American Literature: Mark Twain and Realism

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American Literature: Mark Twain and Realism

        During the literary time period of Realism, many authors exemplified the characteristics of Realism; however, Mark Twain outstood all the rest. Twain is a great example of the Realist time period for literature. The Realist time period took place from 1850 until the turn of the century and he played a major role in the start of modern literature. Mark Twain really embraces the styles and conventions that the Realistic time period focused on. Realism is “the faithful representation of reality” (Campbell). Realism seemed like real life in the 1800s.

        Through the late 1800s, Realism emerged as the literary movement to focus on. Realism was the movement that bridged the Romantic time period to the Modern time period. As Realism emerged, it was defined as any work of fiction published in the late 1850s (Campbell). Through the course of this time period, Realism became very popular through different events in history. The major event that took place was the Civil War, 1861-1865. During the war, many soldiers had experienced down time when battles were not being fought. Reading would be a way to pass time in-between battles and this pushed the issue for more books to be published. Although Mark Twain didn’t publish his two most famous novels until 1876, other authors provided the soldiers with good Realist literature (Arpin 411). “Realism lasted from the Civil War until the turn of the century when Mark Twain wrote fiction devoted to accurate representation of American lives” (Campbell). The Civil War was the major impact on the beginning of Realism and the end of Romanticism. After the Civil War, “an increase in literacy rates, the growth of industrialization and urbanization, and a rise in the middle class provided a fertile environment for readers” (Campbell). These actions helped define Realism to what it is seen as today.

        The best way to depict Realism is by analyzing the authors’ ability to narrate their respective novels. Many realist authors wrote using an unbiased perspective of life by only stating the facts and not delving into the characters’ heads no matter what part of society they were from (Galens 246). These authors used the style of an objective narration, which is a major characteristic of Realism, to satisfy all aspects of life. Through the way of life in societies, Realism was defined to be incorporating the customs of the area in the work. “Not only did Realism impact literature, it impacted religion, philosophy, and psychology” (Galens 258). This movement hit home on every form of life and shifted the way people saw life in the late 1800s.

        Now, focusing on philosophy and religion, these factors were very apparent in Realist novels. “Many authors put forth their effort to bring in philosophical and religious debates to accompany their descriptions on the physical details in novels” (Galens 253). The use of these debates helps authors to focus on more than one theme throughout the course of a novel. Twain, in particular, liked to focus on freedom and independence combined with slavery as an influence in his novels (Hill 64). Some examples of these themes are found in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Going back to all Realist writers, in general, they “wanted to use all levels of society in their novels by addressing socioeconomic class conflict” (Galens 251). The idea of incorporating both the rich and the poor in books became a good idea in the minds of Realist novelists. Realism became known to involve these themes in literature.

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        The use of setting, characterization, and the narrative voice helped define realist authors by using these styles to excellence (Galens 253). The narrative voice is a key in Realist writing and it is a main style of Realism. “Many writers wanted to focus of the objective reality by using a ‘storyteller,’ who is not involved in the story, instead of a character to tell the story” (Galens 253). As a result, most Realist novels are written in the third-person objective point of view. Another style of Realism is the characterization by the authors. Many authors were known for their wide ...

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