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EXAM 3 3-30 thru 5-4 - Literary Naturalism First generation...

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March 30, 2009 Literary Naturalism First generation of US naturalists rose to prominence 1890-1910 Included Stephen Crane Frank Norris, Jack London, Theodore Dreiser Second generation (1930s) included John Steinbeck (sometimes), Richard Wright Known for depicting a harsh, often predominantly male world Influenced by scientific theories of the day, including Darwinism Characters find themselves caught up by large impersonal forces they can barely understand Characters become broken in body and mind, don’t have happy endings Individual characters are often crushed in one way or another “Forces” in Naturalism Nature (the ocean, the Arctic, drought) Human Biology (uncontrollable drives—sexual, of power; heredity— inheriting vices) The Economy (depressions, unemployment) In naturalist fiction, human choice, human agency, are minimized. Contrasting positions of naturalism’s characters and readers People’s ability to make decisions that affect their own lives They are deluded Think they are making a choice but some force is directing their decision Contrasting positions of naturalism’s characters and readers A reader always has a larger perspective than the characters do and understands what the controlling forces. There is the power to enter imaginatively, but always step out safely. The characters are usually not smart; they don’t do much thinking. There is a certain degree of superiority a reader can feel. The readers had some education and class. It allowed readers to feel exempt from the forces. It has been called a return of Calvinism, but without God. “The Open Boat” Contrasting visual perspectives Between what the readers can and the characters can see and recognize NONE of them knew the color of the sky. Their eyes glanced level, and were fastened upon the waves that swept toward them.” They are so beleaguered they can’t even look up. “Viewed from a balcony, the whole thing would doubtlessly have been weirdly picturesque.” “The sun swung steadily up the sky, and they knew it was broad day because the color of the sea changed from slate to emerald-green, streaked with amber lights, and the foam was like tumbling snow. The process of the breaking day was unknown to them. They were aware only of this effect upon the color of the waves that rolled toward them.”
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The men can only tell what time of the day it is by the changing color of the water. They are so focused on the ocean in order to stay alive. Attempts to personify impersonal forces “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 him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples.” There isn’t a tangible villain to lash against.
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