A Modern Instance

Overview


One of the most influential authors of the late nineteenth century, and a former editor of the Atlantic Monthly and Harper's Magazine, William Dean Howells wrote more than fifty novels, as well as plays, memoirs, and poetry collections. Opposed to the sentimentalism, contrived heroism, and theatrical endings in fiction, he developed a literary style based on unvarnished realism. This unique genre is brilliantly depicted in A Modern Instance, a novel that helped ...
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A Modern Instance

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Overview


One of the most influential authors of the late nineteenth century, and a former editor of the Atlantic Monthly and Harper's Magazine, William Dean Howells wrote more than fifty novels, as well as plays, memoirs, and poetry collections. Opposed to the sentimentalism, contrived heroism, and theatrical endings in fiction, he developed a literary style based on unvarnished realism. This unique genre is brilliantly depicted in A Modern Instance, a novel that helped Howells' career skyrocket and is considered to be his masterpiece.
A cornerstone of American realism, it contrasts old and new worlds to explore social and moral issues involving family life and the traditional roles of women. Centering a novel on the theme of divorce was a radical concept in 1882, so this portrait of a failing marriage occupies a transitional moment in literary history. It opens in Equity, Maine, with a seemingly perfect love story. Ambitious journalist Bartley Hubbard and insecure Marcia Gaylord elope and move to Boston with great plans for their future. But Bartley's self-indulgence and Marcia's jealousy prove to be a combustible mix of character flaws that threatens to destroy the marriage—even after the birth of their child. A journey through each character's thoughts, feelings, and reveries, A Modern Instance winds its way around our hearts, promoting dialogue about the nature of marriage and the changing face of American society.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140390278
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/28/1984
  • Series: Penguin Classics Series
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 853,142
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

William Dean Howells was born in Martins Ferry, Ohio, on March 1, 1837. His father was a printer and newspaperman, and the family moved from town to town. Howells went to school where he could. As a boy he began learning the printer’s skill. By the time he was in his teens he was setting type for his own verse. Between 1856 and 1861 he worked as a reporter for the Ohio State Journal. About this time his poems began to appear in the Atlantic Monthly. His campaign biography of Abraham Lincoln, compiled in 1860, prompted the administration to offer him the consulship at Venice, a post he held from 1861 to 1865. He married Elinor Gertrude Meade, a young woman from Vermont, in 1862 Paris. On his return to the United States in 1865, Howells worked in New York before going to Boston as assistant to James T. Fields of The Atlantic Monthly. In 1871 he became editor-in-chief of the magazine. In this position he worked with many young writers, among them Mark Twain and Henry James, both of whom became his close friends. His first novel, Their Wedding Journey, appeared in 1872. The Rise of Silas Lapham was serialized in Century Magazine before it was published in book form in 1885. A Hazard of New Fortunes was published five years later. His position as critic, writer, and enthusiastic exponent of the new realism earned William Dean Howells the respected title of Dean of American Letters. He died in 1920.

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