While the world is certainly not limited to literary works from the US and UK, these two countries currently represent the two major “camps” of English-language literature. Today, Partridge Singapore compares the two sides. Hopefully, this will help you to think about your own country’s literature and how it is unique compared to others.
To begin, there are numerous similarities between AmLit and BrLit: both share the themes and concepts of romance, Nature, social criticism, regionalism, etc. However, some notable differences still remain.
One major theme in both cultures’ literatures is that of identity. In American Lit, this most often centres on race, religion, and ethnicity. One primary text for seeing the theme of race is Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as well as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, which deal with race relations between blacks and whites. This is given greater focus in works by black writers, such as Malcolm X’s Autobiography and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Other ethnicities and religions, especially Judaism, also feature heavily in AmLit. Philip Roth consistently writes about Jewish characters in his works, and his 2000 book The Human Stain goes even further, with the central character as a black man from New Jersey pretending to be white and Jewish.
In British literature, the concept of identity is more closely linked to social class. Britain, for most if not all of its history, has had a relatively rigid class system, and people have identified themselves by which level into which they were born. This causes complications with human interaction, as can be seen in Dickens’ Great Expectations, Austen’s Emma and Pride and Prejudice, Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, and even one of the first novels, Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones. These novels revolve around a disruption in the normal functioning of the class system – a disruption caused by human traits and impulses. A play like Shaw’s Pygmalion, in which the concept revolves around a working-class woman fraternising with the upper-classes, would have much less relevance in American culture.
Partridge Singapore trusts this helps
Partridge Singapore will be back to discuss differences in morality and style. In the meantime, check out the Partridge Singapore site for more advice and insights!
–By Thomas McKinley