To best appreciate “Talma Gordon,” it helps to understand the other short-stories and novels that were written around the same time. “Talma Gordon” was published in 1900. In the decade leading up to and following 1900, many realist American authors, women writers, and African American authors published successful and thoughtful works. There was also a variety of infamous books and noteworthy best-selling novels sold in 1900.
“Talma Gordon” was published during a time period that some literary scholars identify as the second phase of American realism (Walker, 493). Rafael Walker, a professor of literature at the University of Maryland and author of “The Second Phase of Realism in American Fiction: The Rise and Fall of the Social Self,” says that during the early twentieth century “novelists participate in this culture wide effort to transform realism and redefine modern subjectivity in the US,” (493). A number of different authors wrote about America through realist literature through a variety of different perspectives.
“Talma Gordon” was published in 1900, around the same time that several other realist authors were writing some of their most recognizable works. In the same year, Mark Twain published The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories. Just one year later, Edith Wharton published Crucial Instances, and would later publish The Descent of Man and Other Stories in 1904. O. Henry published his collection of short stories The Four Million in 1906, which included his infamous short story “The Gift of the Magi.” ("Short Stories Written Between 1900 and 1950."). All of these authors were important to the realism movement. To quote Walker, “They [contemporary realist authors] form part of a long realist tradition that originated across the Atlantic and - as my concluding paragraphs suggest - went on to have a significant influence on the next generation of fiction,” (495). Like Pauline Hopkins, realist authors such as O. Henry, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton wrote short stories at the beginning of the twentieth century as a part of the Realist movement.
Afro-American Women and Literature
The early twentieth century and the years leading up to it also set the stage for many African American women to find a voice through writing. According to Elizabeth Ammons, author of Conflicting Stories: American Women Writers at the Turn into the Twentieth Century, “African American women, experiencing the most extreme forms of this systematic denial of a voice, yet at the same time emboldened by a history of autobiographical writing and storytelling that was alive with the issue of freedom, were particularly determined to be heard,” (21). In the decade leading up to the publication of “Talma Gordon,” many African American women wrote some of their most recognizable works. Amelia Johnson wrote "Clarence and Corinne," also called "God's way," in 1890. Emma Dunham Kelley wrote Megda in 1891. Frances Harper wrote Iola Leroy or Shadows Uplifted in 1892, which would help her achieve immediate and lasting recognition (21). Like Pauline Hopkins, other African American women writers such as Amelia Johnson, Emma Dunham Kelley, and Frances Harper were able to make their voices heard through literature.
Other Women in Literature
Many other women authors were able to find a voice in the early twentieth century and the years leading up to it. Charlotte Perkins Gillman wrote The Yellow Wallpaper in 1892, eight years before “Talma Gordon” was published. Kate Chopin and Alice Dubar-Nelson published The Awakening and Other Short-Stories and The Goodness of St. Rocque and Other Short Stories respectively in 1899 (Ammons, 59). Like Pauline Hopkins, many of these women wrote some of their most recognizable work during this time period.
There were several other infamous novels and best selling books published around the same time. The Wizard of Oz was published in 1900, and was famously adapted to film in 1910. Noteworthy best-sellers in 1900 included To Have and to Hold by Mary Johnston, Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley, Unleavened Bread by Robert Grant, The Reign of Law by James Lane Allen, Eben Holden by Irving Bacheller, Janice Meredith by Paul Leicester Ford, The Redemption of David Corson by Charles Frederic Goss, Richard Carvel by Winston Churchill, When Knighthood Was in Flower by Charles Major, and Alice of Old Vincennes by Maurice Thompson. (“Best Selling Books 1900-1909”). These famous and best-selling novels were all published in the same year as “Talma Gordon.”