The rise of Realism in 1855 was the time when farming began to industrialize, communication expanded through railroads, and Nationalism was yet again revived. On top of all these important transformations that have marked this period of time was the significance for literature with a new audience, new settings, and new characters. The novel, Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, is a magnificent example of literature from the Realistic period.
First, Realism is a definite movement away from the Romantic period. Romantics wrote regarding the unique and the unusual, whereas in Realism, literature was written about the average and ordinary. The town where the novel takes place is Starkfield, an average farming community. There is not much in the town that is of interest or anything extravagant to be known for. In addition, literature from Romanticism focused on hopes, while Realistic literature illustrated skepticism and doubt. The narrator describes the scene where Zeena declares to Ethan that her sickness is getting serious, saying, "She continued to gaze at him through the twilight with a mien of wan authority, as of one consciously singled out for a great fate. `I've got complications,' she said" (108 Wharton). Hope for Zeena's health is nonexistent, and she, being a hypochondriac, confirms the fact that she feels doubtful about life. The Romantics wrote about the unusual and hopeful, which are characteristics that are not strongly represented in Realistic literature.
The second aspect of Realism is the idea of Regionalism. One indication of Regionalism in literature is the characters' dialect. An excellent depiction of dialect is where Harmon Gow says, "Wust kind, . . . More'n enough to kill most men" (6). His regional accent is shown by the spelling and punctuation, allowing the reader to have an idea of how Harmon would have said it. Another aspect of Regionalism is the customs and the way of life of the characters. One way of life that the...
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