Dystopian Classics: Through the Eye of the Needle & A Traveler from Altruria: From the Author of The Rise of Silas Lapham, Christmas Every Day, A Hazard ... Baker, A Modern Instance & Indian Summer
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Dystopian Classics: Through the Eye of the Needle & A Traveler from Altruria: From the Author of The Rise of Silas Lapham, Christmas Every Day, A Hazard … Baker, A Modern Instance & Indian Summer
Set during the early 1890s in a fashionable summer resort somewhere on the East Coast of the United States, A Traveler from Altruria is narrated by a Mr Twelvemough, a popular author of light fiction who has been selected to function as host to a visitor from the faraway island of Altruria called Mr Homos. In the novel, the island state of Altruria serves as a foil to America, whose citizens, compared to Altrurians, appear selfish, obsessed with money, and emotionally imbalanced. Mainly, A Traveler from Altruria is a critique of unfettered capitalism and its consequences, and of the Gilded Age in particular.
Through the Eye of the Needle is a Utopian novel that follows A Traveler from Altruria. Howells casts this book in the form of an epistolary novel — a form favored by some other Utopian and dystopian writers. Aristides Homos, Howells’s Altrurian protagonist, writes a series of letters home to his friend Cyril. Homos is now located in the densely urban environment of New York City, where he confronts the contrasts between America c. 1900 and his own pastoral and agrarian Utopianism in their most extreme forms. The dramatic center of the book is the love affair between Homos and Evelith Strange, a wealthy widow of the American plutocracy.
William Dean Howells (1837-1920) was an American realist author, literary critic, and playwright. Nicknamed "The Dean of American Letters", he was particularly known for his tenure as editor of the Atlantic Monthly as well as his own prolific writings, including the Christmas story "Christmas Every Day", and the novels The Rise of Silas Lapham and A Traveler from Altruria. Howells is known to be the father of American realism, and a denouncer of the sentimental novel.