This chapter examines the history of the 1920s as it unfolded rather than the anxious study of its self-consciously modernist literature. The author begins with the momentous occasion of William Dean Howells' death to suggest how much the realist tradition survived him, which leads to a survey of the middle-class realism that was praised throughout the decade for its efforts to confront modernity. That examination, in turn, helps to reread the critical tenets of the era as well as scholars' sense of important contemporary fiction, an analysis that then takes us into a deeper consideration of the reception of American fiction, with special attention to the year 1925. A review of the plots of this bourgeois literature suggests an emphasis on middle-class culture that the rest of the decade confirms.
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