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


Page 55

tending to the heroic and inflated in the dialogue and to the verbose in narrative and description. Swift improvisation underlies the method, with a large but heedless handling of groups of characters and blocks of material, and with Providence and coincidence involved as lightly as in the most romantic ages. Although there is a strangely monotonous plethora of incident, the plots play continual variations upon a few themes and personages. In those dealing with the matter of the Revolution the war against the British never slackens; nor in those dealing with the Settlement and the Frontier, the war against the stubborn aborigines. Types of character are strongly opposed and slightly shaded, as suits an atmosphere habitually tinged with conflict. Children hardly exist on the scene, and the women rarely rise above the pretty and elegant and helpless except when now and then one of them assumes the virago, often with comic effect. So far as the characters have a psychology, it is restricted to a few single motives: with the women, a passive readiness to be wooed, a meek endurance of husbands, and a tearful solicitude for children—again except for the viragoes, who anticipate their suitors, nag their husbands, and beat or savagely protect their young; with the men, intense patriotism, a burning confidence in the national destiny, a passion for fighting and hardships, considerable insensibility to pain, in themselves and others, which finds expression in stoicism, cruelty, and heavy pranks; and chivalric love remarkably sexless in any but the villains. The moral standards implied belong to conventional ethics, Christianity being professed and war practised in the ordinary modern mixture. While some strained points



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