Review questions and reflection

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From Civil War Turmoil to Romanticism, Realism, and Naturalism

.......................REVIEW QUESTIONS AND REFLECTION...............................

1. Where did the American Renaissance begin? [It began in New England, specifically in Concord, Massachusetts.]

2. Who are some of the writers associated with the American Renaissance? [The program mentions writers who lived and wrote in Concord during the beginning of the American Renaissance, particularly Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne.]

3. Explain some ideas associated with transcendentalism.

[Transcendentalists looked at God and religion differently from the Puritans, for example. They believed that God lived in nature and within humans; therefore, the quality of a person’s daily life was very important.]

4. The program says that transcendentalism incorporates a “romantic” philosophy. What do you think “romantic” means in this sense? [Romantic ideas, as related to transcendentalism, deal with looking at people, places, and events in new ways. Romanticism is concerned with studying emotions, expression, and nature, and transcendentalists were considered romantic because they sought to emphasize and convey people’s inner thoughts and feelings, their personal reactions to nature and the world.]

5. How does Emerson’s quotation, “...the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God” differ from the Puritan belief of God and religion?

[Emerson is saying that God lives through people––that people are a part of God, and God is a part of humans. The Puritans believed that God determined their lives; they sought to live pious and moral lives because they believed that God would judge them after their deaths and send them either to heaven or hell. They saw God as a separate entity, not as part of themselves.]

6. Why do you think that many transcendentalists were against slavery? [Transcendentalists believed that God was a part of nature, of every human being. Treating another human with less respect than another or not allowing them equal rights, then, was wrong.]

7. Who was Frederick Douglass, and why was he important to the abolitionist movement? [Douglass was a man born into slavery in the South who managed to escape to the North, where he began writing antislavery documents. His autobiography fueled the abolitionist movement, as it related his experiences as a slave and offered commentary about America’s social issues.]

8. What other African American writer greatly affected the abolitionist movement? [Harriet Beecher Stowe––her book Uncle Tom’s Cabin allowed readers to see the suffering caused by slavery.]

9. Edgar Allan Poe, considered a romantic writer, did not address social concerns in his writing. What are some themes in his writing?

[Poe wrote in detail about senses and emotions, allowing his readers to paint pictures and imaginative worlds in their minds. He often conveyed the powers of the human imagination, which sometimes explored the fear of the unknown.]

10. What are some main themes of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writing?

[Hawthorne also focused on human senses and emotion in his pieces, and he often evaluated the effects of Puritan thought on people.]

11. What does Hawthorne explore in The Scarlet Letter? [He writes about how Puritan ideas of morality greatly influenced the judgment of New Englanders and how their judgments of Hester Prynne affected her life and her child’s.]

12. What is a main theme of Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick?

[Melville studies the conflict between good and evil. Through his characters, he tries to compare and contrast good and evil, encouraging his readers to evaluate how both good and evil fit into nature.]

13. What literary genre is Emily Dickinson famous for? [Dickinson wrote poetry; she is considered one of the finest American lyric poets.]

14. How did technological advances during the mid-nineteenth century affect Americans? [New communication and transportation networks, farm machinery, and steamboat locomotion allowed people to ship goods, travel, and communicate better, which brought prosperity to the nation. Americans gained more self-confidence, and writers reflected this in their literature.]

15. How did Walt Whitman’s writing encourage realism? [Whitman wrote about what he saw and experienced in the present. Through his writing, he conveyed the real world.]

16. Mark Twain is considered a great influence on literary realism. What part of the country is he famous for writing about? [Twain is remembered for writing about the South and places along the Mississippi River. In Huckleberry Finn, he explores the relationship between a slave and a young boy and how this relationship progresses as they travel together along the Mississippi.]

17. What is unusual about the narrator in Huckleberry Finn? [Twain tells the story through the eyes and words of Huck, a young, uneducated boy.]

18. Who are some other writers associated with American realism, and what did they write about? [Bret Harte focused on the West; his most popular story is about mining camps and the experiences of workers. Joel Chandler Harris wrote about Georgia. Sarah Orne Jewett explored her home state, Maine, while George Washington Cable often illustrated life in New Orleans.]

19. How is naturalism related to realism? [Naturalism also focuses on the real world; it particularly relates actual circumstances of human life.]

20. In McTeague, Frank Norris depicts a character who cannot control his animalistic nature. How is this representative of naturalism?

[By having his character face the realities of life and deal with his inherent animal/human nature, Norris is exploring how real human emotions and instincts affect people in all types of situations.]

21. Most people of nineteenth-century America had very different outlooks on life than did their Puritan predecessors. Taking into consideration all that you learned from the program, what are some of the main differences in their outlooks and ideas?

22. Which literary movement––romanticism (transcendentalism), realism, or naturalism––do you find most interesting? Why? Which writer discussed in the program do you think best represents each movement? Why?
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