Essay about Editha: William Dean Howells’s Commitment to Literary Realism

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Editha: William Dean Howells’s commitment to literary realism
ENG 202: American Literature II


Editha: William Dean Howells’s commitment to literary realism
Realism can be defined as view in which the author tries to depict life as truthfully and accurately as possible. The use of realistic or lifelike settings described by the author or narrated by a character, add a layer of realism to the story, even if the story itself is fictitious. The characters themselves are often portrayed as believable as possible, to the point that the character being described could actually exist; they are often depicted as very average people, void of extreme wealth, influence, or astounding abilities. The reason characters and settings are often
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Unlike other war stories of the time Howells does not cushion this one with a happy ending or solemn closure but brings to attention the harsh reality of the effects of war. George does not come back to Editha as a decorated war hero; he is in fact one of the first soldiers to die in the war. His death in the war is not described as heroic nor is there any mention of valiant efforts he might have made on the battlefield, he is simply dead and that’s the end of it. Howells’s use of Georges death, specifically the abruptness in which he dies, is shockingly realistic as death in any war is most commonly sudden and unexpected. This sobering reality of war again adds a layer of deep realism to the story.
Howells’s use of flawed characters faced with common dilemmas, set in real time periods, and in conjunction with real events not only contribute to the effective realism of the story but they also reflect Howells’s commitment and passion to communicate realism in his stories. The loss of loved ones at the hands of war is something that is timeless and as a result readers from every generation can not only understand but also connect with the story on a very deep level considering the topic itself is very