11H prompt responses on “Regional Realism”
1. How does Mark Twain challenge Americans to grapple with difficult issues regarding social class, region, and race?
2. How does Twain react against romantic conventions to create a new aesthetic in American literature?
3. Why is the realistic representation of dialect so important in late nineteenth-century American literature?
4. How do these depictions of regional life expand traditional ideas about American identity?
5. How did the regional realist movement impact subsequent American fiction?
Remember, you homework assignment is to choose just one of the above questions and answer it in a write a brief (3-5 sentence) journal. You will submit this post as a comment to this blog. To view the film, click on the following link: "Regional Realism." Only watch the first 15 minutes or so of the clip. The rest of the film is about the two other authors.
Mark Twain broke the mold of previous American literature, using new techniques such as regional dialects and a child main character to do so. American literature had previously been comprised of romanticized stories of the South, where happy southern families had devoted African American servants (not slaves). Twain, however, valued the truth in writing and used the voice of a young, uneducated white boy to write about what life was really like in the South. Using such a narrator, the story was raw and honest, and gave young readers someone to relate to as they were exposed to the true horrors found in the South. To be as truthful as possible, Twain also employed the heavy southern accent characteristic of Missouri in his writings to provide a complete picture of the South to the rest of America. In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain strategically chooses characters and settings to challenge Americans to confront difficult issues related to social class, region, and race. Twain’s use of realistic dialect brings Huck and Jim to life and allows readers to identify with them and have a better understanding of their perspective on racial and social class relations; it also brings into focus an accurate representation of the Southern region’s daily life, which subtly forces readers to ponder regional issues. Twain’s satirical tone captures readers’ attention but does not fully conceal his criticism of slavery, murder, and other crimes against humanity. The river that carries Huck and Jim further south is portrayed as a protective setting even as it leads them deeper into the realm of slavery; Huck is only about fourteen years old – white but relatively uneducated – yet he represents the powerful spirit that originates in the southern heartland; Jim is a negro, yet he is perceived as a thoughtful and capable companion by Huck. These apparent incongruities present a challenge to American readers on divisive issues regarding social class, region, and race that were long kept silent. Twain's use of southern, accented speech gives a raw and exposed and yet realistic representation of 19th century American literature, which is vital to his novel's character. This dialect not only reveals that Huck and the rest of Southern society are relatively uneducated, but presents a stark contrast to the romanticized literature prior. This dialect is one of Twain's methods to emphasize his criticism of slavery and the realism of his literature. Even today, his use of the word n***** in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is hotly debated, but it is long-lasting evidence of the dialect of the time and the casualness with which the word was used, highlighting the realism of Twain's literature. 4. The regional dialects and lives changed people’s conceptions of the traditional American identity by exposing them to parts of a nation inconspicuous in their own lives. People of the time period were able to get to know and connect with people that they would otherwise never meet and more vividly understand the circumstances and conflicts that other people were experiencing. The use of different dialects, such as that used by Twain in his portrayal of Jim’s speech as uneducated, further satirically challenges the more traditional ways that people portrayed people of other, more familiar, regions and cultures. Moreover, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn revealed the reality of the harsh southern African American conditions and how these African Americans were not the compliant servants they were thought to be traditionally by others in the country. Overall, the new sense of realism depicted in the literature conveyed a newfound vivid sense of the American heartland, regional differences, and a greater breadth and depth of American identities than were commonly acknowledged. Traditional ideas about American identity before the Civil War focused on the society of the North, where the majority of literature in the United States originated. By depicting regional life of the South realistically through novels and essays, Mark Twain expanded the nation’s understanding of the customs and culture of a major part of the country. He portrayed a different lifestyle, adding a different mood and unique identity to the single sided story of the character of America. Twain was able to establish the South as an integral part of the developing American identity by writing from a different point of view and updating the incomplete picture of America that existed before. Realistic representation of dialect was important in the late nineteenth-century American literature because readers were able to undergo a new, unique experience. In novels, such as Mark Twain’s "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" characters spoke in regional dialects and readers were exposed to the rhythms, cultures and contradictions of the south. For instance, uneducated characters in Twain’s novel spoke with slang and improper grammar, giving the reader a feel of culture in the nineteenth-century south. In addition, realistic representation of dialect allowed readers to connect with people who they might not normally meet on a day-to-day basis and experience places they may never have a chance to visit. 4. Depictions of regional life expand traditional ideas about American identity by introducing Americans to regional characteristics of the people in regions far away. During Twain's time period, transportation was expensive particularity between different regions of the country. Not only that but often times Americans could not afford to take time off from their jobs to travel around the country. This meant that many Americans only experienced the culture and traditions of their region and any information they received about other regions was second or third hand. Twain's unaltered picture of Southern life helped Americans in other regions of the country to better understand the diversity of their country. Twain's Huckleberry Finn also allowed them a peek into the harsh reality of slavery and racism in the South.Other novels, like Twain's, exposed the quirks and often times harsh truths of various regions in the United States. Ultimately, the new truthful depictions of regional life expanded American's awareness of the events in their own country and their fellow Americans culture and traditions that are different from their own. 2. Twain and many other writers at the time shunned the unrealistic, dreamy romantic style and took to writing in a gritty realistic style that did not hide or gloss over the tough way of life that most in the country were living. Twain decided that real life was the easiest thing to relate to and wrote in the way that people spoke in the region. This created the ability to relate to the text quickly and without intense in-depth analyzation that the romantic style often required. This made the books more inviting and interesting for most because they could look at the story and see themselves rather than having to strain to see any relation in the romantic style. 2. Greatly affected by ideologically by the gruesome Civil War and the ultimate failure of equitable Reconstruction, Mark Twain found it necessary to expose the reality of racist southern life rather than conforming to the earlier romanticism of war and slavery in southern literature. His harsh and hilarious criticism of romanticism, "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," served to emphasize the importance of presenting American life realistically and the foolishness of creating an imaginary world with an entirely different set of values. His later published book served to give an example of a realistically portrayed southern story for the emerging class of southern and western writers newly connected by the Gilded Age economy to the eastern hub of literature. As a result of his efforts (as well as the events of the late nineteenth century), romanticism quickly died out and was replaced by realism until the disillusioned 1920s. How do these depictions of regional life expand traditional ideas about American identity?
As American Literature became infiltrated with Regional Realism, traditionally revered subjects started losing their appeal. For example, as southern writers published the horrors of the Civil War, romantic heroism started losing its value when people questioned the purpose of the war. Also, traditional New England writers started losing their grasp on American literature, when southern/western writers started voicing their own voices and cultures. This opened up the American identity to encompass the whole continental United States and new beliefs were exposed. This led to a richer American culture as people connected with more diverse backgrounds. As a result, the American people started unifying with others in different regions, creating a more unified country. 1. How does Mark Twain challenge Americans to grapple with difficult issues regarding social class, region, and race?
In most American literature during that time, African-Americans are treated as property that shouldn't be respected. This is shown in Huck Finn when Huck (dressed as a girl) is talking to the lady and finds out that everyone thinks that Jim killed Huck and that when Jim's found he will be killed. But, Twain does portray Jim in a positive light like when he mentions Huck enjoys Jim's presence and how Jim and Huck make it a point to look out for one another. In this book, Huck doesn't like religion, perhaps because it is not a concrete idea that is easy to grasp but I think Twain thinks religion is important because he makes the widow continue trying to cultivate religion in Huck. In this book, so far, the poor such as Pap, Huck and Tom don't really try to rise out of their social classes but characters such as the Widow and Judge Thatcher are trying to help out Huck and bring him to a higher social class. It shows that social class is prevalent in this book and I think it will help shape Huck's future. 3. Why is the realistic representation of dialect so important in late nineteenth-century American literature?
Realistic representation of dialect was important to the relatibility of Mark Twain's characters. The harshness of the Civil War and discouraging results of Reconstruction resulted in a turn from the gentile and romantic language of earlier literature. Instead the realistic dialects of the characters forced readers to face possibly unpleasant yet true characteristics of people they would rarely meet in their day to day lives. Thus widening the scope of the American public to the truth of the South, which had been previously portrayed in a false light. It also gave Southern literature a new sense of relatablity in contrast to the often pretentious tone of New England literature. 1. Mark Twain broke from the common romantic style and satirized and criticized life as it was. He explored divisive national issues such as racism through realistic dialect spoken by characters in terms of their location. That, coupled with his characters confronting difficult situations, exposed readers to the culture and contradictions of the south. His use of satire engaged the reader, while his regional dialect helped some readers identify with the circumstances and other readers understand the reality of the situations presented, putting them in a better position to fully contemplate the harsh truth in the issues of social class and race. His techniques amplified the effects of the stark truth in his criticisms and lead to a change in the common view of the American identity. His criticism of racial bigotry is deeply inherent in the novel. His depiction of Jim as a compassionate and intelligent being, as well his juxtaposition of Jim and Pap, exposes the contradictory and discordant views many people have regarding African Americans. His realism styled novel was the first of its kind, and subsequent to a period where novels depicting everyday life were romanticized; profoundly enhancing the effects of his truthful and accurate works and causing readers to deeply consider their views on social class and racism, as well as their ideas on what it truly means to be American. 3. By headlining the crusade for regional realism through his use of true-to-life dialects, Mark Twain helped to propagate the drastic changes and diversities of lifestyles in nineteenth-century America. During the nineteenth-century, especially during and after the Civil War, Americans from all walks of life were struggling to become equal with one another, some with better results than others. As nineteenth-century American literature adopted the style of regional realism and the use of accurate dialects, although many were not looking for it, people became exposed to all walks of life in the ever-broadening American culture. This forced them to realize that the American people was, and still is, not a homogeneous mass with unimportant minorities, but rather, a diverse group of people that, despite outward appearances and ever-present variations, could bear many unknown similarities below the surface, leading them to perhaps better understand the need for equality. While regional realism did increase exposure for American diversity, it also pressured Americans to understand the connections between themselves, in the face of their myriad differences. 3. Rather than the sugarcoated words romantic writers fed their readers, realistic representations of dialect provided a taste of reality. During that time, Americans were exposed to images of the violent Civil War, and after the war, people were clueless in what direction to head in as things changed rapidly. Incorporating realistic dialects representative of people experiencing problems that many other Americans faced portrays the harsh reality of America, or more specifically the South. Through the usage of different dialects, Americans are exposed to the differing cultures and situations Southerns faced, despite the stereotypical images that were existent for the South. By writing in this fashion, more readers could relate to the novels and therefore understand the main point of the story more easily. In a sense, it was a more reliable point of view of Southerners than that of romantic writers. 1. How does Mark Twain challenge Americans to grapple with difficult issues regarding social class, region, and race?
Mark Twain challenges American to grapple with difficult issues by providing a harsh reality that shocks people, while using satire to lighten the mood. He provides all sickening characteristics of the South's treatment towards African Americans as a way to send a realization that there are many unsolved issues that can't be ignored. While writing the book, Mark Twain meant for people to realize the local color problems that the region faced. Although many readers attribute Huckleberry Finn to be a humorous book, it's not at all. His satirical sense only is used as a way to lighten the mood as well as reel in the readers. Throughout the book, Mark Twain also hints at the ignorance of many people. For instance, Huck is an uneducated fourteen year-old. Despite this, he is still able to realize that Jim, a black slave, is a worthy friend and a trusting companion. If a fourteen year old boy can realize that African Americans are equal to himself, then anyone else in the world should be able to realize it too. Mark Twain, at the time did what was believed to be an act of unspeakable proportions. Mark Twain stepped out of the social norm of a romantically written style period that was very much common and written by his peers and authors that preceded before him. Mark Twain diverged from the rest and focused on topics more abroad and over the horizon, that was personal enough to hit his message home. National conflicts between individual issues were explored, ranging from topics such as slavery and religion, to the cultural representation of the South, primarily illustrated from the harsh dialect depicted and spoken by his characters in Huckleberry Finn. In this novel, Mark Twain's position on slavery is made evident through his main character Huck, a mere puppet of Twain's image and emotions. In a period where every novel put out featured a fictionalized romantic theme, Mark Twain honed in on realism, which paved the way for other authors ahead to break boundaries and expand their creativity. By creating an odd relationship between Huck and Jim, reader's perspective may change due to the platform in which Twain presents each of these character's attributes. Jim a negro/slave, is perceived as a thoughtful and intelligent compliment to Huck's loneliness. This alone presents a challenge for readers on divisive issues regarding social race, cultural differences, and religion that were issues not to be talked about. 2. How does Twain react against romantic conventions to create a new aesthetic in American literature?
Twain revolutionized American literature with his thoughtful presentation of regional dialect and going against Americans with real issues in the world like racial and social inequality. Furthering this point, he favored the real over what other authors wrote about like romanticism. Although, he made readers feel anxious with the disliked human condition this showed reality. With some humor and comedy, this gave Huck Finn a special appeal over the harsh reality. At the time it was published, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was faced with a lot of controversy and public outcry apparently due to its use of "vulgar language." Twain was distressed by the failure of Reconstruction, so he wrote this novel with that idea in mind. Twain's extremely racist depiction of black characters led to controversy not only then but even now in the country. The novel goes against the grain of Twain's usual humorous and light-hearted style by studying the tragedy of slavery and racism. Twain draws a stark contrast between white and black, the North and South, educated and uneducated -- all to draw attention to the great divides that led to the Civil War just a few decades later. The harsh reality of the South that Twain illustrates may be one of the reasons that the book was banned after being published. Today, it gives us a better understanding of the cultural struggle between clashing demographics in early 19th century America. 2. How does Twain react against romantic conventions to create a new aesthetic in American literature?
Twain doesn't like it because he is a realist writer. Romanticism represented southerners wishing to return to the days before the reconstruction-the days of slavery. Twain wanted to realize the views of Lincoln and African-Americans of that era. He wasn't content with the changes because the South did have many victories that brought life closer to slavery. 3. The late nineteenth-century is a period in American history characterized by deep divisions. For those living in the shadow of the Civil War, the sacrifices of their fathers and brothers become anger which bred tribalism and resentment of perceived enemies such as those of different races or regions. By realistically representing the dialects of specific groups of people, Mark Twain and his contemporaries paradoxically force their readers to look past their characters' accents. In a real life situation, hearing somebody talk in one of these dialects would cause many listeners to immediately conjure up a flood of associations and assumptions about their past. The simple act of noticing someone's accent inevitably changes the way a person of a different social class would interact with them and makes it less likely they will actually get to know them on a human level. Even as a modern audience, Jim's dialogue immediately lead us (or at least me) to some assumptions about his education, social class, etc. However, by continuing to read, it becomes evident that education is not the same as wisdom and class is not the same as worth. By giving his characters realistic dialects, Twain is able to relate these fictional characters to their real life counterparts while also making readers look not at their pronunciation, but rather at their words and actions, ultimately helping to dispel harmful stereotypes. 1. How does Mark Twain challenge Americans to grapple with difficult issues regarding social class, region, and race?
Mark Twain challenged Americans to grapple with difficult issues by introducing a new type of dialect, as well as creating new types of characters that contradicted the previous beliefs of life in the south. Twain also challenged southern stereotypes through his use of regional realism, which incorporated new voices and styles, most notably shown in Huckleberry Finn. This type of realism came as a breakthrough, because Americans were not accustomed to reading about a harsh life in the south. In addition, Twain's use of realism depicted life as it really was, and what made this realism so unique was the fact that Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn in the voice of an uneducated fourteen year old boy. In doing so, Twain introduced a southern dialect that became very unique to the story, and this dialect provided readers a realistic glimpse into how poor life in the rural south actually was. Furthermore, Twain depicted the runaway slave Jim as more than just a slave, and instead as a dignified human being, which was never before done in previous American Literature. People had never depicted slaves this way up until Twain had, and overall Twain set a new literary standard to which realistic writers would have to build off of following the introduction of Twain's unique style. 5. The baby country America weaned off the warm milk of mother straight onto the burn of scotch the next, unaware that with each sip the hangover hits harder, awakening from the drunken dreams of romantic literature into a depressing, sober reality. This country, a supposedly sweet layer of cake standing between two oceans, had little time to caress the warmth of the oven, coming out half-baked with the ingredients of the civil war and independence still wet upon the cutting board for all to chop under a knife of criticism. With Mr. Mark Twain holding his pen as his choice of a weapon, he wrote with accuracy rather than theory, and staged a book to merge Jim, a genuine human with a black face, to Huck, a boy who did not know men of black skin were genuine humans. This type of realism knocked down brick walls of class structure and dominos for an effect that reaches literature today, although its profundity had its height in history as a marking ubiquity of a southerner in first person perspective speaking his vernacular jargons for a very true American expression. With this new type of literature, an appetite of satiric criticism arouse to birth books introduced to uncover the then debatable standards of life (slavery) and its negatives, which were glossed over and buried. Mark Twain, just one of the chefs of romantic realism, cooked up his books waiting to see the eaters on the other end sprawl for more. The modern satirists of Stephen Colbert and Stanley Kubrick with his Dr. Strangelove, and all those in between during the time of depression, with writing such as the Grapes of Wrath, have the theme of either realism and/or satire. Today's literature seems to be blends of this.
[Man, the metaphor in the second sentence of this post...whatever cooking class you're taking, sign me up. Fantabulatastic.] 3. Why is the realistic representation of dialect so important in late nineteenth-century American literature?
As the "regional realist" movement emerged in America, one reason the recognition of different regional dialects in literature became important is that it represented the social recognition of America's diverse regions. Before the Civil War, the north, and specifically the northern upper class, had reigned supreme over the south and west in political might, industrial production and literacy. However, as Reconstruction enfranchised southern blacks and yeomen and spawned a network of railroads that connected southern and western resources to the factories of the north, the "less civilized" regions of America rose to rival the north in all of these categories. A natural byproduct of the increasing connectedness and equality in the nation was the growing representation of all subsets of Americans on the pages of the new literature. Newly literate ex-slaves wanted to read about themselves; wealthy northerners wanted to understand the culture of the men at the other end of the rail line. America discovered itself as the "cultural melting pot" which is such a source of pride to Americans (even the most white-bread, DAR, one-percent of us) today. In the specific case of Huck Finn, Twain's choice to set the novel before the Civil War served as a reminder, and somewhat of a reprimand, that regional dialects had still existed even in the past when the elite of society had ignored them. 3. Why is the realistic representation of dialect so important in late nineteenth-century American literature?
Mark Twain, through his use of southern dialect in his novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, was able to provide a raw and harsh reality of what life was like in the south in the early 19th century, especially involving slavery. The use of his characters’ realistic southern dialect made it so his readers were able to understand how life was in the south, and how major issues like the lack of education and slavery impacted different races or social class. This easily highlighted the realism that was present in his novels. When The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first published, it was banned in many different areas. However, the idea of it was to be able to represent the horror that was slavery in such a way that people would want to address it as an actual issue as opposed to accepting the glorified versions of it in the media in order to make people feel better about slavery. People were simply trying to hide the harsh reality of slavery in order to be able to continue it, when in reality, that was creating a dangerous amount of ignorance that Twain decided could no longer be ignored. His goal through this book was to be able to address the overall issue that the south faced which was ignorance, and making the story more light-hearted was a way for him to be able to reach out and relate to more people.