American Civil War Literature

American Civil War Literature


The American Civil War literature time period
started around the 1850’s and lasted to the 1890’s. Presented by Mitzy Vazquez Ayala. When an individual ruminates on the elements
that constructed American Civil War literature, an image of slavery, racism, discrimination,
social and gender inequality emerges in their mind. The psychological effects that the American
Civil war time period had on literature are monumental. Poets and authors like Emily Dickinson and
Walt Whitman have altered and shaped the way we perceive literature. For example, the war and slavery inspired
Whitman to write the Wound-Dresser in 1896 and Dickinson’s One Anguish in a Crowd. Authors like Harriet Beecher Stowe and her
novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin published in 1852 brought light to the issues African Americans
were facing in the United States. Themes of slavery, discrimination, and inequality
dominated American Civil War literature. These social issues are represented as universal
truths in many works and have alluded to other problems we’ve faced as a nation over the
years. Inspirations to create profound literature
many times root from social issues and flaws within our society. Undoubtedly, the cultural that was present
during this time in the United States also affected and impacted literature. The belief in an agriculture-based economy
(a predominantly Southern belief) often coincided with belief in the institution of slavery,
because farmers who owned large plantations used slaves to sustain their success. Those who kept slaves favored war, because
their dependence on slaves was stronger than their loyalty to the Union. However, those living in the North who were
involved in an industrial economy opposed slavery, seeing slaves as humans instead of
a means of obtaining more money. These people wanted to keep the Union together
while, at the same time, preserving the Union. All these elements contribute to the way American
Civil War literature was shaped. When reading literature from this time period
these ideals are evident to the reader. Political issues like the Compromise of 1850
also known as the Fugitive Slave Law, the Kansas-Nebraska Act which led to Bleeding
Kansas and the Dred Scott vs Sanford case in 1857 which fought the idea that African
Americans whose ancestors were slaves, were not considered U.S. citizens have allowed
authors like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Herman Melville to write about these issues. Longfellow’s poem, The Slave’s Dream,
depicts the experiences slaves were facing during the civil war time period. Melville’s, Shiloh, describes the atrocities
and effects of war. Moreover, religion has undoubtedly impacted
literature not only during this time period. Although there was no main religion in the
United States during the American Civil War time period, Christianity and Catholicism
were popular. Both the North and South believed God was
on their sides, as the South thought God was in favor of slavery and the North believed
God wanted abolition. Thus, many prominent pieces of American Civil
War literature contain the author’s sentiment and alluded to religion therefore the reader
is able to recognize whether the author of a specific piece was from the South or the
North. During the American Civil War the railroads
became an essential and necessary form of transportation. The North’s growing railroad system allowed
for expansion and growing reliance on industry to sustain the economy. The South was less technologically advanced
and depended on slavery to maintain their plantations, which were the basis of the Southern
economy and way of life. Reliance on differing means of economic survival
disturbed the country’s harmony, prompting animosity which led to the Civil War. Thus, in many pieces of literature that were
produced during this time the railroads appear in many of plots. The genres and styles that dominated American
Civil War literature are speeches, like Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided”. Novels like Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge
of Courage. Letters and poems like Herman Melville’s
The Portent and Elizabeth Ward’s A Message. And Songs like Julie Howe’s The Battle Hymn
of the Republic. Representative works of American Civil war
literature include Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women written in 1868 which is based on her
life with her three sisters and herself as the main character, as they assimilate to
life during the Civil War. The novel shows how families were affected
during the last four years and those that followed. And Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn written in 1884. Dr. Randall Fuller describes the American
civil war time period and the elements that sparked inspiration in literature. “Over six hundred thousand Americans died
in the Civil War, which is more than any war in the United States, and which is more than
all of the wars combined. But if you were to extrapolate that into today’s
numbers, if you were to say the United States would have a Civil War right now based upon
the population, the equivalent of six million people would die given how much the population
has grown. You could almost have your students look around
the classroom and say, if you guys were fighting for the Union at least one out of ten of you
would die. If you were fighting for the Confederacy,
somewhere between one out of three or four would die

local_offerevent_note October 4, 2019

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