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To sum up, Romantic idealism gave way to Realism, which gradually evolved into the much more pessimistic view of the world known as Naturalism. The naturalists see humanity as cruel, greedy, and stupid; like Pavlov’s dogs, human beings are controlled by the environment, and their actions are determined by a combination of social, environmental, and economic factors.
Notes on Mark Twain: Regional RealistSamuel Langhorne ClemensTextual introduction says he moved from rambunctious adolescence to “troubled and powerful maturity”His basic nature was intuitive and romantic, but his realization that the citizens of America were not conforming to the idea of the Romantic conception of the basic goodness of human beings led him to develop a skepticism that later became a more cynical view; humor became a weapon for him. Grew up in Hannibal MissouriCareers: Newspaper work; obtained license as a riverboat pilot (pseudonym, “Mark Twain,” means that the water is safe at two-fathoms, a phrase used by pilots); authorNoted for his love of the American land and its people (however cynical he became)The editors write, “Mark Twain is America’s greatest humorist not only because of his unsurpassed mastery of that essential pattern but because his humor served to point up errors in American life---its gaucheries, pretenses, and political debilities---and at the time expressed a faith in the American dream, optimistic and unquenchable.”Some of his later works “are indictments of more than national cupidity and hypocrisy; they are troubled inquiries into the nature of the human race.”William Dean Howells called Twain “the Lincoln of our literature.”
Notes on Henry JamesThe man:Where Twain considered the “provincial American genius,” James is considered the “cosmopolitan American genius.”Brother of William James, philosopher and scientist, renowned psychologistSchooling in Europe, “intense intellectual activity”Studied painting, attended Harvard Law School, but chose to become an authorMade his home England and became a British subject when he became “impatient at America’s aloofness from World War I.”French and Russian realists and naturalists influenced his styleSaw novelist as “clinical researcher into life” (naturalist influence) but was more of a realist in that he did not see the need to unselectively “report everything observed.”Admitted a “measure of determinism, but rejected the pessimistic extreme” of believing that human character results totally from chance. “rebelled against the materialistic interpretation of human destiny” and “struggled with the problem of undeniable evil”influenced by Hawthorne; greatly admired himJames feared marriage because he was convinced that “one of the partners absorbs the strength of the other (it is usually the woman who does so) and thus enfeebles….and…the ‘vampire’ theme is prominent in many of his stories” (Abel 220).