Лекция: Postmodernism (after World War II).

Colonial period, or Puritan Age in American literature (the 17th c. — the first half of the 18th c.);



The Indian (индейский) folklore was very rich & varied in forms: legends, myths, songs, fairy tales, etc. They all existed in an oral form & began to be written down only in the 19th c.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow(reHpn Уордсворт Лонгфелло) (1807 -1882) collected & reworked some Indian popular myths & wrote the poem «The Song of Hiawatha» («Песнь о Гайавате») (1855) — the main character is a legendary hero, a prophet, a son of an earthly woman & wind.

When the first settlers came to the New World they brought with them the books of their national writers, for example, Shakespeare. The first English settlement was called Jamestown (established in 1607). And the first books written by settlers from England were historical records. Among the first of them was the following one:

— «The General History of Virginia» written by Captain John Smith-a story about Pocahontas — an Indian princess, the daughter of Powhatan. It was a real story about Pocahontas and an English gentleman John Rolfe whose marriage initiated a 8-year peace between the colonists & Indians.

The second wave of settlers came in 1620 — a group under the name «Pilgrim Fathers» who went to the North — East on their ship «Mayflower». They were puritans who wanted to escape from religious persecution in Great Britain. They were very religious people. The Bible was their main book. The morals were very severe. People who deviated from the religious teaching were called witches & were persecuted & executed. This process got the name «witch — hunting» («охота на ведьм»). The Puritans were very intelligent & highly intellectual people. They set up schools for universal education & University Harvard in the 17th c. Besides the Puritans believed that «success is God's blessing».

Among the representatives of literature of that time the most prominent figures were the following


— William Bradford (1590 -1657) — he was elected governor of Plymouth in the Massachusetts Bay Colony shortly after their landing. He was one of the first historians of the American colony. His history «Of Plymouth Plantation»(1651)isa record of the Pilgrimage & the colonial life. He was an author of «M ayflower Compac t», a document which was written when the pilgrims were yet on board ship. It was a harbinger of the Declaration of Independence to come a century and a half later. It included the rules which they set up in the colony;

— Anne Bradstreet (1612 — 1672) — she modelled her poetry on British literature. Her poems were filled with religious feelings but she also sang the joys of family life. Her collections of poems were first published in England — «The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America» (1650). One of the best known poems of this collection is called «To My Dear and Loving Husband» (1678).

Revolutionary period, or the Enlightenment in American literature (the 2nd half of the 18th c. — the first half ofthe 19th c.);



In 1775 the war against Britain started. The American army was led by General Washington. The period from 1775 to 1783 (the War of Independence) is the time of the so called American Revolution.

The literature of this period was mostly political by character & dealt with the problems of American freedom — Independence. As the result at that time j о u r n a 1 i s m flourished in literature.

The American enlighteners put reason above religion; they were interested in science & learning. P u b 1 i с i s m was a very influential field of public thought. Enlighteners propagated the ideas of democracy, the republican order, were against monarchy.

One of the most important figures in American literature of that time was Benjamin Franklin (1706 — 1790). He was a self-made man, who excelled in many spheres. He was a publicist & a publisher, a scientist & a diplomat. His publicism was inspired by the work of his British contemporaries — Joseph Addison & Richard Steel. Like them he published an almanac called «Poor Richard's A1 m a n a ck» (begun in 1732 & published for 25 years). It was well — known throughout many colonies. It was a satiric & didactic publication, by which he wanted to educate & reform his countrymen. He also published the book «M у Autobiography» in which he recorded all his life experience & those life principles which helped him to achieve success — he lists 13 virtues:

1) temperance,

2) silence,

3) order,

4) resolution,

5) frugality (скромность в еде),

6) industry,

7) sincerity,

8) justice,

9) moderation,

10) cleanliness,

11) tranquility,

12) chastity (целомудрие),

13) humility (смирение).

The book was enormously popular. Besides many aphoristic rales & principles were given in his almanac:

— Time is money;

— Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise;

— God helps them who helps themselves;

— A small leak sinks a great ship;

— Fools make feasts, and wise men eat them; etc.

B. Franklin himself followed the philosophy of individual; he also gave the classic definition of the so called American Dream — «Economic Success» — the rise from impotence (бессилие) to importance, from dependence to independence, from helplessness to power.

Besides he was an ambassador in England, a scholar (he was interested in electricity & invented the lightning rod (громоотвод)). His works gave birth to the so called self-help books, as they were to teach people how to make their life & themselves better, i.e. how to help themselves.

Thomas Jefferson (1743 — 1826) was one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence. He was the 3rd President of the USA. His only published book was «Notes in Virginia» which gave a summary of democratic freedoms & recorded the move of the USA to independence. He spoke of slavery as a thing his country should be ashamed of. After the retirement from the post of President he dedicated himself to education. He founded Virginia University & worked much to expand secular education. He was also a diplomat in France & was an enthusiastic supporter of the French Revolution.

Thomas Paine(1737 — 1809) was born in England. He had tried several occupations though he was a very clever man. B. Franklin advised him to go to America & gave him a letter of recommendation. His book «Common Sense» made a great contribution to America's victory over Britain. It encouraged American soldiers when their moral (дух) was fading. It propagated democratic ideas. The book was very popular — it was published in several hundred million copies. Another his book which also served the purpose of democracy was «The American Crisis» which informed the Americans about the situation at the front & encouraged them to struggle. After the victory of the War of Independence he went back to England & tried to propagate the same anti-monarchy ideas there. It was his book «The Rights of Man» which brought on him persecution of the part pf the British Government. In 1792 he left for Paris & lodged himself into the work for the ideas of the French Revolution. In 1797 he came to America but the reality he saw there did not come up with his expectations. And he was no longer welcome as he had been before. In the end he died in poverty & misery.


This period in American literature also saw the first works of American poets & novelists:

— Charles Brockden Brown (1771 — 1810) — political ideas were less noticeable in his works. He was greatly influenced by the English pre-Romanticists, by the Gothic N о v e 1. He set the action of his Gothic novels in America — «W ieland, or The Transformation» ( " В и ланд, или Превращение") (1798), «Ormond, or The Secret Witness» («Ормонд, или Тайный соглядатай») (1799), etc.;

— Philip Freneau (1752 — 1832) — was the most outstanding poet of this period. His poetry was permeated with political ideas. He himself took part in the War of Independence & was taken prisoner at sea. And after that he wrote «The British Prison Ship» which was a bitter condemnation of the cruelties of the British & a call to fight against the British monarchy. His other poems such as «American Libert y», «A Midnight Consultation» & others brought him fame as «the Poet of the American Revolution».


All these writers paved the way for American Romantic literature.

Romanticism in American literature (1820 — 1860)



In America Romanticism emerged 30 years later than it did in England or France due to the peculiarities of American history. The aesthetics of American Romanticism had much in common with that of European. The economic & social development in America disappointed many people because many began to be seized by chase for money. Slavery & extermination ofthe Indians added to this disillusionment. That's why the works of the new generation of writers stressed the gap between the ideal & reality.

Like European Romanticists the American ones sought the ideal elsewhere in the past or some other countries, some of them turned for inspiration to the folklore. The American leading romanticists were:

— Washington Irving(1789- 1859);

— James Fenimore Cooper (Джеймс Фен и мор Купер) (1789- 1851);

— Edgar Allan Рое (Эдгар Аллан По) (1809- 1849);

— Nathaniel Hawthorne (Натаниел Готорн) (1804- 1864);

— Herman Melville (Герман Мелвилл) (1819-1891).


Washington Irving introduced the genre of a short story. Most of his stories have humorous character. He was a son of a Scottish merchant, who emigrated to America. He started as a merchant but then gave it up for diplomacy & literature. He spent about 20 years in Europe (England, Spain) as a diplomat & did a lot to strengthen the relations between the countries. His first literary works were based on European reality, yet he was the first American writer to make use of American actualities as well as American folklore of the peoples, inhabiting America, as the basis for his works.

He was also a publicist & edited a humorous almanac «Sulmagundi» («Сальмагунди») (1807 — 1808) (this word means a salad made of many different ingredients). The name reflected the many -sided character of the almanac: stories, anecdotes, jokes, etc. In the form of letters written by an Arab (a fictitious — вымышленный — personage) it described his impressions of the life in America.

In his book «A History of New York» (1809) the author depicted the extermination of the Indians in a satirical way. He also published several collections of short stories: «Tales of a Traveller» («Записки путешественника») (1824), «The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent» («Книга эскизов Джеффри Крейона, джентльмена») (1819 — 1820) (Geoffrey Crayon was living's pseudonym). But his most famous stories (anthology stories) are.

— «Rip Van Winkle» ( " P и п Ван В и н к л ь " ) (a story from «The Sketch Book») — a story in which the main character sleeps for 20 years & having woken finds everything changed (the colonies are independent, etc.);

— «The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow»- a story about two rivals who loved one school teacher;

— «The Devil and Tom W a 1 k e r» — a story about a married couple. The wife was very domineering. Her husband was a poor man. He met a strange creature & became a successful money lender. In general the theme of the deal with the Devil was very common of Romantic literature.

Actually Irving was the father of the American Romanticism & the first American writer who was recognized by Europe as the first representative of America's national literature.


James Fenimore Cooper was a son of a prosperous landholder in the state of New York. He studied at Elle University but did not graduate from it. His father sent him to sea & this sea experience turned out to be very useful when he started writing novels. His private life was not very successful: he fell in love with a girl in his youth but she tragically died; later he fell in love with Mary Shelley (the author of «Frankenstein») but she rejected his proposal.

He was a very prolific writer. All in all he wrote 32 novels, about 10 volumes of travel-notes, several books of publicism. His first novel was «Precaution» («Предосторожность») (1820). He consciously became a novel writer as he did not want to compete with Irving (in writing short stories) while novel writing remained an open field at that time. There were no novelists of note (значительных). And his first novels brought him immediate success & when he decided to visit Europe he was seen off as an ambassador of American literature & American hopes in Europe. There he enthusiastically supported the revolutionary ideas & prided himself on American democracy. Yet when he came back to America 6 years later, he realizes that the reality was different from the ideal which he had drawn for himself. He was disgusted with the money — rubbing instinct with which his countrymen were overwhelmed. He was shocked by the new facts of extermination of the Indians. He began to expose American vices in his numerous pamphlets which brought public censure (порицание) on him. He was criticized & ostracized & lived in poverty. His best known novels are:

— «The Spy» («Шпион „) (1825) — a historical novel. According to Cooper's words he wrote a novel with an American setting & love to his Motherland. And indeed here is the main theme of the story about the period of the American War of Independence & the life story of the protagonist Harvey Birch, whose life is full of adventure & mystery. Harvey Birch is a spy in the American Army but to cover up his activities he has to play a double-role in a double-game & to act as an English spy as well. The writer endows his hero with superpowers: unbelievable courage, coolness, discretion & ability to foresee the future (clairvoyance). Unlike others he struggles for the freedom of his country;

— the pentalogy “Leather-Stocking Tale s»:

— «The Pioneers» («Пионеры») (1823);

— «The Last of the Mohicans» («Последний из

могикан») (1826);

— «The Prairie» («Американские степи») (1827);

— «The Pathfinder» («Следопыт») (1840);

— «TheDeerslayeг» («Зверобой») (1841).

The pentalogy is named after the main hero Natty Bumppo.He has different names: Leather Stocking, Hawk Eye, etc. He is very brave, very resourceful. He is a white man, a frontiersman. Natty struggles against any injustice, against chaotic ungoverned laceration (хищническое уничтожение) of nature, against extermination of the Indians. Protesting against all these vices, he lives far from big cities, in woods or prairies. The Indians to whom he is spiritually close are his friends & he does his best to withstand their extermination. When he is old he dies in one of their tribes. Natty Bumppo was the first positive character in American literature that embodied the first features of American people: courage, justice, readiness to help the others, etc. The pentalogy covers a long period — about 50 years of his life & people around him. Thus it has all the features of the American historical novel, too. As a result Cooper was called «the American Walter Scott», though Cooper himself resented it because it gave him a secondary place after W. Scott. Cooper was more highly estimated in Europe than in America. George Sand (Жорж Санд) used to say that together with B. Franklin & G. Washington Cooper was one of the 3 greatest men in America.


Edgar Allan Рое — was born in Boston in the family of actors. He lost his parents at a very early age & was adopted by the wife of a rich merchant Allan (this name became the second name of Edgar). That woman really loved the boy & tried to support him all her life. But her husband could not stand him as the future writer did not fulfill his expectations and did not become a tradesman. Allan was very talented in maths, drawing, literature & other fields, but he was rather impetuous (порывистый) that prevented him from taking up any serious & constant job. In the end he was sent to the Military Academy by his foster father but the strict discipline at the Academy was alien to him & he did his best to be dismissed (expelled). As a result his foster father disinherited him (лишил наследства).

Poe's life was full of deprivation & poverty. In 1836 he marries his cousin Virginia Clemm (she was about 14). She was one of the very few supporters of Poe's in his life. And we see the traces of his love to her in many of his works. But in 1847 she died. It was a real shock to Рое. And he never managed to overcome the depression & despair afterwards. This state of mind, and his alcoholism & drug taking caused his early death. Poe's dramatic life experience endowed his literary work (especially poetry) with tragic tone. His romantic aesthetics was very peculiar. It lacks living's humour & optimism; it hardly ever draws any vast epic pictures like Cooper's works do. His works are permeated with mystery, fantasy & exotics.

Like other romanticists he put feeling & intuition above reason & rationalism. Yet on the other hand he sings prays to man's intellectual powers, observation, analysis & man's thirst for knowledge. He also manifests his deep knowledge of human psychology & great ability to depict it in his works. His literary canon (list of works) includes 64 short stories, 2 long stories (novellas), about 50 poems.

He is the pioneer of the intellectual detective story. And the protagonist of his detective stories August Dupin (Огюст Дюпен) can be looked on as the first one in the gallery of omniscient (всезнающий) criminologists:

— «The Murders in the Rue Morgue» («Убийства на улице Морг») (1841);

— «The Mystery оf M ar i e Roget» («Тайна Мари Роже») (1842- 1843);

— «The Purloined Letter» («Похищенное письмо») (1844), etc. Edgar Allan Рое was also the inventor of the science fiction genre:

— «A Descent into the Maelstrom» («Спуск в Мельстрем») (1841), etc. Besides the detective stories & science fiction stories E. A. Рое created a number of horror


— «L i g e i а» («Лиге й я » ) (1838);

— «The Fall ofthe House of Usher» («Падение дома Ашеров») (1839);

— «The Masque of the Red Death» («Маска Красной смерти») (1842);

— «The Pit and Pendulum» («Колодец и маятник») (1842), etc.

He worked out his own aesthetics of story writing: stories should have a dynamic & entertaining plot that would keep the reader in suspense to the very end. Yet they should be short enough to be read at one sitting. He called it «a single effect» («эффект целостности»). His poems are also written according to this principle. They are also permeated with mysticism & horror which however (like in his stories) are at the end explained by some logical reasons.

Poe's best known poems are:

— «Annabel Lee» («АннабельЛи») (1849);

— «T h e В e 11 s» («Колокола») (1849);

— «T h e R a v e n» («Ворон») (1845).

They are full of mysticism, especially «The Raven», which is a symbolic poem dealing with problems of love, life & death. The meaning of the title has several connotations. The raven symbolizes omen & wisdom. Like in Poe's stories mysticism tends to logical explanation.

Poe's contemporaries failed to appreciate him but he influenced both American & European writers (Poe's combination of decadence & romantic primitivism appealed enormously to Europeans, particularly to the French poets Stephane Mallarme, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Valery, and Arthur Rimbaud.).


Nathaniel Hawthorne — was a descendant of a Puritan family. He lived in Massachusetts. One of his ancestors was a judge who took part in the notorious «witch -hunting» Trial. And one of his novels — «The House of the Seven Gables» («Дом о семи фронтонах») (1851) — tells of a curse (проклятье) which a judge's family had to carry throughout many centuries.

His greatest work is «The Scarlet Letter» («Алая буква») (1850) which is based on real events of the 17th century. It deals with problems of crime & repentance, confession, sexual & spiritual repression. The author showed how the puritanical fanatism ruined the life of noble (благородные) & decent (порядочные) people,


Herman Melville — was born in a rich family but when he was 12 his father went bankrupt and in the long run got mad because of the enormous psychological tension. As a result the boy had to give up school & start earning his living. In the end he went to sea & his sailing experience served as the basis for his numerous novels.

His greatest work was the novel «M о b у D i с k; о r, White Whale» ( " M о б и Дик, или Белый Кит") (1851) — a sea — captain A h a b by name who was crippled by a white whale during his whaling expedition (китобойный промысел) swears to find his offender & to kill him. The whole novel is a story of his dramatic, full of dangerous hardships, search for the whale, the struggle which he & his crew have to have with the whale (Moby Dick) & death of Ahab & his men. The only person who survived is I s h m a e 1, who tells the story of Ahab.

This novel has very many layers. It's an adventure novel full of exotics of the sea. Secondly, it's a realistic n о v e 1, for the reader learns a lot about the whaling business in the 19th c. It's also a philosophical novel dealing with issues of life, its objectives & other moral matters. The novel is

replete (насыщенный) with symbolic images. The whale can be treated as a symbol of Nature itself. It also can be treated as a symbol of dark forces that Man has to deal with. The ship symbolizes a state. The ship in the novel is meant with people of different nationalities, so here is the symbol of the USA.

There are also many religious, historical allusions, allusions from literature in the novel (for example, the names of the characters are taken from the Bible).

Besides the novel has elements of different narrative styles. All these features make the novel an outstanding work of fiction which could be adequately appreciated only in the 20th c. By its structure, composition, abundance in allusions the book may be placed among contemporary postmodernist novels. Thus there is no wonder that the great depth of the story was not appreciated by Melville's contemporaries.

Realism in American literature (1860 — the first World War)



The 1860s was a watershed in American history (the Civil War of 1861 — 1865). In 1914 World War I began. American literature within this period is noted for its realistic character. And literature between World War I & World War II is mostly of modernist character.

The Civil War in the USA cardinally changed the history of the country. Before the war American literature was marked with optimism & idealism, while postwar reality with its rapid industrialization, with growing lust for money & acquisition left no more room for idealism. The writers of this period realized that their task was not to take the reader away into the past or into some remote exotic places like Melville, or Cooper, or Рое did but that they should deal with everyday realities. Unlike Romantic characters who were usually outcasts, the characters of realistic novels were typical people of their time & place. Like the European counterparts American writers stressed the link between Man & society that is influence of society on the formation of human character. All these writers in some way dealt with the notion of the so called American Dream (the idea of having an opportunity to go «from rags to riches» — such a «poor-boy-gets-rich-myth „), explaining it, showing its reverse side. The most prominent writers of this period are:

— Mark Twain (originally — Samuel Clemens) (Марк Твен) (1835 — 1910);

— Jack London (Джек Лондон) (1876 — 1916);

— Theodore Herman Albert Dreiser (Теодор Герман Альберт Драйзер) (1871 — 1945).


Mark Twain was born on the Mississippi River, state M i s s о u r i. He spent the first 40 years there. The sight ofthe Mississippi River inspired him to become a pilot (лоцман). Later it inspired his many works. He worked as a pilot for many years; his literary pseudonym came from this experience: his name means “two fathoms deep». So he commemorated his love to the river in this way.

The 1st period of his literary work (50 — 60s) was closely connected with & based on folklore-popular stories, fairy tales, legends & tall tales (небылицы) (a tall tale is a humorous exaggerated story common on the American frontier, often focusing on cases of superhuman powers). The most famous of his stories of the 1st period is «The CelebratedGumping Frog of Calabenes Country ». M. Twain's greatest merit was the introduction of the life language of his countrymen into literature.

The 2nd period of his work was the most productive & significant. A number of fantastic or imaginary tales were written at that time (the so called novels of the Old Times):

— «The Adventures of Tom Sawyer» («Приключения Тома Сой ера») (1876) — it is a book for & about children (!),yet it touches upon some serious matters. Its hero hates and protests against hypocrisy, religious fanatism & philistinism;

— «The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn» («Приключения Гекльберри Финна») (1884) — it is a sequel ofthe book about Tom Sawyer. This book was written 8 years later when the situation in the country & Twain's view on the world had considerably changed. This book can be defined as a picaresque (плутовской) novel. And sending Huck Finn &his companion (a run away black slave J i m by name) down the Mississippi River on a raft, the author enriches the novel with numerous themes & ideas. Twain managed to depict all the versatility of American life, to touch upon very many burning issues of the day (such as child abuse, violence of all kinds, feud (кровная месть) between families, fraud, etc.). The most important theme of the novel is slavery in its narrow sense (black slavery) & in its broader sense (oppression of Man by society at large). The novel can be treated as an allegory of the lost hopes & unfulfilled desires, which rendered through the image of the City of Cairo situated on the Mississippi River which Huck Finn & his friend hoped to reach & find freedom there (a kind of «promised land» — «земля обетованная»). Yet they failed to notice this city because of the mist & sailed past it — here is the frustration;

— «The Prince and the Pauper» («Принц и нищий») (1882) — it is one of Twain's 3 novels dedicated to the history of Europe (here — the middle of the 16th c.) The story deals with such historical figures as King Henry VIII & his son Edward, who after his father's death

became King of England but very soon died as he was a very weak boy. Twain did not show the historical process & event; and actually all his novels of this kind are of entertaining character. Behind the episode of English history lies Twain's hidden democratic idea. Through the adventures of Tom Canty — a poor boy from the slums of London — Twain proves that the Royal power is not a gift given by the Heaven, and anyone who is endowed with wit & prudence can run a state;

— «Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc» («Личные воспоминания оЖаннед'Арк») (1896);

— «A Connecticut Yankee in the Court of King Arthur» («Янки при дворе короля Артура») (1889) — for its main character this story has a young average American who after an accident finds himself in Medieval England. Here the writer laughs both at the primitivism & naivety of the old times & at the pragmatism, common sense & businesslike qualities of his countrymen. This American is taken for a magician as he predicts the sun eclipse (what he knew from his rudimental knowledge of history). He launches soap, bicycle production, etc.

The 3rd period of Twain's work (the last) was marked by his satirical attitude towards reality. In his publicist works & his numerous short stories he exposed many vices of American life, as well as political affaires & intrigues in many other parts of the world. One of the best-known works of the time are the satirical story «The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg» (the themes here are money worship & hypocrisy), satirical pamphlets «W e are Americanizing Europ e», «A s I Run for the Government» (a story), «The United States of Linchendom» (about racism in the USA).

Ernest Hemingway stressed the significance of Twain's «Huckleberry Finn»: «All American literature had come out of the novel „The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn“. Indeed this book influenced American literature a lot. Besides Twain's merit also lies in the fact that he considerably broadened the language of literature by bringing into it the life language — colloquial language -of common people, by making use of its various dialects.


Jack London was born in California. The circumstances of his family life did not give him a chance to get a proper education but made him try different jobs: a sailor & quite odd occupations (for example he was involved into the Gold Rush which brought him to A 1 a s k a ). He was greatly influenced by the socialist ideas & joined the American socialist party, took part in marches & demonstrations. All these experiences were reflected in his writing which was also influenced by his reading on different, sometimes contrasting authors — Spenser (a philosopher — positivist), Marx, Engels, Nietzsche, Darwin, etc.

The real fame came to London when he published his collection of stories „The Son of the Wolf“ (1900). Actually he wrote an enormous number of short stories. Their value varies — as London had decided to become a rich man one day, he was often like a literary time worker (литературный подёнщик). Nevertheless many of his works are really brilliant; they are examples of real mastery & a combination of realism, romanticism &, of course, naturalism. They certainly influenced the next generations of writers. Among London's best & most famous novels & long short stories (повести) of the 1st period of his work are the following ones:

— „A Daughter ofthe Snows“ (»Дочь снегов") (1902);

— «The Call ofthe Wild» («Зов предков») (1903) — a collection of animal short stories about a dog which becomes a wild wolf;

— «White Fang» («Белый клык») (1906) — a collection of animal short stories;

— «Children of the Frost» («Дети мороза») (1902) — a collection of stories.


London's first works were all based on his dramatic experience of the life in the N о r t h. In many of them the writer turns to the theme of nature, human & animal life, and very often the animal world is shown kinder & fairer than the world of people. Besides their entertaining plot the stories show the great power of psychological insight & analysis.

London's social works are also very important & written at the beginning of the 20th c.:

— «The People ofthe Abyss» («На дне/Люди бездны») (1903) — it is a publicist work which gives a picture of the life of the working — class people, proletariat, which London knew from his experience as he had spent several months in London & there he witnessed the misery & privations of the people as well as their struggle for better wages & better conditions;

— «The Iron Heel» («Железная пята») (1907) — this novel can be considered one of the very first books which touched upon the genre of d i s t о p i a in the 20* c. & which raised the problem of future possibility of fascism with its dictatorship of the Iron Heel;

— «Martin Eden» («Мартин Идеи») (1909) — it is an autobiographical novel which traces all the life stages & hardships that London himself had overcome; the story deals with the eternal problem of the artist & society. The novel depicts the inner stresses of the American Dream as London experienced them during his meteoric rise from obscure poverty to wealth & fame. Eden, an impoverished but intelligent & hardworking sailor & laborer, is determined to become a writer. Eventually, his writing makes him rich & well-known, but Eden realizes that the woman he loves cares only for his money & fame. His despair over her inability to love causes him to lose faith in human nature. He also suffers from class alienation, for he no longer belongs to the working class, while he rejects the materialistic values of the wealthy whom he worked so hard to join. He sails for the South Pacific & commits suicide by jumping into the sea. Actually in this novel London predicts the end of his own life. He was disillusioned & disappointed with his dreams, ambitions & may have committed suicide — he took an overdose of drugs, though no one can say for sure whether he did it deliberately or by chance.

Like many of the best novels of that time «Martin Eden» is an unsuccessful story. It looks ahead to F. Scott Fitzgerald's «The Great Gatsby» in its revelation of despair amid great wealth.

Jack London was often called a «socialist boy» by the press. But by the end of his life he got disappointed with the socialist idea & abandoned his membership in the socialist party in 1916. London's psychological crisis was deepened by his chronic alcoholism & the shock he had experienced after the fire in his mansion house (London had put almost all his money into this house, the dream of which he had described in his novel «The Little Lady of the Big House»). Thus the novels he wrote in his last years show his attempt to find some other ideals & life principles. These works concentrate mostly on family affairs and devoid of any social conflicts:

— «The Valley ofthe Moon» («Лунная долина») (1913) — a novel;

— «The Scarlet Plague» («Алая чума») (1915)- a long short story; -«Hearts of Three» («Сердца трёх») (1920) — a novel.


Theodore Herman Dreiser — was born in the state of I n d i a n a in an immigrant family of a weaver; from his early age he knew poverty. He managed to attend Indiana University for a year but then he had to supplement this lack of education by reading. He had to do many off jobs. In 1892 he began to work as a newspaper reporter. In 1897 he abandoned journalism for literary work. He wrote a great number of publicist works throughout all his life. All his novels deal with the notion ofthe American Dream, which as popular through propaganda & the works of some second rate but very prolific, prosperous & quite popular writers. Dreiser showed the other side of the so called «from rags to riches» or «a-poor-boy-gets-rich» myth. At that time there was a writer in the USA — HoratioAlger(a teacher at a boys' school) who wrote 130 novels all telling of a successful career of a poor boy who gets rich, acquires wealth & position owing to his wit, or a successful marriage, or something else. Dreiser's novels showed the reverse side of this American Dream — he tried to draw the reader's attention to the fact that the very system in the USA makes a person sacrifice his humanity for the sake of achieving this Dream of Success. And this money worship is usually accompanied by moral fall & degradation (this problem was already touched upon in his first novel, mentioned below, and actually that is why the American public was not ready to recognize this book at once — the story criticized the very fundamental ideal of American life ).

Dreiser was greatly influenced by Spenser's ideas about social Darwinism (социальный дарвинизм) &on this basis he tried to develop his own theory of i n d i v i d u al & social determinism (индивидуальный и социальный детерминизм).

Being a naturalist (remember the concept of naturalism — «human life is very much alike animal life, he survives who is the fittest»), Dreiser avoided passing a moral judgment on his protagonists. Because of this his first novel was not welcome in the USA, and for a while was even banned. In this book -«Sister Carrie» («Сестра Керри») (1900) — he does not censure (хулить) his heroine, who in the eyes of the public is a fallen woman (падшая), who has made her career by immoral means, i.e. by exploiting men, and earned her living in this way. First this book got popularity in Great Britain & only after that became widely known in the USA.

His other famous works are the following ones:

— «Jennie Gerhardt» («Дженни Герхард») (1927) — a story about a poor girl who preserves her moral chastity but is unhappy in her family life;

— a trilogy — «The Financier» («Финансист») (1912);

«The Titan» («Титан») (1914);

«The Stoic» («Стоик») (published in 1947, after the death ofthe author) — this trilogy is a thorough study of the life of a self-made man — Frank Calperwood, who succeeds in life at the expense of moral sacrifices. Much of his talent & time was spent on ephemeral values, so that he had suffered moral losses on his way to material success. It is a story of the rise of a mightiest American family. F. Cowperwood is a typical man of the American transition from capitalism to imperialism.

Dreiser's masterpiece is the novel «An American Tragedy» («Американская трагедия») (1925) which like his other books was based on true to life stories. A case of murdering a beloved by her boyfriend was quite a common case at that time. So, Dreiser got interested in the problem. The novel consists of 3 parts:

— the 1st part — «Bildungsroman» («роман воспитания» — from the German verb «bilden» — «to bring up») which shows the life of Clyde Griffiths, that brought him to committing the crime;

— the 2nd part — the crime itself — it can be called partially a detective story;

— the 3rd part — the court trial & Clyde Griffiths' stay in the death house & his thoughts about the crime, his repentance.

«An American Tragedy» can be called a psychological novel. It exposes the reasons for the protagonist's tragic fate. Dreiser tried to refrain from passing any moral judgments. He just traces the states of Clyde's moral form, shows the subjective & objective reasons for his criminal act. He neither condemns nor justifies Clyde. Nevertheless he manages to prove that America with its American Dream (the unlimited possibilities for a young man to succeed) may lead its citizens to commit unlawful & criminal actions.

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