next Post