Realism And Naturalism In 20th Century American Fiction

.. of crisis. Modernism centered on explorations into the spiritual nature of men and the value of his society and institutions. (1337) Like realism, modernists focused on changes on society (Elliott 699) and used symbolism, although in this case spiritual, to draw their fiction (Bradley 1340). Modernist writers, like most Americans, were amazed at the destructive power of war on the common man. Writers such as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and F.

Scott Fitzgerald spearheaded the modernistic renaissance by employing realistic and naturalistic techniques. Hemingways The Sun Also Rises details the principle of an alienation from society that had been forced upon by the circumstances of the time (Spiller 271). In this case, it describes a young boy alienated from society because of his involvement in World War I, the loss of faith and hope and collapse of former values that occurs (Hart 284). His earlier works can sometimes be described as containing characteristic influences of naturalism (Bradley 1339). This can be reflected in his presentation of the strict relations between environment and fate.. (1339). Later in his career, Hemingway once again took the alienation from society route.

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This time, in the spirit of realist Henry James, he separates himself from American society to better judge it. With his novel The Green Hills of Africa, Hemingway compares American culture to Africas. At times, Hemingway ..began to seem like a little more than a modern realist.. (Spiller Lit His 1300). William Faulkner, producer of some of the most important books of the twentieth century, also strongly draws the connection between environment and fate. He combines naturalism and primitivism, a literary technique involving clear imagery, to create a sometimes confusing and complex detailed reading that involves ..people of all sorts- wealthy and poor, evil and good, slave and free- coming into sharp focus in his writing.

(Faulkner Comptons) This idea, much like that of realist James, provides the reader with the whole picture of society. The novels and short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald are famous for portraying the “lost generation” of the post-World War I era. Fitzgeralds moral values were social rather than personal (Fitzgerald Comptons). He believes that his writing should address the problems that society has and the problems that he has with society.

Faulkner’s prose is ornate and complex. His sentences are long and complicated, and many nouns and adjectives are used. Hemingway’s style is quite the opposite. His sentences are short and pointed, and adjectives are used sparingly. The effect is one of great power and compression. By compressing his literary ideas in his writing, he makes his literature easily understood and direct to his readers.

Many connections can be made between the literature of the late 19th century realism and naturalism and that of post-World War I modernism. First and most importantly of all, modernists, like realists and naturalists, attacked societys problems by using symbolism to make their own judgments of the basic foundations of American life. Modernists, such as Ernest Hemingway, looked at American society and compared to that of other cultures of the world. This technique had been extensively employed by such realists as Henry James. Modernism used the naturalist method of scientifically exploring the individual and the society. Stylistically, modernists, with the exception of Hemingway, wrote in a very formal, defined form.

Modernists and realists both attacked the moral dilemmas in society. The only difference was that these dilemmas were different. While the realists attempted to give a comprehensive picture of modern life (502), modernists wished express the whole experience of modern life. (Elliott 598). These authors of the realistic and modernistic period had the same goals so naturally they wrote using the same ideas, methods, and principles. Realists focused on different literary aspects to detail how American culture was effected by these changes. They detailed characters shaped by society and tried to convey the good and evil aspects of life.

Mirroring this technique, modernists portrayed people alienated and rejected from society because of the effects of the First World War. Both focused on detailing problems facing their characters, externally and internally, while not focusing on plot development. Thematically, both groups of authors conveyed the good and bad aspects of a changing American society. Both rallied for change and both asked for the unification of society, but both still lingered more on the presence of corruption in America. The only thing that separated the two movements was the societies around them.

While both societies were experiencing major change quickly, they were so different. The two literatures had to be distinguished not because of their content and character, which was for the most part the same, but instead because of the differing conditions that existed around the literature. Even though both wanted to accurately depict life, they were written in two very distinct times in American history. During the rise of Realism and Naturalism, American culture was expanding and adapting. Modern life was being oppressed by the dehumanizing agents of warfare on a large scale.

As we know, culture influences literature. Even though these two literary movements may have only been separated by about twenty years, in these twenty years, focus shifted from the interior of American society to how American society was affected by a conflict created as a result of opposing cultures. This idea of differing cultures producing differing literatures provides the basis for the differences in the movements. Modernism after World War I was influenced by the realistic/naturalistic movement of the late Nineteenth century. The literary goals, techniques, and principles of the modernists and realists/naturalists were the same. Both wanted to paint an unbiased, accurate picture of society by confronting the problems of the individual and of the society.

To do this, most of the time they resorted to the same techniques. They created literature that combined scientific reasoning, unidealistic views and physical and psychological examination that painted a portrait of society that could be used to help American society adjust, define, and heal. Realists of the late Nineteenth century and Modernists of the 1920s wrote alike but were divided on the basis that their respective societies were so different.

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