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Models for the Multitudes: Social Values in the American Popular Novel, 1850-1920 (Contributions to the Study of Childhood and Youth)

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This provocative study was developed to uncover the thought processes of the best-selling authors from 1850 to 1920 concerning the subject of success. Based on the conviction that the reading of novels strongly influences social values and behavioral expectations, a number of key discoveries are presented regarding character behavior and gender, the variations between the work of female and male writers, the similarity of social values employed by widely diverse novelists, and the emergence of three distinct time periods related to alterations in gender expectations. The book points out the basic assumptions held by popular novelists, notes the parameters of human conduct approved by them for their characters, and identifies the ideas seen by them as necessary to their work. Kelley contends that the coherent pattern of social values uncovered through the use of content analysis suggests that the first mass audience, that is, the purchasers of best-sellers, demanded a consensus of ideas in any works that were to sell well, and that these can be seen as models for the multitudes.

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