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Extra resources for American Literature and Social Change: William Dean Howells to Arthur Miller
I don't know whether you see what I'm driving at but all of us are more or less pawns. ' The stature of the individual was much diminished in the context of urban mass society, and men were governed by circumstances over which they had no control and conceived of themselves as driven by large abstract forces, but these forces and circumstances were essentially economic and social, not natural. The Social Darwinists used a particular nineteenth-century conception of nature to mystify the laws and processes of capitalist development.
Henry James, in his long essay on Hawthorne, criticised The Scarlet L etter (1850 ) 'for a want of reality and an abuse of the fanciful element' , for being 'weak' in its 'historical colouring' , and for lacking 'the modern realism of research' . Hawthorne, he pointed out, 'never attempted to render exactly or closely the actual facts of the society that surrounded him ' , and he attributed this to the thinness of social experience offered by ante-bellum America which lacked so many features , including traditions, cultural variety and upper-class institutions: No State , in the European sense of the word, and indeed barely a specific national name.
It was hard, definite, undeniably there in all its concreteness, and men's relationship to it, as dictated both by their elementary needs and the drive to accumulate capital, was direct and exploitative. 2 The Literary Response (z") The dominant mode of fiction before the Civil War had been romance. James Fenimore Cooper's 'Leatherstocking Tales' which include The Last of the Mohicans (1826) and The Deerslayer (1841) are romantic in conception and form and concern themselves with man and nature on the frontier, that is to say, on the periphery of normal social life.