Throughout the American history, literary canons have changed over a period of time. The literary periods occur in their chronological order and have been defined as realism, modernism and post modernism. Various authors in history elaborate these literary canons. The following essay seeks to explain the literary canons and the contributing authors chronologically.
The realistic period in American literature was between 1865 and 1900. Realism in American history is defined as a style of writing that represents art, object or social scene just as they are, without representing them in an abstract form. Literary realism started in the 19th century with French authors, but later it spread to America. Mark Twain is one of the authors that captivated this style in their writing. He represented life in a realistic manner and coupled it with humor and description. Mark Twain is known to capture the colloquial American voice in slang. Mark Twain is one of the celebrated realists of his times.
The emergence of the Huckleberry Finn in 1985 did establish Mark Twain as a hero and pillar of realism. Huckleberry is a 13-year-old boy who have been abused and neglected by his mean and drunkard father. Twain enables the reader see the world from Huckleberry’s point of view. In this book, Twain brings out how the child morals and actions clash with those of the society. He employs the realist style in almost every aspect of this adventurous novel. The description of the setting, the representation of characters, and their speech - all portrays the realism in Mark Twain’s work.
The novel Awakening is a story of manners which deals more with reality. The novel clearly shows how things are done, the feelings and thoughts of people as well as the social constructs. Kate Chopin frankly looks at the life of a woman in the 19th century. Most of her characters speak French which is a clear indication of realism. Like Mark Twain, Kate Chopin has recorded the actual speeches of her characters. In her narration, Chopin makes it obvious that her mandate is to represent truth about life as she understands it. Her main aim was to expose the evident inequality in the educational sector, healthcare and sanitation improvement.
The literary period that follows realism is modernism. Modernism rejects reality and argues that science is able to explain all the happenings in the world. This period tends to idealize the social determinism and the notions of science. Modernism dates back to 1900-1940, and various authors bring this literary period in their writings. Scott Fitzgerald represents modernism in his novel The Great Gatsby. From the beginning, the novel itself is a first person narration. Nick is the narrator of the story; in fact, the reader gets to know only what the narrator allows him to know. Thus, many questions are left unanswered. The narration of the story involves visions and viewpoints which are vital elements of modernists. The fact that the narrator is not reliable erases the chances of reality.
The occlonastic symbol of Dr T.J. Ecklenberg’s eye and what it represents makes this novel a modernistic one. The death of God and the search to get a replacement for the Supreme Being are argued in the novel. Dr T.J.Ecklenberg’s billboard is a representation of God and that change of time does not qualify the existence of God. The narrative also does not give everything in a chronological order. Finally Fitzgerald’s elaboration of the loss of the American dream by use characters also brings out the modernism in the novel. It is important to note that modernism is characterized by loss of everything. The character of James desires to prosper and be successful financially and socially. However, when Daisy picks Tom over him, he is disoriented and looses his long term dream. It is a story of a great loss. The use of surrealism by Scott Fitzgerald in his writing also brings out modernism in the novel. For example, the kiss is a great illustration of surrealism.
The last literary canon is the post modern canon that comes to light in the 20th century; this canon emerges in 1946 and basically refers to a broad range of sciences and ideas evolved from modernism. The post modern period is characterized by the intimidation of the traditional age period and expression of the current life as it is not despising any truth. It emphasizes on true story telling as its characteristic feature are strong morals as the epitome of the society. Kutt Vonnegut brings out the postmodern canon in his writings. In his book Slaughterhouse 5, which was written in 1969, after the Second World War, he expresses his thoughts about the wars that define moral of human beings and their behavior. The book is a major pillar of post modernism.
Kutt focuses on the Dresden bombing in Germany, and this trail of narration portrays the aftermath of wars in a society. He actually goes beyond traditional confines in his narration. Kutt brings out the effect of war on a generation, and it clearly promotes the theme of destructiveness of war. Written from Kutt’s own experience, Slaughterhouse 5 had a major effect on the society and created awareness on wars. Kutt clearly depicts Billy as the protagonist. By choosing to use his own identity rather than publishers, Kutt made his story relevant to the immediate society and world at large.
In conclusion, the evolution of literary canons has made a great impact on the world of literature.