Friday, May 10, 2013
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Entering the Realm of Realism
During the Civil War Harriet Beecher Stowe was in the midst of writing her very first realist novel called "The Pearl of Orr's Island." In a collection of her own letters she writes about how this piece would not be as romantic as some of her others. She speaks about how she wants her readers to be warned that there is no obnoxious romanticizing that most of the readers are used to. The excerpt states,
The realm of realism was a real turning point in literary history. This was mainly caused by the Civil war era; one of the most controversial times for the human race and our nation. Stowe’s transition is dramatically significant because of this.
Realism is the “interest in or concern for the actual or real, as distinguished from the abstract, speculative, etc.” This means that Stowe hopes to open people’s eyes to the real world around them, even children. She starts to believe that it is absurd for children to grow up with this unconceivable notion the world is full of romance and fantasy when, in reality, people are killing each other over skin color, property and money. Her input is extremely significant in this literary transition for these exact reasons. Without the help of writing such as this many people would still have their heads stuck in a romantic novel instead of focus on the ground the walk on and the people that pass them every day.
“In commencing again ‘The Pearl of Orr’s Island’, the author meets the serious embarrassment of trying to revive for the second time an unexpected pleasure… We beg our readers to know that no great romance is coming, only a story as pale and colorless as real life, and the sad truth.
You will not be interested as you have been, kind friends, we cannot hope it, your expectations are raised only to be dashed; for our characters have no strange and wondrous adventures of outward life, and the changes that occur to them and the history that they make is that of the inner life, that “cometh not with observation.”
We are most sorry for our dear little child-audience, who, now that Mara and Moses have grown up, will, we fear, lose interest in them. What a pity, boys and girls that you are not grown up to in these six months and then Mara and Moses would not seem to you to be getting dull and talking all sorts of unintelligible talk.
But no, dear little folks, we don’t wish it, either. We pray you may stay long little and believing and able to be pleased with child’s stories; for Christ says as such as you is the kingdom of heaven. We must try and see what can be done for you and whether Captain Kittridge has not a story or two left in his pocket, with which to beguile your time.”
This passage shows Stowe’s transition into the realm of realism. She is begging of her readers to notice that she is now speaking the whole truth with not much romantic bias or just giving her readers a story that she feels will interest them. There is more importance in understanding what it truly going on in the real world through some words of historical fiction. She also states that even though it will be new for her readers she hopes that they accept the insight she is trying to portray to them, even though many of them have not been accustomed to this sort of reading.