Culture is forever moving in a discontinuous line, skipping stages, then backtracking, changing the experience of one generation in the light of another, dropping something here, adding something there, a subtle, yet volatile, self-corrective process, as much the product of individual pursuits as it is of historical currents. All of which is very apparent in this detailed and instructive study. The contemporaries of Howells and James thought the former largely a realist with moralistic overtones and the latter a chronicler of cultivated society and its conflicting patterns, while Crane, Norris, and Dreiser were greeted as purveyors of naturalistic fiction. These judgments were not so much misguided as narrow, for viewing them from the vantage point of today we see that what was happening to the characters in Sister Carrie or The Ambassadors or McTeague was never as important as why Carrie ran away from home. Norris' dentist fell in love, and so forth. In short, psychology was the paramount factor, though James' ""drama of the mind"" had little to do with Dreiser's crude mechanistic voluntarism or Crane's sense of the heroic. Taylor gives a close reading of various telling passages, each carefully chosen and each illustrative of the novelists' aesthetic and ideological concerns.