NATURALISM by xiaopangnv



         Yet another spectacular PowerPoint by Mr. Younger!

                           Works Cited

Campbell, Donna M. "Naturalism in American Literature."
     Literary Movements.

Murfin, Ross. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary
       Terms, Second Edition. Boston: Bedford Saint Martin’s,

Pizer, Donald. Realism and Naturalism in Nineteenth Century
       American Literature. Carbondale: Southern Illinois  UP,
While many modern works contain naturalistic
elements, naturalism refers specifically to a literary
movement that took place in America, England,
and France during the late 1800’s and early
1900’s, which produced a unique type of “realistic”
    In order to understand naturalism,
      we must first examine realism.

• Realism portrays life realistically
    – Does not “sugarcoat.”
    – Realists try to “write reality”
    -- records the details of everyday life.
    -- portrays local color, customs, speech, dress, and living conditions of
        their chosen locale.
    -- rejects romanticism and its idealized presentations, imaginative
        settings, the supernatural, and improbable plot twists.
•   Naturalism is essentially realism with an additional facet:
• Characters do not have free will; external and
  internal forces control their behavior.
  – This belief is called determinism. Free will exists, but
    the will is circumstantially enslaved.
  – Characters attempting to exercise free will are
    hamstrung by forces beyond their control.
     • Life is an inescapable trap.
       Characters as Marionettes
• Naturalist works view individuals as being at the mercy
  of external and internal forces, whereas realistic works
  hold that the characters have some degree of free will
  that they can exercise to affect their situations.
  – Things happen to people, as if they were marionettes.
    Forces Beyond the Character’s
• Characters are dominated by:
• Environment
   – A storm, or a character lost at sea
• Social conditions
   – A character born into poverty.
• Chance (fate)
   – A character’s child is suddenly stricken with typhoid fever.
• Internal Passions
   – Lust, greed, or desire for dominance or pleasure overcome rational
              “Survival of the Fittest”
• Heavily influenced by emergent
  scientific theories of the times:
   – Darwin’s theory of evolution
      • It’s corollary, “survival of the fittest.”
• Fight for survival brings out the "brute
  within" each individual.
      • conflict is often "man against nature" or "man
        against himself"
   The Indifferent and Omnipotent
          Power of Nature
• Nature/Fate is an indifferent force.
   – Works often describe the futile attempts of human
     beings to exercise free will in a universe that ironically
     reveals that free will is an illusion.
   – Violence and tragedy is often the result.

• Raw and unpleasant experiences which
  reduce characters to "degrading" behavior
  as they struggle to survive.
  – Characters generally lower class
    • Poor, uneducated, and unsophisticated.
    • “drama of the people working itself out in blood
      and [filth]” (Norris).
                                     *Milieu means “The totality of one's
                                     surroundings.” It is more
                                     encompassing than it’s synonym:

• The milieu* is generally commonplace and the
  – Chronicles the dull struggle of daily existence.
  – But, the naturalist reveals qualities in their
    characters that are usually associated with the
    heroic or adventurous.
     • Often, acts of violence and passion lead to desperate
       moments and death.
         – Life at its lowest levels is not so simple as it seems to be.

• Panoramic, “slice-of-life" drama
  – a "chronicle of despair."
    Naturalism: A Scientific Study
• objective and detached, like a scientific study.
      • “human beasts” are studied impartially, without
        moralizing about their natures
   – Told in third person,
      • Narrator is detached, objective, and unsympathetic.
          – Narrator does not comment on the morality or the
            fairness of the situations in which characters find
      • The reader, however, is meant to empathize with the
Maintaining Dignity in Adversity

• Ccontrolled by environment, social conditions, heredity,
  chance (or fate), or instinct.
   – But, they have compensating humanistic values which affirm their
     individuality and life
       • Their struggle for life becomes heroic and they maintain human
• Faced with overwhelming and oppressive material forces.
   – But, they maintain their self-worth.
            A Few Practictioners:

•   Emile Zola, Le roman experimental (The Experimental Novel) (1880)
•   Ambrose Bierce, “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890)
•   Stephen Crane, “The Open Boat” (1898)
•   Jack London, “To Build a Fire” (1901)
•   Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905)
•   Ellen Glasgow, Barren Ground (1925)
•   John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
•   Richard Wright, Native Son (1940), Black Boy (1945)
•   Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead (1948)
•   William Styron, Lie Down in Darkness (1951)
•   Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March (1953)
From "The Open Boat" by Stephen
When it occurs to a man
  that nature does not
  regard him as important,
and that she feels she
  would not maim the
  universe by disposing of
he at first wishes to throw
  bricks at the temple,
and he hates deeply the
  fact that there are no
  bricks and no temples.
           Naturalistic Poem:
A man said to the
  "Sir, I exist!"
  "However," replied
  the universe,
  "The fact has not
  created in me
  A sense of

--Stephen Crane (1899)

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