William Dean Howells’ Editha

Editha is a story that dwells on two alternative views of war. From the point of view of the main female character, Editha, war is a glorious event that will provide the perfect opportunity for George, the man she is engaged with, to become a hero. George and the subtle narrative voice hint at an opposite point of view. War is full of horrors, sufferance and death. It is far from the traditional conception of a battle as an occasion for heroism and courage. These latter notions lose their value in the face of the utter destructions brought by war. This realist and, to a certain degree, modernist view of war differs immensely from the glorious representation it has in ancient literature or in romanticism, for instance.Howells focuses closely on the reality of war, the way in which war will be experienced by the fighters. The ideas of glory and victory fade away when confronted with the truly horrifying facts that accompany war. Howells’ narrative escapes thus the conventions of Victorian fiction, focusing on the dramatic consequences of war. His choice of the romantic and selfish Editha as a main character is very significant. Because of her shallow, insensible perception of the tragedy of war, she can be said to embody tradition itself, with its misrepresentation of reality on account of pre-established certain ideas.William Dean Howells’ Editor’s StudyEditor’s Study contains many of the essential principles of realism. Howells advocates for the almost photographic representation of reality. He argues that the author should endeavor to show reality as it is and not focus on a romantic and adventurous plot that is, most likely, improbable. In his columns, Howells criticizes various pieces of literature, pointing to their flaws or qualities. According to Howells, the realist prose can achieve much better results than the romance, despite the fact that may seem dry. Greatness is to be found only in an accurate perception and rendering of reality. In his view, it is this quality that distinguishes among great pieces of literature and simple romances.Henry James’ Daisy MillerJames’ novel, Daisy Miller, glosses over a theme that occurs often in the author’s novels: the clash between the American culture and the European one, as it was at the end of the nineteenth century. He contrasts the innocence of the Americans who were not so corseted by social rules and conventions and the rigidity and prejudiced behavior of the Europeans. In this context, the fact that the main point of view pertains to Winterbourne is not accidental. As in some of his other works, James lets the reader see the events through the eyes of the biased and prejudiced narrator so as to show him how easily it is to misunderstand and misjudge. Winterbourne harms Daisy by misjudging her according to the European standards of social conduct. When she walks on her own, unaccompanied by the chaperone, he doubts her integrity and worries about social rejection.By letting the reader see the events as Winterbourne does, James demonstrates that wrong and harmful opinions can be formed very easily. He also hides the actual character and conduct of Daisy until the end. Had the story been told from Daisy’s point of view, her behavior would not have constituted a mystery and the main theme of the novel would not have been fully developed. The novel draws attention to the strained contact between the European, rigid civilization and the American ingenuity. It is also important that Winterbourne is himself an American who lives in Europe. His behavior and standards have completely changed however under the influence of the social milieu. James shows therefore how great is the power of social convention and how it can easily determine someone to misrepresent reality.Works Cited:Lauter, Paul ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Vol. 2. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.