In the study of American literature, the term “realism” has come to signify more than Watts’s standards of characterization, time and place. It has come to be associated with a particular movement of writers in the so-called Gilded Age, William Dean Howells and his often more talented cohorts, a loosely cohering school who in their rejection of commercially dominant novels of sentimentalism and romance and their avowed adherence to the mundane truths of day-to-day life often served to expose social injustices sorely in need of remedy. In the postmodern view, though, these texts ultimately supported the status quo. Brook Thomas summarizes this argument: “[the realistic novel’s] final sense of cohesion offers implicit reassurances that contradictions can be contained within a significantly ordered structure inherent in society.”1 Such reasoning fastens on an inherent sense of order, order not as much in the story, in which violence and upheaval are common, but in the form, its relative confidence in the mimetic properties of language and the stability of perspective.