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Naturalism Influences on John Steinbeck and his writing.

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1 Naturalism Influences on John Steinbeck and his writing

2 Naturalism Became the dominant literary movement in American fiction by the turn of the 20 th century. Became the dominant literary movement in American fiction by the turn of the 20 th century. Early naturalistic writers included Stephen Crane (“The Red Badge of Courage”); Jack London (“The Call of the Wild”); Theodore Dreiser (“An American Tragedy”). Early naturalistic writers included Stephen Crane (“The Red Badge of Courage”); Jack London (“The Call of the Wild”); Theodore Dreiser (“An American Tragedy”). Many of their stories manifested Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest.” Many of their stories manifested Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest.” Naturalism is a form of extreme realism: “Human beings are animals in a natural world, responding to environmental forces and internal stresses and drives, over none of which they have control and none of which they fully understand.” 1 Naturalism is a form of extreme realism: “Human beings are animals in a natural world, responding to environmental forces and internal stresses and drives, over none of which they have control and none of which they fully understand.” 1 In other words humans are animal-like, following their instincts to survive. In other words humans are animal-like, following their instincts to survive. 1. C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon. A Handbook to Literature, 5 th ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1986).

3 Naturalism At the heart of this ideology is pessimistic Determinism: the notion that the causes of human tragedy lie beyond the powers of the individual. We struggle against forces beyond human control. At the heart of this ideology is pessimistic Determinism: the notion that the causes of human tragedy lie beyond the powers of the individual. We struggle against forces beyond human control. The movement was influenced by Marxist theory, which holds that class struggle is the central element of social change in Western society. The movement was influenced by Marxist theory, which holds that class struggle is the central element of social change in Western society. This was coupled with economic problems stemming from urbanization of America at the end of the 19 th century. This was coupled with economic problems stemming from urbanization of America at the end of the 19 th century. This combination portrayed socio-economic forces that overwhelm individual lives. This combination portrayed socio-economic forces that overwhelm individual lives.

4 Naturalism Naturalists focused on the lives of characters struggling for survival in an alien and often hostile society. Naturalists focused on the lives of characters struggling for survival in an alien and often hostile society. In other words, nature is indifferent to our struggle; society is insensitive to our personal needs for fulfillment or self-expression. In other words, nature is indifferent to our struggle; society is insensitive to our personal needs for fulfillment or self-expression. Life is seen as merely a sequence of cause and effect; a chain of events flowing from one event. Life is seen as merely a sequence of cause and effect; a chain of events flowing from one event. Their stories are often told by an “all-knowing” narrator who can relate deterministic factors far beyond the knowledge of the characters affected by them. Their stories are often told by an “all-knowing” narrator who can relate deterministic factors far beyond the knowledge of the characters affected by them.

5 Naturalism The tendency in naturalistic works is that no one emerges triumphant, because simple survival constitutes a moral victory. Beaten down by an inhuman system and bad luck, many of the naturalist writers’ characters end as suicide victims. The tendency in naturalistic works is that no one emerges triumphant, because simple survival constitutes a moral victory. Beaten down by an inhuman system and bad luck, many of the naturalist writers’ characters end as suicide victims. Death is seen as a natural outcome. Death is seen as a natural outcome. John Steinbeck was not a dedicated student of American naturalism, yet his themes and methods are often closely tied to this literary movement. John Steinbeck was not a dedicated student of American naturalism, yet his themes and methods are often closely tied to this literary movement.

6 Naturalism Assignment: Review chapter 1 of Of Mice and Men Assignment: Review chapter 1 of Of Mice and Men Find an example of each of the following aspects of Naturalism in Chapter 1. Type each example out in complete sentence(s) and include details from the story to support your answers. Find an example of each of the following aspects of Naturalism in Chapter 1. Type each example out in complete sentence(s) and include details from the story to support your answers. The struggle against forces beyond human control. The struggle against forces beyond human control. Nature being indifferent to human struggle or society as insensitive to special needs. Nature being indifferent to human struggle or society as insensitive to special needs. Humans as animal-like; instinctive. Humans as animal-like; instinctive. Death as natural; survival of the fittest. Death as natural; survival of the fittest. Life as a sequence of cause and effect; a chain of events flowing from one event. Life as a sequence of cause and effect; a chain of events flowing from one event.


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