Realism and Regionalism

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					     Realism &
Time Period: from the Civil War
   to the turn of the century
       Thank you, Mrs. Harmaning!
a reaction against
the romantic
celebration of the
ability of the
human will to
triumph over
"the faithful
representation of
reality" or
"verisimilitude“     Man with a Hoe
[the appearance or   by Jean-Francois Millet
semblance of         (1862)
What realists believe
 humanity’s freedom of choice is limited
 by the power of outside forces. (a branch
 of realism called naturalism takes this
 idea to an extreme)
 class is important: focus is on the
 insurgent middle class
 in scientific principles, pragmatism, and
 that the purpose of writing is to instruct
 and to entertain
Reasons for Realism
Industrial revolution: less reliance
on rural opportunities and more
focus on factory production
Urbanization: immigrants crowded
into tenements with horrific living
and working conditions
Post-war American life: a time of
Characteristics (continued)
 Emphasis on verisimilitude (events
 are plausible and reasonable, not
 extraordinary or amazing; focus on
 everyday experiences)
 Emphasis on objectivity
 Character is more important than
 Characters appear in their real
 complexity of temperament and
Characteristics of
 May deal with unpleasant and even
 offensive subject matter
 Concern with social problems,
 hardships and struggles of lower
 middle class and poor people
 Emphasis on morality
 Use of symbolism is controlled and
 limited; more dependence on
 imagery and details
Realistic Prose
“Our way took us sorrowfully past hospitals and
prisons and barracks …on a sand-bar near the
shore we saw three gendarmes standing with a
group of civilians. Between their fixed and
absolutely motionless figures lay the body of a
drowned man on the sand, poorly clothed in a
workman’s dress, and with his poor, dead clay-
white hands stretched out from him on the sand,
and his gray face showing to the sky.”
   from Familiar Spanish Travels, chapter 4
   by William Dean Howells, “the father of
Focuses on the
dialect, customs,
topography, and
other features
particular to a
specific region
Another term
for it is “the
local color
movement”           Huck Finn
Reasons for the rise of
  An attempt to preserve regional
  traditions and culture during a
  period of change
  Reaction against the economic
  impact of modernization
  New technologies after the Civil War
  evoked a sense of disconnection and
  loss of rural lifestyle
  Reflects the desire to hold onto the
What is behind regionalism?
        Question: Is it a type
        of realism or is it a
        branch of
        Answer: It is often a
        blend of realism with
        nostalgic sentiment
Regionalism / Local Color
“The outcome of the Civil War signified the victory
of nationalism over regional interests. With the
increasing move toward urbanization and
industrialization following the war and the concurrent
diminishing of regional differences, it is not
surprising that there was a developing nostalgia for
remaining regional differences. Local color writing,
which was regionally, and often rurally, based and
usually took the form of short stories intended for
mass consumption, met a need for stories about
simpler times and faraway places.” Wilson, Charles
Reagan, and William Ferris, eds., Encyclopedia of
Southern Culture, Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of
North Carolina Press, 1989.

 Characters exemplify traditions,
 dialects, and common personality
 quirks typical of a particular locale
 (often stereotypical or quaint)
 Detailed descriptions of nature /
 environmental settings
 Seeks to preserve earlier simpler
 and innocent ways of living; often a
 nostalgic memoir of the past
Characteristics (continued)
 Shows conflict between old rural values
 and new urban ways (the intrusion of an
 interloper is a common motif)
 A predominance of Southern writers who
 focus on the traditions of the Old South
 The narrator is usually an educated
 observer who preserves a sometimes
 sympathetic, sometimes ironic distance
 from the characters
 Celebration of community and its rituals
 Storytelling style
In the Tennessee
 “Before it takes that desperate
 plunge into the unexplored caverns
 of the mountain, Lost Creek lends its
 aid to divers jobs of very prosaic
 work. Further up the valley it turns a
 mill wheel and on Mondays it is wont
 to assist in the family wash…The
 garments, laid across a bench and
 beater white with a wooden paddle,
 would flutter hilariously in the
In The Tennessee
 This iterative sound used to pulse like a
 lyric in Cynthia’s heart. But her mother,
 one day, took up her testimony against it.
 “I do declar’, it sets me plumb
 catawampus ter hev ter listen ter them
 blacksmiths, up yander ter thar shop, at
 thar everlastin’ chink-chank an’ chink-
 chank, considerin’ the tales I hearn ‘bout
 ‘me, when I war down ter the quiltin’ at
 Maria’s house in the Cove” (Murfree 2-