Editha By Howells And Reconciliation By Whitman The story “Editha” by William Dean Howells and the poem “Reconciliation” by Walt Whitman are part of a true “national literature.” They are both told in a way that only we as Americans could ever understand. They speak of war in all of its glory, and they speak of all of the pain left behind. “Editha” is a story about a woman who loves her country so much that she would be willing to give up anyone who does not feel as she does. Her fianc George was not enthusiastic about the war. To George the war was about senseless bloodshed, but to Editha it was about taking pride in a country that she loved. She told George, “I call it a sacred war.
A war for liberty and humanity, if ever there was one”(Howells 363). Editha could not understand how George or anyone could not see the importance of the war. Because of George’s lack of enthusiasm for the war Editha writes him a letter and says, “But the man I marry must love his country first of all”(365). These words from Editha show how much she believed in her country. Editha was not alone many felt this way. The war was a sign of a better life for all if victory could be had.
George did fight in the war and like so many other young men who went to war, lost his life. Editha was a symbol of what America stood for and what America meant to so many people who could only dream of having the opportunity to live here. George was a symbol of all the young men who fought for this country to make it what it is today. They fought for a country they believed in. They fought for us, and for our freedom. This story shows the greatness on which this country was founded.
Nobody except Americans could understand the dedication to a country that today, stands strong because of the love that the people felt for the land they lived on. Howells tried to show the depth of that love through Editha and George, which makes this a part of true “national literature.” “Reconciliation” is a poem that was meant to open the eyes of the reader to the effects the war had after it was over. It is written through the eyes of a dead soldier who has seen what the war has done. This soldier has the blood of many men on his hands and will always remember the death. Where “Editha” showed the significance of war in relation to a person’s love of their country, “Reconciliation” tells in a few strong lines, the somber mood of a country that has lost many lives.
Whitman writes, “For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead”(Whitman 129). It is not said what side this “divine” man fought for but it shows that no matter what side the men fought on they were fighting for what they believed in. They fought for their rights, they fought for their country, and at the end of it all they were left with death. This poem demonstrates that even after the war was fought, there was no real happiness about what was left. The men that fought would live with the memories of the lives they took and the lives of friends and family that were lost.
The dead would never know how important they were to this great land, and neither would those that lived. Whitman says, “I draw near, Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin”(129). This line tells the significance of the title. By approaching the coffin and kissing his enemy it was his way of confessing his sins. His way of apologizing to the man he killed.
What those men fought for allow us to live the lives we live today. Only in America could we grasp the importance of the lives that were lost, but will never know the pain those men felt. “Editha” and “Reconciliation” are examples of the love for a country. They allow you to see through the eyes of the writers that a true American loves his country and will fight for it to the death. There is still conflict between us in this great land of ours, but we are proud of what our country represents.
We could never know the pain that our forefathers endured to make us so strong. Through true works of “national literature” we can get a sense of how brave and loyal the men who fought were, and can only honor their strength by continuing to make this nation strong. Bibliography McQuade, Donald. The Harper American Literature. Vol.2 Harper Collins College Publishers.
1993 History Essays.