Visions of Henry Adams and Charlotte Perkins Gilman Essay
At the end of the 19th century the American society was involved in the process of changing the social principles, breaking stereotypes, and creating new revolutionary visions of the peculiarities of the social development. Moreover, the individual self-perception and the notion of self-consciousness were also altered according to the tendencies.
It is important to notice that the male and female visions of these processes differed greatly. It was the start for the discussion about the role of men and women in society from the positions influenced by new social realities.
In her works, Charlotte Perkins Gilman accentuated the changes in women’ self-consciousness with paying attention to the discussion of the relationship between men and women (Gilman). She analyzed the relations between wives and husbands, the role of women in society, the notion of matriarchy. Her ideas were rather feministic for the society of that time and provoked the development of the discussion.
The male position according to the problems of the relations between sexes and the role of women and men in society was presented in the works by Henry Adams. He concentrated on the fact that the role of women could not change because of the social traditions. Moreover, “an American Virgin would never dare command; an American Venus would never dare exist” (Adams 385).
Therefore, these two authors developed their ideas on the issue of individual’s consciousness with basing on two opposite visions of the question which were affected by their genders. However, many other writers became also involved in this discussion as the symbol of the turning society.
Henry James, “The Real Thing”
Where is the border between the reality and realism of its representation? Is it possible to remain reality as it is while presenting its features in realistic works? This question can be considered as rather controversial for the analysis of the principles of American Realism of the 19th century. In his short story “The Real Thing”, Henry James discusses the relationship between reality and artificiality as the way to contribute to realism in art.
Romanticism focused on idealism, dreams and fantasy as the methods to interact with the reality or escape from it. Realism concentrated on the reality with paying attention to all its aspects. It seemed that Realism could reveal all the hidden sides of the reality.
Nevertheless, Henry James presented his own vision of the relationship between the reality and realism. His opinion on truth was offered in his discussion of ‘the real thing’. James focused on the weaknesses of perceiving the reality only from one point and accentuating the necessity of truth and realism because realism and reality as truth have few similarities.
In his story, Henry James accentuates the necessity of artificiality in order to provide the best representation of reality. This concept rejects the principles of Romanticism because if sentiments and dreams are associated with fantasy, James’ approach to realism in art is associated with artifice.
This provocative idea in connection with the concepts of Realism reveals the problems of society in which the main characters of the story live. Thus, according to James, the Monarchs “were the real thing”, but “always the same thing” (James 12-13).
The controversy and irony of James’s story is in the idea that to create the realistic piece of art, it is significant to emphasize not the reality of the surroundings and of the models, but successfully use their artificial appearance in order to make the representation absolutely realistic.
Adams, Henry. The Education of Henry Adams. USA: Kessinger Publishing, 2010.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. USA: Simon and Brown, 2011.
James, Henry. The Real Thing. USA: CreateSpace, 2011.
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