Realism in American literature describes the attempt of writers during the mid to late 19th century to move away from Romanticism, and to describe American life as accurately as possible. As in French literature of the era, the writer's task was to depict life as it was, rather than an idealized or sanitized version. Detailed attention to the living conditions of the ordinary working class, a refusal to look away from hardship and squalor, and the use of vernacular and dialect are the hallmarks of this school of writers, which includes Twain, James, Harding Davis, and Melville.
This section provides short fiction from Twain; two examples of short fiction of Melville, along with suggestions for group work and a quiz; Harding Davis' influential "Life in the Iron Mills," followed by resources for teachers, including discussion questions and a thorough explanation of realism.
Click here: Melville, "Paradise of Bachelors" text, quiz, group work
Click here: "Bartleby the Scrivener" video
Click here: Harding Davis, "Life in the Iron Mills"
Click here: Twain, "Jumping Frog"
Click here: Twain, "Diary of Adam and Eve"
Click here: Twain, "Mysterious Stranger" (Paine version), questions, group work, etc.
Click here: Audiobook, "Luck" by Twain
Click here: Video footage of life in a steel-mill town