The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories

The Shift From Realism to Modernism

During the modernist era, artists gradually moved away from realism towards themes of illusion, consciousness, and imagination. In the visual arts, realism evolved into cubism and expressionism. This movement is paralleled in literature, as illusions and a feeling of flux replaced the realist themes of moral truth and intimacy. What, we must ask, was the impetus for this change? Although the paintings offer little insight, an analysis of the literature provides some information. An examination of the evolution from "The Country of the Pointed Firs" to "The Great Gatsby" reveals that Jewett and Fitzgerald attribute this change to the social force of urbanization. Jewett, a realist writer, offers readers a time and place where these forces are minimal, and the characters are able to achieve intimacy in their relationships, find moral truths in life, and perceive reality. She contrasts these scenes with a few examples of the destructive infiltration of city life into the countryside. Fitzgerald's modernist novel sets up the same argument, but centers on city life. He focuses on characters living in the New York metropolis area that are plagued by an obsession with the superficialities of materialism, which leads to...

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