The American Scene, c.1900

  1. Christopher MacGowan

Published Online: 24 FEB 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781444393675.ch1

The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook

The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook

How to Cite

MacGowan, C. (2011) The American Scene, c.1900, in The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444393675.ch1

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 24 FEB 2012
  2. Published Print: 21 JAN 2011

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405160230

Online ISBN: 9781444393675



  • Henry James, visiting his home country - for the first time in 21 years, recorded in his The American Scene;
  • Henry James earliest novels, as The American (1877) and Daisy Miller (1878) - portraying central American characters as natïve, wealthy without social sophistication, driven by a misguided self-reliance;
  • James's later novels, more complex - overall view, being little changed;
  • James, and prominent Americans - painters, James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and Mary Cassatt and novelist Edith Wharton;
  • Mark Twain, opposite of James - his subject matter and concept of fictional form;
  • new wealth and power of the United States - projected abroad, a wealthy family's experience;
  • influx of immigrants, from Europe - migration, small towns into cities, surplus of labor and keeping wages low and living conditions poor;
  • businessmen, central figures of realist novels - as William Dean Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), and later trilogy by Theodore Dreiser, The Financier (1912);
  • Henry James, noticing in 1904 - new freedoms allowed to American women, but not extending to voting rights;
  • Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth (1905) - problems lacking financial independence