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Making Connections

  1. The most important literary theme of the 1865–1914 period introduction is the territorial and population expansion and transformation of America during these years. In “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” the historian Frederick Jackson Turner argues that “the existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development.” Texts from 1865–1914 that bear out Turner’s frontier hypothesis against a western setting include Mark Twain’s “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County;” Bret Harte’s “The Luck of Roaring Camp;” and Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.” Earlier texts that can help students trace the development of American assessments of frontiers, boundaries, and limits include sections of Rowlandson’s A Narrative of Captivity and Restoration; Cotton Mather’s “A People of God in the Devil’s Territories” from The Wonders of the Invisible World; Crèvecoeur’s Letter III (“What Is an American”) from Letters from an American Farmer; James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans; William Cullen Bryant’s “The Prairies;” and Walt Whitman’s “Facing West from California’s Shores.” Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and Henry David Thoreau’s “Where I Lived, and What I Loved For” chapter of Walden both represent psychic or spiritual frontiers within already settled areas. Later texts in search of new frontier areas outside America include Katherine Anne Porter’s “Flowering Judas;” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited;” Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro;” Randall Jarrell’s “Thinking of the Lost World;” and Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur. Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” and Adrienne Rich’s “Snapshots of a Daughter–in–Law” also represent authors pushing against nonphysical frontiers in the form of blindness and sexism, respectively.
  2. One aspect of Native American literature stressed by this section of the anthology is the elegiac tone of many of these writings, as white settlers displaced Native Americans from ancestral lands and disrupted their traditional ways of life. Native writings in the anthology that record this tone include Sarah Winnemucca’s Life Among the Piutes and Zitkala Ša’s “The Soft–Hearted Sioux.” The excerpt from Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor records one white perspective sympathetic to Natives. But the anthology can help register the weight of Native loss by representing what they once had: begin with Iroquois and Pima Creation Stories and continue with the Native response to the initial contact and settlement of Europeans, including oratory by Pontiac, Samson Occam, Red Jacket, and Tecumseh in “Native Americans: Contact and Conflict” and continue with the records of Black Hawk, Petalesharo, and Elias Boudinot in “Native Americans: Resistance and Removal.” For contemporaneous white writers’ perspectives, see Cabeza de Vaca’s Relation; William Bradford’s chapter “Indian Relations” in Of Plymouth Plantation; Benjamin Franklin’s “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America;” Thomas Jefferson’s “Chief Logan’s Speech” from Notes on the State of Virginia; and William Apess’s “An Indian’s Looking–Glass for the White Man.” For modern representations of Natives after the period of enforced dispersal to reservations, see Louise Erdrich’s “Fleur” and Sherman Alexie’s “At Navajo Monument Valley Tribal School” and “Do Not Go Gentle.”
  3. Much is made in the anthology of the public disagreement between the African American statesmen Booker T. Washington in Up from Slavery and W. E. B. Du Bois’s “Of Booker T. Washington and Others” in The Souls of Black Folk. Within the “Americanization” cluster appear further responses to Washington in Charles W. Chestnutt’s “A Defamer of his Race.” Phillis Wheatley’s “On Being Brought from Africa to America” is one such text from 1865–1914; others include Wheatley’s “To S.M., a Young African Painter, on Seeing His Works;” Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Sojourner Truth’s “I am a Woman’s Rights;” Frances Harper’s “The Fugitive’s Wife” and “Bury Me in a Free Land;” Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” and “The Gilded Six–Bits;” Gwendolyn Brooks’s poems from A Street in Bronzeville; Lucille Clifton’s “miss rosie” and “homage to my hips;” Audre Lorde’s “Coal” and “The Woman Thing;” Rita Dove’s “Adolescence I” and “Banneker;” and Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif.”
  4. The two major aesthetic movements of these years were realism and naturalism. Prose discussing both can be found in the “Realism and Naturalism” cluster, featuring work by William Dean Howells, Henry James, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, and Jack London. Notable realist works in the anthology include James’s “Daisy Miller” and “The Real Thing;” Edith Wharton’s “The Other Two” and “Roman Fever;” and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Naturalist works include Stephen Crane’s The Open Boat; Dreiser’s Sister Carrie; and London’s “To Build a Fire.” Realism had its roots in the romantic period, and comparisons to the heavy symbolism and idealistic narration of events can be instructive; take, for example, James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans; Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Black Cat;” Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno; and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and “The Minister’s Black Veil.” Legacies of both realism and naturalism persist into the twentieth century: Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio and Richard Wright’s “The Man Who was Almost a Man” display influences of naturalist objectivity, and John Updike’s “Separating” and Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” represent late embraces of realistic description.
  5. Another development of this period was the use of local idioms and geographical references to create a regional perspective. Examples of regionalist writing include Mark Twain’s “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Kate Chopin’s “Désirée’s Baby” and The Awakening and Sarah Orne Jewett’s “A White Heron.” Legacies of the regionalist attempt to map out literary spaces include Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “Luke Havergal” and “Richard Cory;” Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago;” Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology; Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” and “Birches;” William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning;” Eudora Welty’s “Petrified Man;” Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People;” and Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire.