Date of Award
Specialist in Arts
Dr. Edward Galligan
Dr. Clare Goldfarb
Masters Thesis-Open Access
Chapter I: Introduction
As human beings, when we cannot see clearly into the workings of life, we call it ambiguous--and rightly so. Judgment of our own behavior and that of others is always suspect. We have a tendency to label this person as "good" or that act as "evil," but there should always be a certain amount of uncertainty as to whether or not our perceptions and our ensuing judgments are correct. Those of us who are literature have also, by habit, come to look at literature as reflecting the same standards of right and wrong, of good and evil. And yet, we should note a qualitative change in literature since the dawn of the scientific age, particularly since the time of Darwin and Freud. It seems that much of literature has become ambiguous, too. The moral values which are so obviously demonstrated in the works of "preachy" or didactic writers have been obscured in the works of many realistic writers, who--as a matter of method--refuse to comment directly on the morality of the actions of their characters.
Realism in literature, of course, does not necessarily mean that its writers demonstrate no moral lessons; it has rather come to mean that there is a greater distance between the writer and his readers. The writer is thus more of a reporter than a commentator. The reader must reach for himself the moral conclusions toward which the writer directs him. Consequently, the charge of amorality leveled against American realists of the 19th Century was specifically denied by William Dean Howells in his essay "Criticism and Fiction" (1891).
Fiore, Joseph R., "The Questionable Moral Value of Major Characters in the Later Works of Henry James" (1973). Masters Theses. 4222.