Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The American movement in support of temperance was especially strong from I830 to i860. During these decades, numerous authors used the medium of fiction to convince their readers of the values of abstinence from intoxicants. The purpose of this study is to examine a cross section of this fictional temperance literature in an effort to discover the viewpoints of these writers and to determine the attitudes toward antebellum American society which their works revealed.

In order to investigate more fully the feelings of both the authors and the historically voiceless masses who made their works so popular, such concepts as status anxiety and projection were added to the usual methods of literary analysis. It would seem that both the authors and their receptive audience found the years prior to the Civil War filled with rapid change. Unable to adjust quickly to growing cities and increasing industrialism, and fearful of being left behind in a society turning in new directions, these people looked for reasons for their displacement and loss of status. In such a situation it was easy to believe that one factor, liquor, was the cause of much of their misfortune. Authors and their readers looked to the past and remembered an idealized time when beautiful, patient women and diligent men experienced only happiness. This Golden Age could be recaptured, they hopefully theorized, if only the menace of liquor could be eliminated. The literature which was written and the reception it received tell us a great deal about the fears, hopes, and ideals of the generation whose feelings it reflected.