Homework Help

What are some examples of themes found throughout Oliver Wendell Holmes's novels?I have...

user profile pic

elizabeth4444 | eNoter

Posted January 3, 2012 at 6:21 AM via web

dislike 1 like

What are some examples of themes found throughout Oliver Wendell Holmes's novels?

I have to write a thesis paper on/about Oliver Wendell Holmes.  So far, I picked the thesis, "What is the literary theme of some of Oliver Wendell Holmes' novels."  I have done some research on this and have had a hard time finding usable information.  Could you please list the novels in which the examples are found.  Thanks!

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted January 3, 2012 at 7:36 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 3 like

Well, your choice of topic is certainly original and your essay could turn out really personal! The novels by Oliver Wendell Holmes Elsie Venner (1861), The Guardian Angel (1867), and A Mortal Antipathy (1885) have not produced great critical enthusiasm and not much work has been done on them. A professor of Anatomy at Harvard Medical School, Holmes himself regarded his best literary achievements to be his poems, although his literary legacy was established by the essays he wrote for the Atlantic and which were later put together in the collection The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858). Holmes's literary writings reveal his genteel and aristocratic background that he later identified as the Brahamin caste.

Oliver Wendell Holmes's novels are characterized by the realists' and naturalists' concerns with character psychology and how the environment, social context and hereditary features determine the characters' actions and moral decisions. They're also concerned, like texts by Perkins Gilman and kate Chopin, with desease, particularly mental illness and its social stigma. In her study Affecting Fictions (see reference link), Jane F. Thrailkill suggests to frame the novels by Holmes in the cultural and medical context of the second half of the nineteenth century when "a range of sciences of the human mind and body were in the process of disaggregating into discrete disciplines" such as neurology, physiology, psychology and healing practices. Thraikill's analysis shows the mutual influence between realist novels and the rising science of human emotions and perceptions. In her reading of Elsie Venner, the critic argues that one of the primary thematic concerns of the doctor-turned-novelist was to show that childbed fever was contagious and that its epidemic spread had nothing to do with a person's constitution or morality.

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes