Development of Ideas in American Literature Since 1900 Essay

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American Literature

The development of the major ideas and attitudes expressed in Modern American literatures since 1900 can start with the realist school of literature, which focused on representing in naturalistic terms and concepts the life of the world around. Thus, Theodore Dreiser wrote Sister Carrie about a bumpkin country girl who moves to the big city and becomes a mistress. Stehpen Crane also portrayed the street life and Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle about what it was like to work in the meat packing plants at the time and how difficult it was for immigrant life. The ideas here were focused on revealing real American life -- not in broad comedy like a Mark Twain novel -- but in serious terms.

F. Scott Fitzgerald reflected the concept of "wasted youth" and the obsession with riches and power that was all so meaningless in the greater scheme of things in works like The Great Gatsby. Other writers by the 1920s were examining life from deeper perspectives as well -- penetrating through the realism genre to attempt to decipher the deeper mystery at the heart of life. Thus, T. S. Eliot after expatriating to England, wrote some of the best modern poetry in The Waste Land and The Four Quartets along with plays like Murder in the Cathedral, exploring the meaning of life, death, faith and spirit. Eliot converted to Anglicanism and this belief was reflected in his later works after his poetry laid bare the need for some spiritual redemption/salvation. Other writers turned to drama and the stage: Eugene O'Neill became America's first great playwright by producing realistic works about American life -- including Long Day's Journey into Night, which was a biographical sketch of his own family life as a young man in Connecticut.

The New Woman is reflected in these poems as being one born of resentment for the role she is expected to play as "wife" and "homemaker." She is literally boiling with rage in "What That Smell in the Kitchen?" by Piercy -- yes, it is the dinner that she is burning on purpose to get back at the man she believes is oppressing her -- but it is also herself who is burning with so much hatred and disgust that the stench is quite actually coming from her too. This poem presents the New Woman as a woman who is out to end her state…

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