Roderick Mengham Special Commissioned Essay on the American Novel of Manners The Relevancy Of The Novel Of Manners

The Relevancy Of The Novel Of Manners

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)


The novel of manners has played an important role in the development of an American voice in literature, as distinct from a European voice. The examination of society, of conduct, of manners, is, in fact, an examination of who Americans are, and are not. From the period following the Civil War, until today, novelists have used the form of the novel of manners to explore just what being American means. The form is also a vehicle for examining the relationship between morality and behavior, a frequent theme in a culture whose puritanical roots were not too far beneath the surface. The argument that adherence to a code of conduct—good manners—reflected...

(The entire section is 5366 words.)