Realism in American literature became popular from 1865-1900. Having just ended the Civil War, it was a time of great turmoil in American history, with reconstruction and urbanization following right after. It was a time of change – industrialization and technological advances were underway, changing the way Americans thought. In "The Novel and its Future," George Parsons Lathrop said, "Realism sets itself at work to consider characters and events which are apparently the most ordinary and uninteresting, in order to extract from these their full value and true meaning” (Lombardi). This basically means taking every day feelings and experiences and using imagery to find a greater meaning behind them. Moreover, psychological realism is interested in capturing the inmost sentiment of experience, which means there doesn’t necessary have to be a story line because it’s essentially focused on the feelings of the character. Readers are often presented with the character's consciousness and moves through the character's thought process. There is a focus on interior setting - the inside of the characters’ minds. Heavy imagery also is used, fused with sound and sight. Memories or “flashbacks” are also sometimes used in these kinds of poems. Common themes in psychological realist poems are alienation, loneliness, love, and self (Rushing), some of which are seen in Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poems Richard Cory and Miniver Cheevy. In Richard Cory, the reader follows along with the speakers’ thoughts of Cory. They, in a sense, paint a picture of him for the reader, using phrases like “clean favored and imperially slim,” “he fluttered pulses… he glittered,” he was “admirably schooled in every grace” to describe a man who went downtown. The poem describes a good-looking, rich, learned, humble gentleman admired by the people in his town – basically the man everyone should want to be. Despite the fact that he was “richer than a king,” on one...
Cited: Lombardi, Esther. "Realism - American Literature."About.com Guide. The New York Times Company, n.d. Web. 29 April 2011. <http://classiclit.about.com/od/literaryterms/g/aa_realistic.htm>
Norton Anthology of American Literature, 7th edition, volume C, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2007
Penrose, Patricia. "American Realism: 1865-1910."American Collection. National Council of Teachers of English, n.d. Web. 29 April 2011. <http://www.ncteamericancollection.org/amer_realism.htm>.
Prof. Rubenfeld, HLI 118 A, Stevens Institute of Technology, Spring 2011
Rushing, Elizabeth. "Psychological Realism."Literature Rush. Literature Rush, 10 Nov 2007. Web. 29 April 2011. <http://literaryrush.blogspot.com/2007/11/psychological-realism.html>.
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