Literary realism in ethan frome essay

Literary realism accurately represents situations, in an everyday world. In the book Ethan Frome, you can tell that Edith Wharton portrays realistic points of view.

Literary realism in ethan frome essay

An Interdisciplinary Journal 30 In the following essay, Marchand explores the gendered nature of the style and theme of Ethan Frome, contrasting the novel's representation of women's culture with the literary aesthetics and feminist politics of early twentieth-century New England female regional writers.

To read through the contemporary reviews of Edith Wharton's work is to be struck by the contradictory assessments of her attitude toward her female characters. It is not unusual to find among Literary realism in ethan frome essay of the same novel praise for Wharton's "sympathetic delineation of her heroine's character, her acute analysis of women's minds," and the complaint that these "pictures of American women for harshness of uncharity are difficult to parallel.

In their chapter on Wharton in Some Modern NovelistsHelen and Wilson Follett allude to a long-standing debate over whether Wharton, "of all women, [writes] most like a man" For the Folletts, the putative masculine qualities of Wharton's fiction—its balance, asperity, detachment—are "but a species of protective coloring adopted in order to escape being obviously a woman" Her fiction, they conclude, "escapes the limitations of both sexes, of sex itself.

It is fundamentally sexless" More recently, feminist scholars have clarified how Wharton's representations of women issue from her "argument with America," to use Elizabeth Ammons's fine phrase, her sympathetic, complex and often deeply pessimistic assessment of the plight of American women.

And yet Wharton scholarship continues to exhibit a startling array of conclusions regarding Wharton's women. Janet Malcolm's characterization of Wharton as "the woman who hated women," and of her work as pervaded with "profound misogyny," has been largely dismissed as bizarre and capricious, and yet not all objections to Wharton are of this cruder variety.

Among the more sophisticated is James W.

Set against the frozen waste of a harsh New England winter, Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome is a tale of despair, forbidden emotions, and sexual tensions, published with an introduction and notes by Elizabeth Ammons in Penguin pfmlures.coms: Naturalism The logical outgrowth of literary Realism was the point of view known as Naturalism. This literary movement, like its predecessor, found expression almost exclusively within the novel. Naturalism also found its greatest number of practitioners in America shortly before and after the turn of . the former "a practice if not a theory of literary realism" (p. ). 21 Philip Fisher, Ethan Frome and Summer or assuming the persona of the secure liter· !antic essay .

Tuttleton's argument that the sweeping nature of Wharton's satire and her social conservatism resist any lopsided account of her social and political views. All of this taken together begins to suggest why Wharton's work continues to represent a challenge to feminist criticism.

I want to argue that the vexed question of Wharton's representations of women and her ties to the feminist debates of her day cannot be adequately posed apart from investigation of her rival affiliations as an elite cultural critic and as a woman writer with high art ambitions.

The burden of my argument is that certain developments in both the argument for women's rights and against the spread of what Henry Canby would decry as "vast," "engulfing" middlebrow culture irrevocably complicated the commitments of writers like Wharton who had ties to both the feminist and cultural debates of her day.

In contrast to an earlier generation, who generally linked political emancipation to the ideal of the assimilated woman, many in this generation of activists articulated their vision of women's rights in terms of the superior contributions of womanliness to the public sphere.

It was precisely the intolerable prospect of the widening influence of the "feminine" in public life that stimulated antifeminist rhetoric among the cultural elite, who tended in their writings to conflate the political demands of activists with the undisciplined feminine tastes linked to the spread of middle- and lowbrow culture.

This overlap between sexual and cultural politics gave rise to "cross talk" between the two; because the debate over the political uses of women's culture also concerned the boundaries between high-and lowbrow tastes, these sexual and cultural politics continually interfered with one another.

This volatile cross talk characterizes much of Wharton's fiction, its presence shaping and disrupting her representations of women and her attitude toward the presence of the feminine in American politics and letters. Many of these tensions are played out in Wharton's relationship with New England women writers, whose regionalist fiction came to Wharton as an active term in these tense overlapping debates concerning the political and aesthetic standing of women's culture.

Cross talk finds its virtual embodiment in her novel Ethan Frome, which much more closely reads and rewrites the tradition of New England women writers than previously recognized. Wharton's acerbic reflections on these women writers are well known, as is her claim, renewed over the years, that her own small body of New England fiction was written in response to their writings.

And while a few critics have pursued the broader significance of Wharton's claim to revise the local color tradition, this essay explores how meaning in Ethan Frome accrues through an elaborate system of differences from these regionalist texts.

The novel's polemical intertextuality, which I argue ultimately entangles Wharton in telling contradictions and challenges current understandings of both the gendering of Ethan Frome and Wharton's place in the gendering of literary history.

The Politics and Aesthetics of Women's Culture The nature of Wharton's feminism clearly depends on the historical character of the arguments available to her. Restoring some of the complexity to these arguments entails distinguishing between the more conservative rhetoric of so-called social feminists4 and the radicalism of Charlotte Perkins GilmanHarriot Stanton Blatch, and others.

The various positions activists maintained frequently turned on the controversial question of the role of women's culture in furthering one or another of "woman's causes.

We see this gender consciousness reflected in Rheta Childe Dorr 's assertion in What Eight Million Women Want that "women now form a new social group, separate, and to a degree homogenous"; "they have evolved a group opinion and a group ideal" 5.

In translating domestic virtues to serve a larger context, social feminists, including many suffragists social feminists included "antis" as wellhad the force of progressive ideology behind them.

Having taken up the social policy issues and public services that were once the province of women, a newly domesticated state bolstered in turn the activists' claims that women were uniquely fitted to serve the state as Municipal Housekeepers.

While scholars continue to dispute the compatibility of women's culture and feminist politics,6 the decision among "sex-conscious feminists," as one dissenting suffragist called them, to take the "sex line" was a storm center in Wharton's day as well. Where social feminists accepted in large part received notions of sex differences, often, in fact, emphasizing them, Gilman, for example, considered most of these differences manifestations of "excessive sex-distinction.

Gilman's conviction that centuries-long economic dependence had crippled women also put her deeply at odds with social feminists over the sensitive issue of the present state of women's culture. Where social feminists propounded the alternative virtues of women's culture and female values to an acquisitive nation, Gilman argued that because her "economic position is reactionary and unjust," woman "reacts injuriously upon industry, upon art, upon science, discovery, and progress" Wharton's work suggests that she shared many of Gilman's assumptions.

Like Gilman, her partial repudiation of essentialism sharpened her skepticism about whether the politics of women's culture could contribute to any real adjustment in women's status. Social feminist separatist strategies and their limitations emerge as the major theme in Wharton's chapter on "Frenchwomen and Their Ways" in French Ways and Their Meaningwhich insists that despite "her 'boards' and clubs and sororities, her public investigation of everything under the heavens from the 'social evil' to baking-powder, and from 'physical culture' to the newest esoteric religion," the American woman is "a Montessori infant" who lives in a "kindergarten" For Wharton the salient feature of these "seemingly influential lives" and "independent activities" is that they are all conducted in a separate female realm, where women are confined in "improved" public but no less restrictive surroundings.

Literary realism in ethan frome essay

She subsequently points out, through the example of French women of various classes, the benefits that accrue for women when the sexes are instead fully integrated. Among members of the leisure classit is the salon that promotes an extraordinary degree of interaction between the sexes, based as it is "on the belief that the most stimulating conversation in the world is that between intelligent men and women who see each other often enough to be on terms of frank and easy friendship" Together with Susan Goodman's arresting portrait of Wharton as the "extraordinary" woman in an otherwise male circle of intimates, these glowing tributes to acts of individualist assimilation and integration into male institutions suggest just how deeply at odds Wharton was with the values of women's culture.

But the debate over women's culture arose simultaneously in another context. Levine's and Paul DiMaggio's historical studies of the "sacralization" of the arts reveal the growing chasm between highbrow and lowbrow culture.

Partly in response to social developments associated with modernity, including the new reign of money embodied for Wharton in the colossal fortunes and philistine tastes of the "invaders from Pittsburgh," the "barbarians from the West"the old bourgeoisie sought to define "legitimate" culture that they could control.Literary Realism in Ethan Frome Literary realism in Ethan Frome The history of literary realism dates back to the nineteenth century movement in America and European literature.

Literary realism accurately represents situations, in an everyday world. ETHAN FROME I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story. The readers first meet Ethan Frome and hardly guess anything about his terrible tragedy, the narrator cannot get the details from the native citizens, just Mrs.

Hale remarks: “…I knew them both… it was awful… “, that makes the newcomer think that Ethan was a person beyond the common measure. the former "a practice if not a theory of literary realism" (p.

Literary realism in ethan frome essay

). 21 Philip Fisher, Ethan Frome and Summer or assuming the persona of the secure liter· !antic essay . Naturalism was a literary movement in the late s and early s. Related to realism, naturalism was a reaction against romanticism and Victorian literature.

Transcript of ethan frome-realism Realism in Literature By Hope Gurley and Madi Moody Primary Resolutions Main Character in Realistic Fiction Symbolism Naturalism and Regionalism Symbolic Exerpt Representing Ethan Frome Characters contd.

Realism Characters Ethan Frome.

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