development of american short stories

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  • 8/9/2019 Development of American Short Stories


    1. Stages in the Development of the American Short Story.THE period between the Civil ar in America and the o!tbrea" of the #reat ar in E!rope in 1$1% may be termed inthe history of prose fiction the Era of the Short Story. Everywhere& in 'rance& in (!ssia& in England& in America& moreand more the impressionistic prose tale& the conte )short& effective& a single blow& a moment of atmosphere& a glimpseat a climactic instant)came& especially in the maga*ines& to dominate fictional literat!re. 'ormless at first& oftenoverloaded with maw"ishness& with essay effects& with morali*ing p!rpose& and dominating bac"gro!nd& it grewconstantly in proportion and restraint and artistic finish !ntil it was hailed as a new genre, a pec!liar prod!ct of nineteenth cent!ry conditions& one especially adapted to the American temperament and the American kultur.


    That the prose story was no innovation pec!liar to later literat!re& is an a+iom that m!st precede every disc!ssion of it. ,t is as old as the race- it has cropped o!t ab!ndantly in every literat!re and every period. That it has ta"en widelydiffering forms d!ring its long history is also a+iomatic. Every generation and every race has had its own ideals in thematter& has set its own fashions. ne needs remember only The Book of Ruth, The Thousand and one Nights, theEli*abethan novella& the Sir (oger de Coverley papers& /ohnson0s Rambler, Hannah ore0s moral tales& and themorbid romance of the early nineteenth2cent!ry ann!als. The modern short story is only the latest fashion in storytelling)short fiction la mode.

    3. 4eginnings.,n America the evol!tion of the form may be traced thro!gh at least fo!r stages. ,t began with the eighteenth2cent!ry taleof the Hannah ore type& colo!rless& formless& !ndramatic& 5s!bservient&6 to !se a contemporary phrase& 5only to theinterest of virt!e6)a form pec!liarly adapted to flo!rish in the 7!ritanic atmosphere of the new nation. S!ch storiesas Chariessa, or a Pattern for the Sex and The anger of S!orting "ith #nnocent Credulit$, both from Carey0s Columbian

    %aga&ine established in 189:& satisfied the American reading p!blic for half a cent!ry.

    ;. ,rving.Then came the wor" of ashington ,rving 1 )the blending of the moral tale with the Addisonian essay& especially inits Sir (oger de Coverley phase. The evol!tion was a pec!liar one& a nat!ral res!lt of that isolation of early Americawhich belated all its art forms and "ept it always a f!ll generation behind the literary fashions of always he was of the eighteenth

    cent!ry& an essayist& a moralist& a s"etcher of manners& an anti?!arian with a reverence for the past& a sentimentalist.His s"etchy moral essays and his st!dies of manners and character grew nat!rally into e+pository stories& ill!strations&narratives of a traveller set in an atmosphere attractive to the !ntravelled American of the time& all imagination andlonging. He added to the moral tale of his day characteri*ation& h!mo!r& atmosphere& literary charm& b!t he added noelement of constr!ctive art. He lac"ed the dramatic- he overloaded his tales with descriptions and essay material- andhe ended them feebly. His stories& even the classic Ri! 'an (inkle, are elaborations with pictorial intent rather thandramas with c!lminative movement and sharp o!tlines. They are essays rather than short stories.


    ,rving advanced the short story more by his infl!ence than by his art. The pop!larity of The Sketch Book and theothers that followed it& the tremendo!s fact of their a!thor0s E!ropean fame& the all!ring pict!res of lands across thesea& the romantic atmosphere& the vag!eness and the wonder of it& laid hold mightily !pon the imagination of America.They came @!st in time to capt!re the yo!ng gro!p of writers that was to r!le the mid2cent!ry. The twenties and thethirties in America were dominated by The Sketch Book. All at once came an o!tb!rst of ,rvinges?!e s"etches and

    tales. That the !nit of meas!re in American fiction is a short one is to be acco!nted for in a very great degree by thetremendo!s infl!ence of ,rving in its early formative period.

    %. The Ann!als- Hawthorne.'or the new form there sprang !p in the twenties a new vehicle& the ann!al. 'or two decades the boo"2stands were loadedwith flamboyantly bo!nd gift boo"s) The Token, The Talisman, The Pearl, The *maranth, and the others&elaborate Sketch Books varied soon by echoes from the new romanticism of E!rope. =ever before s!ch a g!shing of sentiment& of maw"ish pathos& of cr!de terror effects& and vag!e #ermanic mysticism. 'rom o!t of it all b!t a singlefig!re has s!rvived& the sombre Hawthorne 3 who was geni!s eno!gh to t!rn even the st!ff of the ann!als into a formthat was to persist and dominate. Hawthorne added so!l to the short story and made it a form that co!ld be ta"en serio!slyeven by those who had contended that it was inferior to the longer forms of fiction. He centred his effort abo!t a singlesit!ation and gave to the whole tale !nity of impression. ,nstead of elaboration of detail& s!ggestion- instead of pict!rings
  • 8/9/2019 Development of American Short Stories


    of e+ternal effects& s!b@ective analysis and psychologic delineation of character. Hawthorne was the first to lift the shortstory into the higher realms of art.

    . 7oe- (ealism.The forties belong to 7oe. ; ith him came for the first time the science of the short story& the treatment of it as adistinct art form with its own r!les and its own fields.

  • 8/9/2019 Development of American Short Stories


    13. Constance 'enimore oolson.7erhaps the most interesting transition d!ring the period is that which may be traced in the wor" of Constance 'enimoreoolson 19;9 $%F& a grandniece of Cooper& a native of =ew Hampshire& and a dweller s!ccessively by the #reat

  • 8/9/2019 Development of American Short Stories


    l865 22The Nation established- ar" TwainGs The Celebrated /!mping 'rog of Calaveras Co!nty p!blished in the Ne"5ork Saturda$ Press - p!blished with other stories in l9:8.

    l868 22 4ret HarteGs The