Whereas literary realism tended to focus on the travails of life in the upper classes, naturalist writing featured characters surviving in far grittier surroundings, often in a universe indifferent to human suffering. Heavily influenced by social and scientific theories, including those of Darwin, writers of naturalism described—usually from a detached or journalistic perspective—the influence of society and surroundings on the development of the individual. Jack London and Stephen Crane also participated in this tradition of literary naturalism, writing about city life, social class, industry, and, in two memorable short stories, the callous indifference of nature.
- The “brute within”—which is the notion that everyone has “strong and often warring emotions: passions, such as lust, greed, or the desire for dominance or pleasure,” leading to behavior considered taboo by society. Encountering the indifferent universe can cause this brute to rise up, often in violent ways. Students will likely see similarities to certain comic book heroes like The Incredible Hulk.
- The indifference of nature as man struggles to survive.
- The influence of “heredity and environment” (or one’s background and surroundings) on the development of a person. This emphasizes the difficulty of moving between or mixing social classes (even if successful, the repercussions can be tremendous).
- Determinism: the inability to express free will or personal agency.
In your opinion, which has more influence on how a person develops and what he/she becomes in life: heredity (genes) or enviornment? Do you agree or disagree with the principles of naturalism 1-4 above? Why or why not?
State your opinions on these principles in TWO paragraphs of 5-8 sentences.