How does Hamlin Garland's "The Return of a Private" exemplify the characteristics of Realism in literature?

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Realist movement illustrated life as it really was. The authors of this period did not wish to hide anything regarding real life. Instead, these authors wished to illustrate the good and the bad in life (refusing to "influence" the actions of the characters). They wished to show readers what life was really like without romanticising it in any way. 

Hamlin Garland's "The Return of the Private" illustrates real life. Garland's choice of words and dialect show that he truly wishes to depict life as it is. For example, Garland uses language true to the area he uses for his setting: "'back to God's country'" and wile and babies." 

The men on their way home from New Orleans, the "vets" are tired and worn out. Garland shows the reality of worn out soldiers (gaunt, grimy, and scarred). The men talk of how hard "dollars come," raising snakes, and fighting men. 

Garland refuses to "sugarcoat" (make pleasant) or provide "rose-colored glasses" for his reader (make things seem better than they are). He illustrates the real trials and tribulations the men face on their way home and after arriving there. Life is not easy and Garner's text illustrates this. Essentially, Garner acted as an observer of life and showed life through his writing very honestly and realistically. 

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The Return of a Private

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