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The Gilded Age

The Gilded Age was the name given to the period around 1870 when considerable cynicism set in about politics and other aspects of society. Mark Twain used the term as the title for a book, an attack on the materialism, speculation, and corruption seen in the era after the Civil War (Howard 200). In literary terms, the period as marked by a growing sense of realism. The beginnings of Naturalism as a literary movement came in the 1890s and extended realism with a new emphasis. The realists had insisted on detailing the world in a realistic fashion and to do so by creating reality: "Art's task was not to record but to make life; reality was a constructed, not a recorded, thing" (Bradbury 8). Naturalism took a different view in its origins, and now the task of the novelist was to undertake a scientific study by recording facts, living conditions, and behavior:

Naturalism was thus realism scientized, systematized, taken finally beyond realist principles of fidelity to common experience or of humanistic exploring of individual lives within the social and moral web to an experiment in the laws of social and biological existence (Bradbury 9).

The Gilded Age was the era of novelists like Mark Twain Henry James. Twain's progression as a writer follows the progression from the mid-nineteenth century into the Gilded Age, and for Twain his work shows this in a shift from humor to satire (Parrington 91). Parrington says that the Glided Age was marked by a decay in aristocratic culture and a shift to a more egalitarian culture. In the South, the disintegration of aristocratic culture was a consequence of the Civil War. One of the strongest forces of the era was the vigorous individualism of the frontier. Another force coming of age in this period was the culture of an urbanized and mechanized society (Parrington 49-50). This frontier spirit was evident in Twain's writing, as in his masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, ...

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The Gilded Age. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 08:32, May 28, 2020, from