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


Page 258

must deal candidly with political corruption, with economic injustice, with religious unrest, with sexual irregularities, with greed and doubt and hate and cruelty and blood, as well as with its standard subjects. It must assert its rights, its obligation, to speak of anything it chose, provided only the thing were true.
  Doctrines so unquestionable, and in time so unquestioned, in the early nineties aroused vigorous antagonism. One pious reviewer declared that one of Mrs. Deland’s books combined “the blasphemy of Ingersoll and the obscenity of Zola.” In the preface to Summer in Arcady (1896) James Lane Allen protested against “those black chaotic books of the new fiction” which had lately come from Europe and were disturbing the simple virtues of American life. Tolstoy to many seemed unpardonably frank, and Flaubert and Zola to most seemed simply wicked, so strong was the tradition of optimism, decorum, reticence, in American fiction. Established habits of “decency,” by which was meant a solicitous reserve in matters of sex and of suffering in general, did not break up, but the novel extended its inquiries to numerous matters rarely considered in the eighties. Three novels published in 1894 represent the transition: Mrs. Freeman’s Pembroke, a study of New England stubbornness; Mrs. Deland’s Philip and His Wife, a study of an unhappy marriage; and Paul Leicester Ford’s The Honorable Peter Stirling, a chronicle of politics built up around the career, here idealized, of President Cleveland.
  Late in 1895 appeared a striking novel, The Red Badge of Courage, which definitely belonged to the new fiction. Its author, Stephen Crane (1871–1900), was a



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