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American literature is dated from Mark Twain. Much of his writing was autobiographical. "Life on the Mississippi" was a story of his experiences as a pilot learning the great river and the country that it crossed, and the society that lived on its boats or along its banks. In 1884 came the greatest of his achievements"Huckleberry Finn". 'All modern literature comes from "Huckleberry Finn"', said Ernest Hemingway, and the aphorism is really true. Mark Twain was considered by his contemporaries the Lincoln of American literature. The "valley of democracy" that created Mark Twain produced his friend W.D. Howells. In his writing Howells gave the most comprehensive picture of middle-class American society to be found in the whole of American literature. Probably no other novelist except Balzac ever made so elaborate a report on his society as did W.D. Howells. He drew genre pictures of the New England countryside, the best of all portraits of the "self-made" businessman, the extravagant life of the Ohio frontier, the rough life and work in New York City, and the clash of cultures in European resorts. Howells was not only one of the most representative American novelists; but he was, too, at the same time, the leading American Literature literary critic. He edited the great "Atlantic Monthly". He introduced Ibsen, Zola, and Turgenev to American audiences, discovered and sponsored younger writers like Stephen Crane and Frank Norris. The third of the major novelists who emerged during the 1870s and reached maturity in the transition years was Henry James. Henry James took middle-class America for his theme. His best novels -"The Portrait of a Lady", "The American", "The Ambassadors", "The Wings of the Dove" - explore the themes of manners and morals. Very often they are cast into a pattern of New World innocence and Old World corruption. Of all American novelists between Hawthorne and Faulkner, James was most completely preoccupied with moral problems. Because James wrote of characters and subjects alien to the average American, and in a style intricate and sophisticated, he achieved little popularity in his own lifetime.
ref.by 2006—2022