The Influence of Realism and Naturalism on 20th Century American Fiction

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The Influence of Realism and Naturalism on 20th Century American Fiction After World War I, American people and the authors among them were left disillusioned by the effects that war had on their society. America needed a literature that would explain what had happened and what was happening to their society. American writers turned to what is now known as modernism. The influence of 19th Century realism and naturalism and their truthful representation of American life and people was evident in post World War I modernism. This paper will try to prove this by presenting the basic ideas and of these literary genres, literary examples of each, and then make connections between the two literary movements. Realism Modernism not only depicted American society after World War I accurately and unbiasedly, but also tried to find the solutions brought upon by the suffering created by the war (Elliott 705). The realistic movement of the late 19th century saw authors accurately depict life and it's problems. Realists attempted to "give a comprehensive picture of modern life" (Elliott 502) by presenting the entire picture. They did not try to give one view of life but instead attempted to show the different classes, manners, and stratification of life in America. Realists created this picture of America by combining a wide variety of "details derived from observation and documentation..." to "approach the norm of experience..." (3). Along with this technique, realists compared the "objective or absolute existence" in America to that of the "universal truths, or observed facts of life" (Harvey 12). In other words, realists objectively looked at American society and pointed out the aspects that it had in common with the general truths of existence. This realistic movement evolved as a result of many changes and transitions in American culture. In the late 1800's, the United States was experiencing "swift growth and change" as a result of a changing economy, society, and


Cited: "American Literature". Compton 's Interactive Encyclopedia (Computer Program) 1995 Bradley, Sculley. The American Tradition in Literature. New York City: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1967: 1336-1342 Elliott, Emory. Columbia Literary History of the United States. New York City:Columbia University Press:1988, 502-504, 599 "Faulkner, William". Compton 's Interactive Encyclopedia (Computer Program) 1995 "Fitzgerald, Scott F.". Compton 's Interactive Encyclopedia (Computer Program) 1995 Hart, James D. The Oxford Companion to American Literature. New York City:Oxford University Press, 1995: 284-285 Pizer, Donald. Realism and Naturalism. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1966: 3, 10-11 Spiller, Robert E. The Cycle of American Literature. New York City: The MacMillan Company, 1966: 269-303 Spiller, Robert E. et al. Literary History of the United States. New York City: The MacMillan Publishing Company, 1974: 1300

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