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Naturalism (1875 – 1900) Based on Pessimism Emile Zola – the founder In literature, the theory that literary composition should be based on an objective, empirical presentation of human beings Naturalistic writers regard human behavior as controlled by instinct, emotion, or social and economic conditions, and reject free will View of Man 1. A pawn controlled by heredity or environment 2. Often overwhelmed by life 3. Amoral: unable to distinguish between right and wrong 4. Faces a hopeless downhill struggle 5. Victim of basic instincts View of Man View of Society 1. Ruled by materialistic determinism 2. Often heartless, greedy, and powerful 3. Destructive View of Nature 1. Animals and man are subject to the same laws; Darwin’s survival of the fittest 2. A force beyond man’s control View of God 1. Unresponsive 2. Amoral attitude: good and bad are only relative terms Key Words Downhill struggle Disillusionment Quiescence: absence of activity; stillness Frankness Materialistic determinism: which is the theory that a person’s fate is determined solely by heredity and environment Major Writers Stephen Crane Jack London Edgar Lee Masters Frank Norris John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath The Dust Bowl The Dust Bowl of the 1930s lasted about a decade. Its primary area of impact was on the southern Plains. The northern Plains were not so badly effected, but nonetheless, the drought, windblown dust and agricultural decline were no strangers to the north. In fact the agricultural devastation helped to lengthen the Depression whose effects were felt worldwide. The movement of people on the Plains was also profound. The Dust Bowl (con’t.) The Dust Bowl (con’t.) As John Steinbeck wrote in his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath: "And then the dispossessed were drawn west- from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless - restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do - to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut - anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land." The Dust Bowl (con’t.) Hundreds of thousands of homes had no running water, indoor plumbing or electricity. Homes were not insulated. Poorly crafted windows had chinks and cracks; wind, dust, and snow came inside. Farming still was done mostly with horses. Social programs we take for granted today were either not yet in place or in their infancy. The Great Depression was at its worst when the great droughts hit. Banks had failed; no credit to be had. Tens of thousands of people had already lost their homes, businesses or farms. Families had no choice but to move on. Many were bound for California, a promised land of sunshine and oranges, along U.S. 66, main route of the migrants. Migrants found an unfamiliar system: seasonal hiring for low wages, a rootless life. John Steinbeck made the Okies into tragic heroes in his novel The Grapes of Wrath.
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