King's Gothic Naturalism

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Naturalist writers of the early 20th century convey the notion that persons are fated to whatever station in life their biological heredity and social environment prepare them for. Those who profess to be proponents of the naturalist perspective see literature as a means to understand the nature of man. Since “the naturalist found in scientific discovery only a confirmation of humankind’s helplessness in the face of indifferent and inscrutable forces,” their writings usually generate an uninspiring idea of humanity’s frailty (Strengell 11-12). While the deterministic worldview is logical, it is difficult for many to resonate with powerless and doomed characters. Thus, the only way for the naturalistic frame of mind to reach a wider …show more content…
Jack is a man who struggles to control his temper, especially when under the influence. Growing up with an abusive father, “Jack had taken his lumps when the old man was drunk, which was a lot of the time,” (King 229). That is how his father dealt with all his children. When Jack was seven years old, “he was spanked by a neighbor lady for playing with matches,” and he threw a rock at passing car in anger (King 160). Jack’s father witnessed his behavior and punished him, physically and severely. Having learned that Jack responds to violence irrationally, one is not surprised when Jack subsequently kicks a dog into the gutter. Upon getting insight into Jack’s past, one should immediately assume that Jack is predestined to succumb to brutish behavior because he either learned this by watching his father give his children their “medicine” or inherited it like a physical trait.
King highlights the extent to which heredity affects Jack when he notes that Jack’s father’s fate resembles that of the main character in naturalist author Frank Norris’ novel, McTeague: A Story of San Francisco (1977). McTeague is completely deterministic—the epitome of naturalistic characters. McTeague’s father was an alcoholic brute, so when McTeague drinks and acts violently, there is no question as to why he acts in that manner. According to Norris, heredity is more than a pattern of learned behavior: it is something
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