Realism and Mark Twain - Summit School District / Overview

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Transcript Realism and Mark Twain - Summit School District / Overview

Realism and Mark Twain

The Civil War and Post-War Period watch?v=eTCjHZWmgG0

 A reaction against romanticism, an interest in scientific method, the systematizing of the study of documentary history, and the influence of rational philosophy all affected the rise of realism.

 According to William Harmon and Hugh Holman, "Where romanticists transcend the immediate to find the ideal, and naturalists plumb the actual or superficial to find the scientific laws that control its actions, realists center their attention to a remarkable degree on the immediate, the here and now, the specific action, and the verifiable consequence" (A Handbook to Literature 428).

 In American literature, the term "realism" encompasses the period of time from the Civil War to the turn of the century during which William Dean Howells, Rebecca Harding Davis, Henry James, Mark Twain, and others wrote fiction devoted to accurate representation and an exploration of American lives in various contexts.

 As the United States grew rapidly after the Civil War, the increasing rates of democracy and literacy, the rapid growth in industrialism and urbanization, an expanding population base due to immigration, and a relative rise in middle class affluence provided a fertile literary environment for readers interested in understanding these rapid shifts in culture (Social Construction of American Realism ix).

Plot and Character

  choices are often the subject. Characters appear in the real  class, to their own past. characters act on their environment

   Renders reality closely and in comprehensive detail. Selective presentation of reality with an emphasis on verisimilitude, even at the expense of a well-made plot. Events will usually be plausible. Realistic novels avoid the sensational, dramatic elements of naturalistic novels and romances. Class is important; the novel has traditionally served the interests and aspirations of an insurgent middle class.

Interpretation and analysis

   Realism is viewed as a realization of democracy. The morality of Realism is intrinsic, integral, relativistic – relations between people and society are explored. Realists were pragmatic, relativistic, democratic and experimental. The purpose of writing is to instruct and to entertain.

Structure of Prose

Diction is the natural vernacular, not heightened or poetic; tone may be comic, satiric, or matter-of-fact.

The use of symbolism is controlled and limited; the realists depend more on the use of images. Objectivity in presentation becomes increasingly important: overt authorial comments or intrusions diminish as the century progresses.

Mark Twain

   Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri in 1835 At the age of four, he moved to Hannibal on the Mississippi River He eventually became a riverboat pilot; he derived the name Mark Twain from the riverboat leadsman’s signal “By the mark, Twain”- meaning the water was deep enough for safe passage

All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huck Finn . . .There was nothing before. There has been nothing so good since.

-Ernest Hemingway watch?v=fKvhjvBap0o

  Huck Finn was published in 1884 It received great public and critical acclaim.

Facts about the novel

     and Elmira, New York date of first publication · 1884 narrator · Huckleberry Finn point of view · Huck’s point of view, although Twain own ironic wit tone · Frequently ironic or mocking, particularly concerning   boyish and exuberant tense · Immediate past  time of its publication setting (place) · The Mississippi River town of St.

Possible Themes

             Individual Vs. Society Emotional Vs. Rational Phoniness) The role of superstitions Tolerance Vs. Prejudice Dehumanization Death and Rebirth Coming of Age The Hero ’ s Journey Nature Humanity (Gullibility, Ignorance, etc.) Quest for Freedom Real Vs. Romantic

Huck Stands for

  Individualism  Brotherly association  Spontaneity

The novel also depicts Huck’s maturation and development.

He distrusts the morals and precepts of a society that fails to protect him.

He begins to question many of his teachings- especially those regarding race and slavery I’ll “go to hell”

   Even though written after slavery was abolished, things had not gotten much better for blacks in the South.

We may read this story as an allegorical representation of the conditions of blacks in the US even after the abolition of slavery.

Twain exposes the hypocrisy of slavery.


    Childhood Lies and Cons Superstitions and Folk Beliefs Parodies of Popular Romance Novels


    The Mississippi River- The ultimate symbol of freedom Land Shipwrecks Floods

  On a raft, away from society, he becomes free from society’s rules and makes his own conclusions. The river symbolizes freedom; the shore symbolizes civilization and the people who live in it.

Southern aristocrats (Grangerfords)

Materialism (Duke & King)

Slavery (Jim)

Sentimental novels


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