“Editha,” by William Dean Howells, is an example of realist literature. Realism emerged in the late 19th century and was characterized by a focus on everyday life and characters from all walks of life. It sought to portray people as realistically as possible, rather than romanticizing them or focusing on idealized versions of reality. This story showcases these characteristics, making it a classic example of realist fiction.
In what ways is Howells’ “Editha” an example of Realism?
One way that “Editha” exemplifies realism is through its realistic setting. The story takes place during the war between Spain and America at the turn of the twentieth century, which makes it immediately identifiable with readers who are familiar with this period in history. Furthermore, Howells emphasizes the small town atmosphere where Editha lives; her father’s farm is described in detail, giving readers an immersive glimpse into rural American life at that time. By providing details about daily routines and local customs within this specific context, Howells helps to create a vivid image for his audience that feels grounded in reality.
The themes explored throughout “Editha” also reflect realism’s tendency towards exploring social issues without embellishment or sentimentality. Editha believes wholeheartedly in going to war to defend one’s country; however, her views are challenged when she meets soldiers returning home from battle who have suffered immense losses and physical injuries due to their service. This contrast between patriotism and the harsh realities of war serves as a reminder that not all battles can be won nor will they always end happily ever after—something many people could relate too during this era of escalating global conflict:
Realism is also present through Howells’ characterization techniques used throughout “Editha.” Rather than relying on stock caricatures/archetypes for his characters (which was common among earlier writers), he focuses instead on developing believable personalities informed by their backgrounds/circumstances—even those only mentioned briefly such as Editha’s cousin George who died fighting in Cuba). Through conversations between Editha and other characters like Washington Loxley or Major Ellsworth we get a better understanding for their motivations regarding current events—in particular how varying degrees of patriotism influence each character’s opinion about going off to fight (or not)
Finally, Howells’ use of dialogue further reflects realism’s dedication towards presenting everyday speech patterns without being overly concerned with eloquence or stylistic flourishes like some authors were before him (e.g., Shakespeare). Readers can feel closer to these characters thanks to their use of casual language which effectively illustrates how different generations perceive issues related to sacrificing one’s own safety/freedom for something greater than oneself.. Ultimately this works together with the other aspects discussed above creating an immersive experience where readers can easily imagine themselves living among these characters while grappling thoughtfully over complex topics such as patriotism versus duty; something rarely seen prior but now epitomized using realist literature like “Editha” .