(around the 1850s -1914)
Critics argue that Realism came into being with the fall of the aristocratic and the rise of the democratic and the capitalistic.
Realism is chiefly concerned with the commonplaces of everyday life among the middle and lower classes, which were topics not often covered in previous literature. The previous Romantic stories were replaced with stories of the lives of ordinary people.
With stories focusing on the ordinary individual, an “official moral standard” lost credibility; readers were now left to judge a character’s or a system’s morality for his/herself.
Realism attempts to describe life without idealization or romantic subjectivity.
In the deadlocked Election of 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes was given the presidency when he agreed to pull troops out of the South. This “Compromise of 1877” allowed southern whites to regain power. The South soon became a racially segregated society and sanctioned terror would continue until the 1950s.
The historian W.E.B. DuBois succinctly states the failure of Reconstruction: “The slave went free; stood for a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again into slavery.”
From a 1930 high school best-selling textbook
by Elliot Morrison and Henry Steele Commager
Sambo, whose wrongs moved the abolitionists to wrath and tears . . . suffered less than any other class in the South from its “peculiar institution.” . . . The majority of slaves were . . . apparently happy. . . . There was much to be said for slavery as a transitional status between barbarism and civilization. The negro learned his master’s language, and accepted in some degree his moral and religious standards. In return he contributed much besides his labor—music and humor for instance—to American civilization.
© 2002 Center for Instructional Innovation, Western Washington University
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton met in 1851. They remained friends and collaborators in the women’s rights movement for the next fifty years. Stanton was the brains of the cause, Anthony its organizer. Stanton wrote of their relationship:
“In thought and sympathy we were one, and in the division of labor we exactly complimented each other. I am the better writer, she the better critic. She supplied the facts and statistics, I the philosophy and rhetoric, and together we have made arguments that have stood unshaken through the storms of long years; arguments that no one has answered. Eighty Years and More”
“Solitude of Self” – (17) http://www.pbs.org/stantonanthony/movement/index.html
The nineteenth amendment was passed in 1920, giving women the right to vote.
The Battle of Little Bighorn
Railroad Strike of 1877
After three years, the nation still suffered through a major economic depression. A strike by railroad workers sparked a coast-to-coast battle, as workers driven by despair and desperation fought troops in the streets of major U.S. cities.
The ruling elite, badly shaken by the widespread protests, thought a revolution was underway. The New York Sun prescribed “a diet of lead for the hungry strikers.”
The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 was the first major strike in an industry that propelled America’s industrial revolution.
This was the first major strike broken by the U.S. military. Probably in no other strike had so many working people met a violent death at the hands of the authorities.
Some 100,000 workers had gone on strike, and countless unemployed workers in numerous cities had joined the strikers in protests against intolerable conditions. Farmers, who hated the railroad companies and their extortionate practices, fed the strikers.
More than half the freight on the nation’s 75,000 miles of track stopped moving.
More than 100 had died and 1,000 had been jailed, although those imprisoned were not the ones directly responsible for the deaths.
The fire at the Triangle Waist Company in New York City, which claimed the lives of 146 young immigrant workers, is one of the worst disasters since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This incident has had great significance to this day because it highlights the inhumane working conditions to which industrial workers can be subjected. To many, its horrors epitomize the extremes of industrialism. The tragedy still dwells in the collective memory of the nation and of the international labor movement. The victims of the tragedy are still celebrated as martyrs at the hands of industrial greed.
The Triangle Waist Company was in many ways a typical factory in the heart of Manhattan: Low wages, excessively long hours, and unsanitary and dangerous working conditions were the hallmarks of sweatshops.
Near closing time on Saturday afternoon, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the building in the Triangle Waist Company. Within minutes, the quiet spring afternoon erupted into madness.
By the time the fire was over, 146 of the 500 employees had died. The survivors were left to live and relive those agonizing moments. The victims and their families, the people passing by who witnessed the desperate leaps from ninth floor windows, and the City of New York would never be the same.
* Social Darwinism exploited the works of Darwin stating that the competition for survival was as natural in human society as it was in animal species and that, if not meddled with by governments, it would lead to the evolutionary progress of humankind. This political philosophy was extremely dangerous because it promoted the mistreatment of the lower classes and the expansion of the capitalistic empires.
* Naturalism is at the heart of Realism; it developed out of the rising authority of natural science. Characters became mere products of social factors, and the environment was the integral element of dramatic complications.
* The naturalists tended to concern themselves with the harsh, often sordid, aspects of life, life for the poor and middle classes within the now flourishing big cities, with their crime, factories, poverty, disease, and injustices.
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