Erik Fredner, “Hamlin Garland’s ‘Problem of Individual Life’” (pp. 354–383)

This essay returns to the problem of representativeness in politically committed literature by analyzing Hamlin Garland’s advocacy for Henry George’s single tax in three different forms: Garland’s most famous short story (“Under the Lion’s Paw” [1889]), a dramatization of that story’s core themes (Under the Wheel [1890]), and a novelization of that drama (Jason Edwards: An Average Man [1892]). As Garland attests in his autobiography, the conclusion of George’s treatise Progress and Poverty (1879), which considers the possibilities for collective action despite what George calls “The Problem of Individual Life,” inspired Garland’s political message as well as his method of representation. After several prior attempts to balance his work’s “reform motive” with its “art motive,” Garland ultimately uses the emerging concept of the “average person” to address the problem of representativeness. By considering the aesthetic and political transformations that led from “Under the Lion’s Paw” to Jason Edwards, this essay reframes the problem of representativeness in nineteenth-century literature in relation to the rising centrality of statistical thinking.

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