Roderick Mengham Special Commissioned Essay on the American Novel of Manners Representative Writers

Representative Writers

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

The years during which James, Howells, Wharton and Glasgow produced their novels of manners were those in which the “American Century” was being defined. In 1876, the nation celebrated its centennial. Questions of national identity emerged from the increasing number of immigrants arriving from Europe and elsewhere; from the emergence of the first millionaires, whose wealth was based on industry rather than agriculture; on the adaptation of the culture to the presence of freed slaves; to the expanding cities beginning to display the new architecture of skyscrapers. New technologies affected the behavior of individuals as they rode elevators and streetcars in crowded urban centers and lived in the newfangled...

(The entire section is 7565 words.)