The City in Late-Nineteenth Century American Literature: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

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This bachelor’s thesis explores the representation of the city and city life in the late-nineteenth century works of Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, and Theodore Dreiser. Subsequently, it aims to answer the question: How are the modern cities of New York, San Francisco, and Chicago and life within these cities represented in the novels Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893), McTeague (1899), and Sister Carrie (1900)? These novels were all written during the height of industrialization and urbanization, which transformed modest American cities into modern metropolises. The three writers all used fiction to provide Americans with a first-hand account of the changing world around them, which helped people to experience the modern city. Each of these novels has been analyzed before, but this thesis compares and contrasts the representations of New York, San Francisco, and Chicago and its life-shaping influence on the characters. Theories on the city, the city in literature, and American Naturalism have been used to examine the novels. The findings illustrate that all three cities are similarly represented as places that were both embraced for their modernity and as sites of opportunity that attracted many Americans, but also as indifferent environments responsible for the physical and moral downfall of mankind. The cities, however, slightly differ in terms of the depiction of factors that contributed to this downfall. This suggests that underneath the cities’ glossy, modern surface layer anguish and hardships prevail. Key words: city culture, American fiction, American Naturalism, industrialization, urbanization .
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