"The Forces Of Naturalism" Essay

1492 words - 6 pages

The Forces of NaturalismFollowing the declining of romanticism in the nineteenth century, realism and naturalism became more prevalent in American fiction. Stephen Crane and Jack London embodied the naturalistic genre by writing stories that show how forces of society, nature, and economy shape the lives of their characters and let fate determine their lives. The naturalism of the stories is shown by the indifferent and objective environment in which each character is placed. These surroundings are shaped by forces that are overwhelming to their characters, as is consistent to naturalism. Crane and London also differ in their representations of the possibilities of their characters.In Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Stephen Crane places his main character, Maggie, into an urban environment. The indifference of this setting is shown through the interactions and apathy of the many residents. The story begins with a fight breaking out among a large group of boys. "The engineer of a passive tugboat hung lazily over a railing and watched" (11). Rather than break up the fight, the onlookers merely observed. Crane writes "A dozen gruesome doorways gave up loads of babies to the street and gutters" (15). This is another example of the city environment that apathetically gives its young to the forces of the streets. There are further examples of indifference demonstrated by the interactions between the characters.When the children are all gathered together in the apartment, Crane shows their mother's own attitude toward them with "Come ahn an' I'll stamp yer faces t'rough d' floor." (47) and "Git outa d'way" (16). Perhaps the best example of the characters' indifference is when Crane writes "The babe, Tommie, died. He went away in an insignificant coffin." (24), "She and Jimmie lived." (25). This short and matter-of-fact consideration is all that is said about the passing of the youngest child.This trend of urban indifference continues throughout the story. When Maggie passes a man on the streets and the man sees her as a prostitute "He wheeled about hastily and turned his stare into the air," (81). Maggie's implied death further exemplifies this trend when she continues her walk. "The varied sounds of life... came faintly and died away to a silence." (83). At the end, the women of Maggie's building continue their cold, objective look at Maggie's fate when Crane writes "She's gone where her sins will be judged!" (90).In To Build a Fire, Jack London creates an indifferent universe in the wilds of Alaska. As major evidence of the indifference, London chooses not to even name his main character. London explains in the beginning how man fits into the setting by commenting on "man's frailty in general... able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold" (10). London shows nature, not as an opponent, but as merely a present force. London writes "the coldest snaps never froze these springs... They were traps." (12). The character says this as a...

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