Author (Your Name)

Joan Muir, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. English Dept.




The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries serve as an excellent illustration of the theory that writers reflect the major cultural influences of their times. William Dean Howells, Hamlin Gerland, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, Stephen Crane, and Upton Sinclair show, in their acceptance and rejection of contemporary life, the extent to which the major influences of the times are reflected in an author's attitude, theme, content, style and imagery. Perhaps the influence of contemporary culture on literature is especially evident in this period because of the extremely rapid and widespread change, which saw the old way of life and the old attitudes overthrown in favor of new views of man and the universe. We can see clearly two major influences in this period which are reflected consistently and vividly in the literature--Darwinism and the coming of the machine age. There was, however, one underlying concern of the late nineteenth centure which I choose to see as THE major cultural influence of the period--power. Power had been a concern in many cultures, but in the eighteen-nineties power became a dominating force in life. An immense volume of all forms of power was unleashed--economic and physical alike. Power affected the lives of many more people than it ever had before, and therefore, became a universal influence. The underlying concern for power in all its forms provided a focal point of thematic interest for the important writers of the decade. While these authors rarely mention power as such, there is a pervading awareness of it in many aspects of their writings.


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culture, american literature, nineteenth century, eighteenth century