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13 January, 2012
Outlines of English and American Literature|
by Long, William J.
|Aside from the realistic movement, our recent fiction is like a river
flowing sluggishly over hidden bowlders: the surface is so broken by
whirlpools, eddies and aimless flotsam that it is difficult to determine
the main current. Here our attention is attracted by clever stories of
"society in the making," there by somber problem-novels dealing with city
slums, lonely farms, department stores, political rings, business
corruption, religious creeds, social injustice,--with every conceivable
matter that can furnish a novelist not with a story but with a cry for
reform. The propaganda novel is evidently a favorite in America; but
whether it has any real influence in reforming abuses, as the novels of
Dickens led to better schools and prisons in England, is yet to be
Occasionally appears a reform novel great enough to make us forget the
reform, such as Helen Hunt Jackson's Ramona (1884). This famous
story began as an attempt to plead the cause of the oppressed Indian, to do
for him what Uncle Tom's Cabin was supposed to have done for the
negro; it ended in an idyllic story so well told that readers forgot to
cry, "Lo, the poor Indian," as the author intended. At the present time
Ramona is not classed with the problem-novels but with the most
readable of American romances.