The American LiteratureAlthough the roots of American literature reach to 16th century, the real history of American literature begins in the time of the American fight for
1) The Middle Ages
James Fenimore Cooper – describes American wilderness and wrote Indian novels of adventure. His masterpiece is The Last of the Mohicans. It is about
a war between England and France in an Indian colony. Some tribes of Indians were with France and some with England. On of English fortresses, called
William Henry, is surrounded by French army and Hurons (Indian tribe). Two daughters (Cora and Alice) of the leader of the William Henry wanted to get
in. They live many adventures and finally they reach the fortress. However they were successful, the older one, Cora is murdered by a bad Huron.
Another famous books are The pioneers, The Pathfinder, The Deerslayer.
Walt Whitman – a poet of democracy, freedom and sexual love. He made the American poetry independent on European poetry. He influenced the whole
modern poetry with rhythmical free verse which was his innovation. His most famous collection is Leaves of Grass.
Edgar Allan Poe – a poet and short story writer, critical essayist, the founder of both scienc0fiction and the detective story. He is said that he
was a genius. His best poem is Raven – on a stormy night a tires student who has lost his love asks if he will ever meet her again in some other
world. His doubts are underlined by the raven’s repetition of “Never more”. The student is in delirium tremens, and the raven got there by the
open window. Poe also wrote wonderful short stories such as the Black Cat, The golden Bug, The Murders in the Rue Morgue,…
Herman Melville – the greatest symbolist, he sailed on seas for many years. His experience at sea were the basis for almost all his novels. The most
famous novel is Moby-Dick, the symbolic story, Moby-Dick is a name of the white whale and it means evil.
Mark Twain – is one of the greatest US authors. He comes from the South and he worked as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi river. “Mark
twain” is a river-man’s phrase meanings two-pathoms-deep. His real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He became famous as a humorist and
story-teller. His best books are based on his own experience along the Mississippi. It is The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and the Adventures of
Huckleaberry Fin. These books describe the adventures of boyhood. Huck is a portrait of a frontier boy. He runs away because he is afraid that Aunt
Sally will adopt him and civilise him, he is free and reminded free till the end of the book. He also took some inspiration from English history and
wrote the well-known satire. He also took some inspiration from English history and wrote the well-known satire A Connecticut Yankee in King
2) 20th century
Upton Sinclair – the best novel is The Jungle and it is about working conditions in the Chicago slaughterhouse and living conditions of immigrants,
whose labour is cheap.
Jack London – became very popular due to describing adventurous life at the time of the gold rush. His great novel is called The Call of the
After the WWI a group of writers known as the “Lost Generation” entered literature. They were influenced by the war, their experience resulted in
Ernst Hemingway – was awarded Nobel Prize for his famous book The Old Man and the Sea, which is about human strength for fighting both external
natural things and bad sides of his character (“A man can be destroyed but not defeated”). After WWI Hemingway became a journalist. Among his best
novels belong A Farewell to Arms – it is about WWI. It is a love story of an American boy served in the Italian Ambulance Service and an English
nurse. Another famous novel is For Whom the Bell Tolls, and it is a picture from Spanish Civil War. Other novels are: Fiesta, Death in the Afternoon,
A moveable Feast, Island in the Stram. Hemingway is a master in short story writing. He committed a suicide – shot himself.
Francis Scott Fitzgerald – is connected with the Jazz Age of the 20s. He wrote many stories about wealthy people, for whom everything is so easy
because of money. His best novel is Great Gatsby. It is about a very rich man who earns all his money by smuggling. Hi is doing this because he wants
to be on the same level as Daisy, his former lover. As Ernst Hamingway, also he committed a suicide (with pills).
William Faulkner – was awarded Nobel Prize. He wrote a cycle of novels dealing with all possible problems of the South: Light in August, As I Lay
John Steinbeck – won a Nobel Prize in literature. He tried to uncover the reasons of social injustice. His best novel is The Grapes of Wrath. It is
a picture of a poor family, which is exploited by the fruit-growers in California. He was also playwriter. His famous play called Of Mice and Men.
Other his famous works are: The Wayward Bus, East of Eden, Travels with Charley.
Jerome David Salinger – expressed the feelings of the post-war generation in novel The Catcher in the Rye, which is about a sincere and pure
teenager who is disgusted by the frauds and insincerity of people around himself. Salinger wrote also nice short stories – Nine Stories.
William Styron – is influenced by Faulkner and writes novels about the South of US. His excellent novel called Sophie’s Choice. It deals with the
problem of Nazis concentration camps and conditions of human life in peace influences by a bitter war experience.
Alex Haley – is a coloured writer (African American). He is famous through his chronicle Roots, which goes back to the seventh generation of his
ancestors. The first African, Kunta Kinte was enslaved and brought to America.
Joseph Heller – wrote Catch 22. It is an antiwar novel connecting absurd black humour.
20th century poetry is famous for a group of poets and artists who gathered around 1956 in San Francisco and are called “Beat Generation”. They
practised free life, behaviour and new use of language. They were disgusted by corrupt, commercial and conventional world around them. They were
influenced also by Zen Buddhism teaching.
Allen Gingsberg – visited our country several times, wrote Howl and Other Poems.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti – he is still living, he visited Prague, The Naked Lunch.
Jack Kerouac – he wrote the Bible of Beat Generation On the Road. This novel is about friends wandering on their motorcycles back and forth across
the continent and shows us their “beat” characters. Work: Mexico City Blues, The Town and the City, Mag.
Eugene O’Neil – won a Nobel Prize. He is a playwriter. He shows the bad sides of human characters and the difficult conditions people in this
world have. Work: Desire under the Elms.
Tennessee Williams – shows in his plays people’s crude, selfish, violent and cruel motives of their behaviour as well as their deep desire to love
and be loved. Work: A Streetcar Named Desire, Orpheus Descending, A Ca on a Hot Tin Roof. See enclosed paper.
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