American and British Literature: Compared and Contrasted
Although America and Great Britain are separated by an ocean, they are connected at the pen, so to speak. The similarities in their literature are more numerous than their differences. This is partly due to their common heritage, America having originally been a colony of England. Even beyond that, though, the literature of both countries was influenced by some of the same factors.
One such factor was the Industrial Revolution. The influence of that revolution upon both countries was significant. Authors of the era on both shores capitalized upon the horrors of the Industrial Revolution, largely to the exclusion of its rather substantial benefits. In England, books specifically detailing the miserable aspects of factory work abounded. Some of the evils that ensued from the revolution, such as child labor and the impersonal greed of the upper classes, were prominently featured. These novels were so heart-rending that they eventually resulted in many changes in the factory environment based on human rights issues as well as fostering an appreciation for democracy.
A bit later, a similar revolution occurred in America and was likewise reflected in the literature of the day. What had been a rural society was becoming an urban society due to industrial innovations, and many of the same ills depicted in England's revolution became a theme in American literature. In America, however, the industrial revolution seems to have taken place primarily in the north; the south remained essentially an agricultural society for some time to come. This dichotomy created division between the north and the south that colored both the society and the literature of each region. Northern writers tended to favor more intellectual themes and philosophical interests, whereas southern writers leaned toward more romantic-type themes with somewhat improbable plots.
Another factor affect...