11: Short story excerpt, Hamlin Garland's “Among the Corn-Rows,” 1891.

11: Short story excerpt, Hamlin Garland's “Among the Corn-Rows,” 1891.

Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto is often contextualized as part of the local color movement, a literary mode within the broader framework of literary realism popular in the late nineteenth century. "Local color" writing focused on the dialect, customs, history, and landscape of a particular region, at a moment when the country was unifying under an industrial, capitalist economy and regional differences were dissipating.

This excerpt, from Hamlin Garland’s short story “Among the Corn-Rows,” is an example of local color writing focusing on a different region and culture, that of the American prairie and the farming folk who called it home. The story sets up a contrast between a young newspaper editor, Searidge, who is deeply moved by the South Dakota landscape, and Rob Rodemaker, a frontier homesteader who must actually make a living from the land and consequently has little time for contemplation of its inherent poetry.

Hamlin Garland, like Abraham Cahan, was influenced by novelist William Dean Howells. The full text of "Among the Corn-Rows" may be found in Garland's collection Main-Travelled Roads, digitized here by Google Books.

Suggested Activity: Have students read the passage and discuss: in what ways is this writing similar to Cahan’s work? How does it differ? Based on this excerpt and Yekl, how would you characterize local color writing? Why do you think local color writing was so popular in the late nineteenth century?  

Source: Hamlin Garland, "Among the Corn Rows" in Main-Travelled Roads (New York: Harper & Row, 1891), 90.