Interpreters of Chicago : a study in American regionalism
The second discovery of America came when the writers discovered the interesting elements in the varied communities which made each of them unique. A like discovery had been made in England years before by George Eliot, who was the originator of regionalism in that country. She became, with Thomas Hardy, the interpreter of English rustic life. Their methods were very different: George Eliot made characters the means by which she revealed the middle section of England; Hardy was influenced by the consciousness of community life as an individual character. These two writers of the country side were followed by Arnold Bennett, who interpreted the manufacturing city. In America, Bret Harte was the first to discover that our country had possibilities for individuality. His method was like George Eliot's in his use of character types to portray the region, but he found more picturesque characters than she had. They both wrote of regions they knew: she of her girlhood home, and he of the forty-niner and the gold rush to California. Character types alone could not describe the regions adequately, and writers made use also of dialect to differentiate further their sections £ran neighboring ones. Writers who succeeded George Eliot and Thomas Hardy in England and Bret Harte in America found additional ways of interpreting the elements of local color. One of the easiest and most natural means besides character types and dialect is a description of manners and customs peculiar to one certain region. The Pennsylvania Dutch speak differently from the people in New York, and they dress differently. A fourth kind of interpretation was discovered in history. For many years writers have used nature to interpret the mood or the events which have a place in their stories. The final contribution of the regionalist is the creation of a common unity within the section until it becomes a character as well developed as the human hero or heroine. Thomas Hardy does that for Casterbridge in his Mayor of Casterbridge, and Phillpotts deliberately makes Widecombe the hero Widecombe Fair! Chicago has always been accredited with an individuality and romance that few other cities can imitate. Its phenomenal growth and the fortunes made on its strees have created a character that is unique. Writers have always found romance in cities, but Chicago has produced her own school of novelists, poets, and playwrights. They have attempted to depict the ugliness, the beauty, the ambitions and failures of the characters within its limits. They have been forced to recognize the great power of the city, and they have made its character one of the principals in many of the novels and stories.The writers of Chicago have never been content to follow in the literary methods they used. First Robert Herrick and Henry B. Fuller wrote of the scheming and greedy men and women who were society; then Dreiser found a voice for his characters. A period of romance came in the latter part of the first decade of the new century, and then Carl Sandburg, Edgar Lee Masters, Ben Hecht, and Sherwood Anderson found voices to teach the world not only the ugliness but also the romantic quality in Chicago. In recent years, outside of this school, there has been a return to romance in the works of Henry Kitchell Webster, Margaret Ayer Barnes, and Janet Ayer Fairbank. Because of the diversified ways of presenting the character of Chicago, yet giving it the same characteristics of sprawling size, over-crowded streets, and hustling men and women, touched either with reality or romance, I felt that a study of the technique of the writers might be important. In order to study and to make an estimate of the value of interpreters of a region, Dr. Ramsay has found that a study of the background of the land, the people, and their history is important. Therefore, my first chapter will be devoted to a description of these three things in Chicago. In the second chapter is a brief summary of the writers themselves, somewhat critical in nature. The final chapter is a detailed study of the six ways mentioned above, in which the authors have interpreted the section in their novels or poems.
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