By Michael Spindler
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Extra resources for American Literature and Social Change: William Dean Howells to Arthur Miller
The specificity of Cowperwood's business activities is in marked contrast to the vagueness with which Dickens enshrouds the activities and final bankruptcy of his financier, Merdle, in Little Dorrit . To the Naturalists the business affairs themselves were of vital novelistic interest, since, governed by their deterministic philosophy, they were intent upon putting men in the context of the large forces which ruled over their lives. It is in the service of this determinism that so much significance is attributed to the non-human in the novels .
Like the literary naturalists who came after him, he was committed to the notion that the human eye could see 'real' life as it was in itself and that therefore language could represent it in fiction. One of the main techniques by which this mimesis was to be achieved was the accumulation of realistic detail , providing descriptions with a specificity and a solidity reminiscent of the real objects or scenes. This attempt to recapture the materiality of existence in prose was expressive of the period's pre-eminent concern with property and possessions and the hard definiteness of things.
And though there was no sovereign, nor even yet a First Family, there was an aristocracy in fact if not in name , as social critics claimed . " The central economic and social role of this elite elevated it to the status of a fit subject for fiction , indeed, even a compelling subject. The rich were significant. By virtue of their ownership of the Press and their influence through the political machines of both parties, they constituted a ruling class , able to foist its interests and ideologies upon the rest of the nation.
American Literature and Social Change: William Dean Howells to Arthur Miller by Michael Spindler