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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 127

enthusiasm for glorifying the total national picture; in the South, the prevailing mood was a passion for displaying the depth and charm of the society which had received a mortal blow from the war. Too many in both sections regarded local color as a garment which, when worn by a story, called for a swagger or an elegance in the action which was not natural to it; others regarded the garment as a sufficient thing in itself and nearly dispensed with the flesh and blood of narrative; too many, also, where the color was already thin, beat it thinner. Nevertheless, the episode contributed something to the advance of realism. Scenes could no longer be unlocalized; costume and dialect had to be reported with accuracy; characters and plots must consequently be fitted, more or less, to the actual circumstances among which they moved. The ordinary methods of local color, no less than doctrines of realism imported from Europe or than those Americans who espoused the doctrines, cleared the way for a critical conflict between romance and realism. Granted, controversy finally ran, that real persons and events should of course be represented, ought they to be merely everyday persons and events exhibited to the life or ought they instead to be selected with a view of making more of heightened moments and superior men and women than could be made of commonplace?
  Bret Harte, however, and his followers fought no critical battles. Their victory was too easy. When The Luck of Roaring Camp was published California was the microcosm and focus of America. Every section was represented there among the gold-seekers who gave the community its picturesqueness. Every section of course read



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