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A Modern Instance

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  297 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most impor ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published January 3rd 1984 by Penguin Classics
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Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
"A Modern Instance" is a novel written by William D. Howells. The novel was serialized in Century Magazine in eleven installments between December 1881 and October 1882; it was published in book form in Boston by James R. Osgood and Company in October 1882. Howells got the idea for the novel after he saw a performance of "Medea" in Boston in 1875. When he witnessed on the stage the recreation of Medea's love for Jason, her husband who betrays her, and how her love changes to hatred, as Howells h ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
A solid study of marital breakdown marred by staid moralism and a one-dimensional heroine.
Christopher Sutch
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is an extraordinarily entertaining read. It's a strange hybrid of moral narrative and broad comedic satire. While the moral purpose of the novel will mean little to most people today, the satire and the plot events kept me interested and engaged. Howells's interest in developing "realistic" fiction ("naturalistic" as literary critics would say) is strongly apparent in this work, in which the two main characters' "love" and marriage are shown to take the courses they do because of the two pa ...more
Mar 03, 2012 rated it liked it
A solid read. I enjoyed it. I think it accurately describes both the mechanics and the ethos of American journalism. To wit: Bartley Hubbard, a newspaperman blessed with "no more moral nature than a baseball," serves as the prototype of the glib and smiling journalist familiar to the audiences of Nightline or Washington Week.
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Modern Instance, like many a Howells novel, seems to start slowly: as becomes clear around the halfway mark, however, this is only becauae the reader didn't know what patterns to be looking for. Howells' prose is subtle; one of his greatest achievements as a realist is that he doesn't flag things as significant beforehand, instead forcing the reader - like real life - to recognize significance retrospectively. The farther into Modern Instance one gets, the farther the novel forces them to think ...more
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
review of
William Dean Howells's A Modern Instance
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 25, 2013

WARNING: This review has spoilers but is hopefully written in such a way that even if you read it thru it won't actually spoil yr enjoyment of reading the novel b/c the review doesn't give you the plot as much as it does my meta-take on the plot.

Ah.. yes, yet-another "too long" review of mine. For the full thing go here:

It seems almost inevitable to me tha
Bob Newman
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hick Duo Go Splitsville in Beantown

Since reading this novel first back in 1997, I've always felt that it has one of the most unattractive titles of any book I know. On re-reading it, I still think so. This should not put readers off, however, because behind that bland, unimaginative moniker, which reflected some long-since faded thoughts by the author, you will find a fascinating study of divorce in the 19th century, in a society that condemned it. Sixty five years ago I can remember my own moth
Bradley Dyson
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is an American classic coming out of the Realism period of the American literary period, so this novel doesn't leave much for the reader in the sense of coming to conclusions or having to really figure anything out. As with the time period, authors wrote in pain-staking detail every aspect of emotion and setting. However, this is a great novel that talks on the aspect of love and bad relationships, and people who just don't have a clue about their presentation to other people. Even for ...more
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don't think I'm spoiling this for anyone by saying that no-one gets a happy ever after. But then, none of the characters deserve one, either: rarely have I disliked anyone as much as I disliked Bartley Hubbard. William Dean Howells is one of those authors who insists on telling rather than showing, but does it so pitilessly and clearly that the inevitability of the tragedy carries you along. The rather abrupt end lost it the final star, though I'd give it 4.5 if I could.
Dave Moyer
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really like this book.
Nov 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Knowing the two characters are going to divorce from the beginning made me look for clues to the relationship's dissolution in the early stages of their relationship. While her parent's bemoan the fact that she loves Bartley more than he loves her as being the main problem, that and her pride and jealously, the real problem is the abusive nature of the relationship.

The 'adorable' flirting at the beginning had a disturbing taste to it, Bartley holds Marcia's wrists until she acedes to what he wan
Tom James
Feb 07, 2017 rated it liked it
A story about a loyal wife and an ethically freelancing husband who begin their life together in near-bliss only to find things deteriorating with each little instance. It deals with the subject of divorce as well as other social/historical aspects of life in New England of the 1870s (religion, ethics, the legal profession, journalism, town life vs. country life, etc.). With sincere Victorian earnestness, the author takes the issue of marriage and divorce very seriously and nowhere does one get ...more
Jul 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Reading the first few chapters alone was worth it because of the insights provided into the character of Bartley Hubbard. I first "met" Bartley in Howells' novel "The Rise of Silas Lapham" and thought him cynical, but likable (except for the way he treated his wife). "A Modern Instance" is Bartley's story and finding out that he was an orphan and a self-made man wannabe really shows how despicable he was during his interview with Silas Lapham in the aforementioned book. Howells very deftly lets ...more
Karen Chandler
May 03, 2013 rated it liked it
I can see the historical importance of the novel: its careful focus on characters' psychology, its treatment of the largely man's world of journalism, its concern with changing estimations of religion are hallmarks of nineteenth-century realism. Yet I was bothered by Howells' assumptions about women's psychological and cognitive weakness and regional differences. As a champion of regional fiction, he might have been more sophisticated about people from outside the urban cultural centers. Yet Edi ...more
Jordan Davidson
May 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-for-school
This novel is an expose of the doomed marriage (and, eventually and blessedly, divorce) between the jealous, overemotional Marcia Gaylord and her selfish, manipulative egomaniac of a husband, Bartley Hubbard. For some reason, this book was absolutely fascinating despite the fact that it portrays two deeply unlikeable people making each other miserable. Case in point: at one point while reading this I fell down the staircase in my house because I couldn't put the book down long enough to pay atte ...more
Melanie Daves
A Modern Instance was an interesting read. I enjoyed how easily I could feel for the characters. I was angry with Marcia for being such a deluded idiot and I melted when Ben revealed that the picture he held on to was really a picture of Marcia. It is interesting that when I read the beginning, I actually liked Bartley, but by the end of the novel I detested him. I think Howells did that by changing Bartley's physical appearance towards the end. Howells could not be biased since he decided to wr ...more
May 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have a better understanding of what the title means in relation to the book and now. Naming the book A Modern Instance might seem a bit presumptuous but the story does relate well a hundred years later, which shoes that this the theme of the book is indeed a modern one that still plagues us. I really like how I was able to see that this book was relatable to things like The Princess Bride or "The Dark Night" and it was easier to see how it could relate to my life. I definetly enjoyed this more ...more
Nov 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
I wish I liked it more, and I understand the novelty and shock of the theme, but my humble opinion is that it never got the reader there - what's common today, if then was an aberration, should still hit the modern reader like a blow, and the book just...treaded water, or rather did a dead man's float, all the way through. I was unmoved, untouched, and really didn't care at the end, even though Howells did create most of the characters as fully three-dimensional people.
Apr 14, 2012 rated it liked it
As I grow older, I become more aware of how the seemingly peaceful "days gone by" were, in truth, filled with many of the same mistakes and frustrations that society and individuals still face today. Hence, while culture described in the story was very different from the culture I live in, the characters and their views felt very familiar.
Dec 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Howell’s depiction of character flaws, failing marriage, and the corruption of individual isolation in modern, industrial, and capitalistic America, is one of heartrendingly desolation, reflecting a shift in American literature to realism.
May 08, 2012 rated it liked it
I liked the dynamic of the love triangle but, like every book by Howells that I have read, the characters are unbelievably dramatic about everything that happens to them. I thought this was supposed to be realistic, but then again, maybe I don't really know what "American realism" is.
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a moving book.
It just goes to show how ambition and jealousy can threaten to destroy a marriage and how the innocent party would be looked on by a society where divorce was shunned.
An excellent read.
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of the lesser-read American novels.
Mar 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This old-fashioned style of American Realism is probably not for everyone, but I loved this story of "love", abandonment, and divorce during the end of the 1800's. I was definitely born too late.
Jun 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: English geeks
The best book with no plot or purpose ever!
Feb 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this for a Literature class that I took at Snow College. If I remember correctly, I liked it. It's been awhile. I probably aught to read it again.
Nov 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Love it! Wonderful look at a marriage gone wrong. Ruins all those ideas that divorce is something our modern society struggles with....
Corey Pellerin
rated it liked it
Aug 14, 2014
rated it really liked it
Oct 05, 2010
rated it really liked it
May 04, 2008
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Willam Dean Howells was a novelist, short story writer, magazine editor, and mentor who wrote for various magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly and Harper's Magazine.

In January 1866 James Fields offered him the assistant editor role at the Atlantic Monthly. Howells accepted after successfully negotiating for a higher salary, but was frustrated by Fields's close supervision. Howells was made e
More about William Dean Howells

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