Characteristics Of The Gilded Age

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In the first section of this paper I will briefly examine some of the characteristics of what is described as the Gilded Age in America, the period immediately following the Civil War, the phrase being derived from Twain and Dudley’s novel The Gilded Age. One of the landmark achievements of this period, around which much of the novel also revolves, is the completion of the first transcontinental railway network in the year 1869. Predicated upon this, to a large extent, is the process of industrialisation in the US, which gathered great momentum following the development of the transcontinental railway network. As a result, investments in heavy industries like coal, iron ore etc., also become more commonplace. In an essay titled, “Understanding …show more content…
“The panic represented the first crisis of industrial and financial capitalism in the US, following the consolidation and incorporation of industry in the civil war era.” Land speculation as can be seen in the novel, is clearly one of the central “businesses” of this period; something that everybody from Hawkins, his son, Laura, Sellers, Dilworthy, Philip, to Ruth’s father, is engaged …show more content…
There is an erosion of the value systems that were associated with a pre-urban, pre-industrial past. This is an era, as a critic points out, when presidents were businessmen, and generals were businessmen, preachers were businessmen and the whole psychic energy of the American people was absorbed in the exploitation and organisation of the material resources of the continent. This is primarily what I’ve sought to emphasise in this section – how an entire people are affected, impacted by the larger economy. In the world of the gilded age, the political and the economic are inseparable. The corruption at the macro level is also directly, indirectly impacting people at the micro level. The gilded age is also called so owing to a newfound exuberance and aspiration for wealth, that is distinctly different from the Puritan ethics of the earlier generations founded on austerity and simplicity. The writers here are trying to capture a moment of transition, in which industrial capitalism is expanding rapidly, and in the process appropriating large portions of agricultural as well as cultural spaces.
This point leads directly to the text, and in this second section I will attempt to draw out the representations of urbanity, modernity in The Gilded Age and how the novel presents the rise of the modern, urban

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