Throughout American literature writers have always written on social topics. Writers wrote about what was around them, and this was anything from war to love. Pieces of literature that confront social topics include Walt Whitman’s “Beat! Beat! Drums!”, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”. From the Civil War through the Modern Age the changing views of social topics is evident through literature.
With the brake out of the Civil War came views of society’s sorrow for lost boys dying in farmers’ fields. Many American’s believed the war would end quickly, with one decisive battle perhaps. Instead Americans had to struggle through four long years of death and destruction. In “Beat! Beat! Drums!”, by Walt Whitman, the bugles give society shrills. In this piece Whitman writes, “Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, plowing his field or gathering his grain, So fierce you whirr and pound you drums-so shrill you bugles blow.” This passage tells of a farmer having no peace now that the war is happening on his fields. Some writers however tried to keep their literature free of war, and they wrote about the westward movement. The civil war authors told of the
sorrows society felt during the Civil War.
Before, during, and after the Civil War writers were writing about the society of the westward movement. A famous westward movement author was Mark Twain. Twain wrote mostly stories pertaining to life on the Mississippi River. One of his most famous novels, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, tells of a young boy and a run away slave rafting up the Mississippi. The society of the time did not except blacks, but Huck like Twain was a non-conformist and treated Jim, the slave, with respect. This non-conformist aspect can be seen in much of the westward movement literature. Westward movement writers wrote on the social views of the west and the people who broke away from the
In the beginning of the Modern Age Realism became popular. Realists wrote about real life. Writers were coming strait out and talking about the problems they saw with people in society. Every realization that these authors had was written down. In Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle the industrialized city is shown as corrupt. Where imigrants hoped to live the American dream the poor were dying while the rich were getting richer. The
American dream is lost and the only ones to blame is the corrupt rich society. Sinclair depicts the horrific scenes of an unjust industry brutally oppressing immigrant workers. Due to this piece of literature laws were passed to help make food industries more
sanitary. Sinclair came to the realization that the meat packing industry was corrupt and he took a stand. Naturalist writers took the realist views to the extreme. Realist authors changed the social topics to write about the truthful treatment of material.
Naturalists wrote about the truth of material in the scientific views of life. Since this is so hard to do an author in no way can solely be a naturalist. Naturalists’ works not only
show how society affects the character but also how nature affects the human psyche. An author whom fared well with naturalism was Jack London. In London’s To Build a Fire a man is in a struggle for his life with the hostile nature. The social topic London is addressing not only has to do with the man but also with how nature is affecting the man. Naturalists changed from writing strictly on society to writing about society and how the surroundings affect society.
Modern poetry incripts all views of writing. In modern poetry one can find transcendentalist views entangled with realist perspectives. Many modern poets used symbolism to get their views of society across. For instance, in Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” the two roads symbolize to paths one can take in life. Frost writes, “I took the one less traveled And that has made all the difference.” Some times in life it is comfortable to take the easy way of doing something, but Frost says society should be adventurous and try new things. By taking the less traveled road it made all the
difference. Modern poetry, by experimenting with new forms of poetic expression, created a new way of writing about social topics. These poets combined ways of writing about society, and used symbolism often.
From the Civil War through the Modern Age, authors wrote about social topics in changing ways. In much of the Civil War literature writers directly are concerned about the war and its affects on society. Westward movement writers began to express their opinions of society more. The realists and naturalists concerned themselves more with the truth about human reality. The modern poets combined many views of writing and often used symbolism to express their views of society. No matter what form of literature each group had their own distinct way of expressing their views of social topics. Literature is a mass of intellectual views organized into narratives.