Editha: William Dean Howells’s commitment to literary realism ENG 202: American Literature II
Editha: William Dean Howells’s commitment to literary realism
Realism can be defined as view in which the author tries to depict life as truthfully and accurately as possible. The use of realistic or lifelike settings described by the author or narrated by a character, add a layer of realism to the story, even if the story itself is fictitious. The characters themselves are often portrayed as believable as possible, to the point that the character being described could actually exist; they are often depicted as very average people, void of extreme wealth, influence, or astounding abilities. The reason characters and settings are often depicted as average and as normal as possible is that the realism of a novel is ultimately determined by the reader. If the reader is able to relate their experience of life with the same experience of life that is portrayed in the novel, than the novel is said to realistic. William Dean Howells’s “Novel-Writing and Novel-Reading: An Impersonal Explanation” and “Editha” help in defining and exemplifying realism; the protagonists in the stories are flawed in their nature and are faced with realistic and common dilemmas that result in what would also be considered realistic and common outcomes. The settings and events are also realistic in that they correspond to the time the stories are said to take place in.
Through his portrayal of Editha, Howells presents a young girl who feels that her boyfriend George is not heroic enough in his pursuits to merit her affection and she decides to try and make him into a war hero by pressuring him into enlisting in the Spanish-American War. “But now, it flashed upon her, if he could do something worthy to have won her-be a hero, her hero-it would be even better than if he had done it before asking her; it would be grander” (308). This initial portrayal of Editha shows the reader that...
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