McTeague Essay - Steve Shaffer Devine English 4W (11) 29...

McTeague Essay
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Steve Shaffer Devine English 4W (11) 29 October 2007 What Truly Is the Difference? If you look at McTeague , if you just skim over the text, you’ll notice there’s a great deal of description. There’s an abundance of long, drawn-out paragraphs chronicling the setting of the scene, or detailing mundane activities of the characters, or simply giving details that seem unnecessary to our understanding of the story. And indeed, often times the objects mentioned in these paragraphs are left at their descriptions, never to be brought up again. So we ask: “Why does Frank Norris spend so much time on these descriptions? Why waste time describing objects when he could be building plot or developing characters?” And in response, we’re asked, “What’s so important about plots and characters?” In McTeague we see a rebellion against the accepted and expected romantic literary style through a very specific use of emphasis. Emphasis is taken from the characters in the story and given to non-characters, challenging the very existence of the commonly assumed functional divide between these two entities. Normally (insofar as “normalcy” is defined by the standard of romantic literature), when a story has characters (as most do) the focus of the reader is first and foremost on those characters. In McTeague , Norris fights against this natural bias the reader places on the text by intentionally emphasizing non-characters in the story. For example, in describing Zerkow’s junk shop, Norris writes,
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Shaffer 2 “Everything was there, every trade was represented, every
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