Chapter one : The romantic period
I. Emerson’s transcendentalism and his attitude toward nature:
1.Transcendentalism—it is a philosophic and literary movement that
flourish in New England, as a reaction against rationalism and Calvinism.
It stressed intuitive understanding of god without the help of the church,
and advocated independence of the mind.
2. Emerson’s transcendentalism:
The over-soul—it is an all-pervading power goodness, from which all
things come and of which all are a part. It is a supreme reality of mind,
a spiritual unity of all beings and a religion. It is a communication
between an individual soul and the universal over-soul. And he strongly
believe in the divinity and infinity of man as an individual, so man can
totally rely on himself.
3.His attitude toward nature:
Emerson loves nature. His nature is the garment of the over-soul,
symbolic and moral bound. Nature is not something purely of the matter,
but alive with God’s presence. It exercise a healthy and restorative
influence on human beings. Children can see nature better than adult.
II. Hawthorne’s Puritanism and his black vision of man:
1. Puritanism—it is the religious belief of the Puritans, who had
intended to purify and simplify the religious ritual of the church of
2. his black vision of man—by the Calvinistic concept of original sin,
he believed that human being are evil natured and sinful, and this sin is
ever present in human heart and will pass one generation to another.
3. Young Goodman Brown—it shows that everyone has some evil secrets. The
innocent and naive Brown is confronted with the vision of human evil in
one terrible night, and then he becomes distrustful and doubtful. Brown
stands for everyone ,who is born pure and has no contact with the real
world ,and the prominent people of the village and church. They cover
their secrets during daily lives, and under some circumstances such as the
witch’s Sabbath, they become what they are. Even his closed wife, Faith,
is no exception. So Brown is aged in that night.
III. The symbolism of Melville’s Mobby-Dick
1.The voyage to catch the white whale is the one of the mind in quest of
the truth and knowledge of universe.
2. To Ahab, the whale is an evil creature or the agent of an evil force
that control the universe. As to readers, the whale is a symbol of
physical limits, or a symbol of nature. It also can stand for the ultimate
mystery of the universe and the wall behind which unknown malicious things
IV. Whitman and his Leaves of Grass :
1. Theme: sing of the “en-mass” and the self / pursuit of love,
happiness, and usually love / sometimes about politics (Drum taps)
2. Whitman’s originality first in his use of the poetic form free verse
(i.e. poetry without a fixed beat or regular rhyme scheme), by means of
which he becomes conversational and casual.
3.He uses the first person pronoun “I” to stress individualism, and oral
language to acquire sympathy from the common reader.
Chapter two : The realistic period
I. The character analysis and social meaning of Huck Finn in Adventure
of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Huck is a typical American boy with “a sound heart and a deformed
conscience”. He appears to be vulgar in language and in manner, but he is
honest and decent in essence. His remarkable raft’s journey down on the
Mississippi river can be regarded as his process of education and his way
to grow up. At first, he stands by slavery, for he clings to the idea that
if he lets go the slave, he will be damned to go to hell. And when the
“King” sells Jim for money, Huck decides to inform Jim’s master. After he
thinks of the past good time when Jim and he are on the raft where Jim
shows great care and deep affection for him, he decide to rescue Jim. And
Huck still thinks he is wrong while he is doing the right thing.
Huck is the son of nature and a symbol for freedom and earthly
pragmatism. Through the eye of Huck, the innocent and reluctant rebel, we
see the pre-Civil War American society fully exposed. Twain contrasts the
life on the river and the life on the banks, the innocence and the
experience, the nature and the culture, the wilderness and the
II. Daisy Miller by Henry James
1. Theme: The novel is a story about American innocence defeated by the
stiff, traditional values of Europe. James condemns the American failure
to adopt expressive manners intelligently and point out the false
believing that a good heart is readily visible to all. The death of Daisy
results from the misunderstanding between people with different cultural
2. The character analysis of Daisy: She represents typical American
girl, who is uninformed and without the mature guidance. Ignorance and
parental indulgence combine to foster he assertive self-confidence and
fierce willfulness. She behaves in the same daring naive way in Europe as
she does at home. When someone is against her, she becomes more contrary.
She knows that she means no harm and is amazed that anyone should think
she does. She does not compromise to the European manners.
3. The character analysis of Winterbourne: He is a Europeanized
American, who has live too long in foreign parts. He is very experience
and has a problem understanding Daisy. He endeavors to put her in sort of
formula, i.e. to classify her.
III. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser:
1. Theme: The author invented the success of Carrie and the downfall of
Hurstwood out of an inevitable and natural judgment, because the fittest
can survive in a competitive, amoral society according to the social
2. The character analysis of Carrie: She follows the right direction to
a pursuit of the American dream, and the circumstances and her desire for
a better life direct to the successful goal. But she is not contented,
because with wealth and fame, she still finds herself lonely. She is a
product of the society, a realization of the theory of the survival of the
3. The character analysis of Hurstwood: He is a negative evidence of the
theory of the survival of the fittest. Because he is still conventional
and can not throw away the social morals, he is not fitted to live in New
Chapter Three: The Modern Period
I. Ezra Pound and his theory of Imagism
1. The principles: a. direct treatment of the thing; b. to use
absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation; c. to
compose in the sequence of the musical; d. to use the language of common
speech and the exact word; e. to create new rhythms; f. absolutely freedom
in the choice of subject.
2. Imagism is to present an intellectual and emotional complex in an
instant of time. An imagistic poem must present the object exactly the way
the thing is seen. And the reader can form the image of the object through
the process of reading the abstract and concrete words.
II. Frost and his poetry on nature:
Frost is deeply interested in nature and in men’s relationship to
nature. Nature appears as an explicator and a mediator for man and serve
as the center of reference of his behavior. Peace and order can be found
in Frost’s poetical natural world. With surface simplicity of his poems,
the thematic concerns are always presented in rich symbols. Therefore his
work resists easy interpretation.
III. F. Scott Fitzgerald and his The Great Gatsby
1. Theme: Gatsby is American Everyman. His extraordinary energy and
wealth make him pursue the dream. His death in the end points at the truth
about the withering of the American Dream. The spiritual and moral
sterility that has resulted from the withered American Dream is fully
revealed in the article. However, although he is defeated, the dream has
gave Gatsby a dignity and a set of qualities. His hope and belief in the
promise of future makes him the embodiment of the values of the
incorruptible American Dream .
2. The character analysis of Gatsby: Gatsby is great, because he is
dignified and ennobled by his dream and his mythic vision of life. He has
the desire to repeat the past, the desire for money, and the desire for
incarnation of unutterable vision on this material earth. For Gatsby,
Daisy is the soul of his dreams. He believe he can regain Daisy and
romantically rebels of time. Although he has the wealth that can match
with the leisured class, he does not have their manners. His tragedy lies
in his possession of a naive sense and chivalry.
IV. Ernest Hemingway’s artistic features:
1. The Hemingway code heroes and grace under pressure:
They have seen the cold world ,and for one cause, they boldly and
courageously face the reality. They has an indestructible spirit for his
optimistic view of life. Whatever is the result is, the are ready to live
with grace under pressure. No matter how tragic the ending is, they will
never be defeated. Finally, they will be prevail because of their
indestructible spirit and courage.
2. The iceberg technique:
Hemingway believe that a good writer does not need to reveal every
detail of a character or action. The one-eighth the is presented will
suggest all other meaningful dimensions of the story. Thus, Hemingway’s
language is symbolic and suggestive.
V. The character analysis of Emily in A Rose for Emily:
Emily is a symbol of old values, standing for tradition, duty and past
glory. But she is also a victim to all those she cares and embrace. The
source of Emily’s strangeness is from her born pride and self-esteem, the
domineering behavior of her father and the betrayal of her lover.
Barricaded in her house, she has frozen the past to protect her dreams.
Her life is tragic because the defiance of the community, her refusal to
accept the change and her extreme pride have pushed her to abnormality and