William Dean Howells' Editha

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William Dean Howells' Editha William Dean Howells was a conservative author who kept himself hidden from his writings. Unlike Mark Twain, whom he met in 1869, Howells was less energetic and concealed his emotions more. I believe his love for writing probably emerged from his father's side; William Cooper also had some of his work published starting in 1852. Growing up in Ohio and working at printer's shops and local newspapers, Howells worked as an editor and critic for many magazines. He easily recognized other rising writers and their talents. For example, he helped Mark Twain achieve success he already had experienced himself. Although good friends, they had opposite views in their writings. Twain was more enthusiastic, wilder, and energetic, while Howells kept to himself and expressed less. However, they shared a few of the same early experiences: printing shops and newspaper jobs, and moves to the East. Though poor and big with seven siblings, Howells's family was close and he was strongly affected by his father's championing of reform movements and of his own literary readings. As a novelist, his writings gave attention to details of everyday lives of ordinary people. It rejected romanticized plots and adventure to focus on character of contemporary American life. He helped shape American literature to what it was in 1900 by his commitment, earnestness, and ironic touch he brought to the audience in his writings. He also paid attention to rising female authors such as Emily Dickinson and Edith Wharton. As stated in The Harper American Literature, "Part of Howells's talent was the ability to admire in others what he himself was unable to do (348). In 1905, Howells published "Editha". It told of a woman who wanted to idealize her fiancι, George. She found a way by forcing him to go to war while he was against it. She felt as if her future husband had to be worthy of her love and to deserve her, or to be her hero. I find this silly but interesting because is this how most women thought back then--to make their loved ones worthy? I seriously doubt it, but I'm sure a few were like that. "Editha" includes one of Howells's themes of ordinary, common folk. He says, "To see realistically is to meet the world honestly; to see romantically is to deceive and to be deceived" (McQuade 349).

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