Overlooked Classics of American Literature

When we think of the great works of American literature, we often think of works like The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Moby-Dick. However, there are many overlooked classics of American literature that deserve more attention. In this blog post, we’ll discuss a few of these works and why they deserve a place among the canon of great American literature.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton is known for her novels of manners, which satirize the upper classes of New York City. While her more famous works like The Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome are well-known, The House of Mirth remains underrated. The novel tells the story of Lily Bart, a beautiful but penniless woman who is trying to climb the social ladder in turn-of-the-century New York. Wharton’s prose is elegant and incisive, and her characters are complex and nuanced.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening was initially dismissed as scandalous when it was published in 1899. It tells the story of Edna Pontellier, a young wife and mother who becomes dissatisfied with her life and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. The novel explores themes of gender, sexuality, and the limitations placed on women during the Victorian era. Chopin’s writing is graceful and evocative, and her portrayal of Edna’s struggle for independence is still relevant today.

My Ántonia by Willa Cather

Willa Cather is best known for her novels about the American West, such as O Pioneers! and Death Comes for the Archbishop. However, My Ántonia, which tells the story of a young man’s friendship with a Czech immigrant girl, is often overlooked. The novel is a meditation on memory, identity, and the immigrant experience. Cather’s depiction of the Nebraska prairie is vivid and immersive, and her characters are memorable and sympathetic.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder is best known for his play Our Town, but his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928. The novel tells the story of a bridge in Peru that collapses, killing five people. A Franciscan monk sets out to investigate the lives of the victims and discover why they were on the bridge at the time of the collapse. The novel explores themes of fate, faith, and the interconnectedness of all things. Wilder’s writing is lyrical and philosophical, and his characters are deeply human.

The Street by Ann Petry

Ann Petry’s The Street, published in 1946, is one of the first novels by an African American woman to receive mainstream recognition. The novel tells the story of Lutie Johnson, a single mother living in Harlem in the 1940s, who is struggling to provide for herself and her son. Petry’s depiction of the realities of urban life for African Americans is raw and powerful, and her characters are nuanced and sympathetic. The novel is a compelling portrait of a world that is often overlooked in American literature.

In conclusion, these overlooked classics of American literature demonstrate that there are many great works that have not received the attention they deserve. By reading these lesser-known works, we can gain a deeper understanding of the rich and varied history of American literature, and appreciate the talent and vision of some of the country’s lesser-known writers.

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