Hamlin Garland Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

ph_0111207081-Garland.jpg Hamlin Garland Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Hamlin Garland’s more than fifty published works include nearly every literary type—novels, biography, autobiography, essays, dramas, and poems. His best and most memorable novels are Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly (1895), similar in plot to the later Theodore Dreiser novel, Sister Carrie (1900), and Boy Life on the Prairie (1899), chronicling the social history of Garland’s boyhood. One book of essays, Crumbling Idols (1894), presents his theory of realism (“veritism”). His autobiographical quartet, A Son of the Middle Border (1917), A Daughter of the Middle Border (1921), Trail-Makers of the Middle Border (1926), and Back-Trailers from the Middle Border (1928), recounts the story of his family. A Daughter of the Middle Border won the Pulitzer Prize for 1922. These books contain episodes that are treated in greater detail in some of his short stories.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Hamlin Garland’s work stands at an important transition point from Romanticism to realism, playing a role in ushering in the new literary trend. His best works are important for their depiction of a segment of society seldom delineated by other writers and for the relationship they show between literature and its socioeconomic environment. He used American themes—rather than Americanized European themes—and commonplace characters and incidents that turned the American writer away from his colonial complex, even away from the New England tradition of letters. His realism emancipated the American Midwest and West and the American farmer particularly from the romanticized conception that kept their story from being told before. Like Walt Whitman, Garland wanted writers to tell about life as they knew it and witnessed it. His realism foreshadowed the work of young writers such as Stephen Crane, E. W. Howe, and Harold Frederic. His naturalistic inclination, apparent in his belief that environment is crucial in shaping men’s lives, preceded the naturalistic writing of Crane, Frank Norris, and Dreiser. Aside from their value as literature, Garland’s best stories are a comprehensive record of an otherwise relatively unreported era of American social history. Much read in his prime, he enjoyed considerable popularity even while antagonizing, with his merciless word pictures, the very people about whom he wrote. Garland was awarded honorary degrees from the University of Wisconsin, the University of Southern California, Northwestern University, and Beloit College. In 1918, he was elected to the board of directors of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography and Autobiography in 1922.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Hamlin Garland published in nearly every literary form—short story, biography, autobiography, essay, drama, and poetry. Several of his short stories, such as “Under the Lion’s Paw,” “A Soldier’s Return,” and “A Branch Road,” were much anthologized. His autobiographical quartet, A Son of the Middle Border (1917), A Daughter of the Middle Border (1921), Trail-Makers of the Middle Border (1926), and Back-Trailers from the Middle Border (1928), is a valuable recounting of life during the latter part of the nineteenth century through the early twentieth century. Garland also wrote about psychic phenomena in such books as Forty Years of Psychic Research: A Plain Narrative of Fact (1936).


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Hamlin Garland was a pioneer in moving American literature from Romanticism to realism. His early works of frontier life on the Middle Border (the midwestern prairie states of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska, as well as the Dakotas) made his reputation, and even today he is best known for his strongly regional, unpretentious pictures of the brutalizing life on the farms and in the isolated communities of the monotonous prairie lands.

Even though his reception as a writer did not afford him the financial rewards he sought, Garland was an active participant in the literary scene in Chicago and New York. He traveled widely in the United States and made the obligatory trip to Europe. He counted among his friends and acquaintances such literary giants as William Dean Howells,Mark Twain,George Bernard Shaw, and Rudyard Kipling, and others such as Bliss Carmen, Kate Wiggins, George Washington Cable, and Frank Norris (whom he regarded as a promising young writer).

While Garland published stories in magazines such as The Arena, Circle, and Century, he augmented his income by lecturing, often at the University of Chicago. He was instrumental in organizing and perpetuating literary clubs and organizations such as the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the MacDowell Club, The Players, and the Cliff Dwellers Club. When his fiction-writing skills began to abate in his late middle age, Garland wrote plays, articles...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Garland, Hamlin. Selected Letters of Hamlin Garland. Edited by Keith Newlin and Joseph B. McCullough. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. The volume’s introduction serves as a good entry into Hamlin’s biography.

Joseph, Philip. “Landed and Literary: Hamlin Garland, Sarah Orne Jewett, and the Production of Regional Literatures.” Studies in American Fiction 26 (Autumn, 1998): 147-170. Compares some of Garland’s early stories with the stories in Jewett’s Country of the Pointed Firs to examine ideological conflict within literary regionalism. Argues that while Garland’s support for social reform leads him to challenge some of the conventions of late nineteenth century realism, Jewett does not see class differences as a hindrance to U.S. destiny.

Kaye, Frances. “Hamlin Garland’s Feminism.” In Women and Western Literature, edited by Helen Winter Stauffer and Susan Rosowski. Troy, N.Y.: Whitston, 1982. Kaye discusses Garland’s deliberate feminism, identifying him as the only male author of note at the end of the nineteenth century who spoke in favor of women’s rights, suffrage, and equality in marriage.

McCullough, Joseph. Hamlin Garland. Boston: Twayne, 1978. This study follows Garland through his literary career, dividing it into phases, with major attention to the first phase of his reform activities and the midwestern stories. A primary bibliography and a select, annotated secondary bibliography are included.

Martin, Quentin E. “Hamlin Garland’s ‘The Return of a Private’...

(The entire section is 698 words.)