Naturalism in a Lost Lady

Good Essays

Grace Ren
Mr. Kotlarcyck
Mod 6-7/8
9 March 2012
The Animal Within: Naturalism in a Lost Lady
History and literature have developed in a parallel manner, as organisms often co-evolve with each other. With the publication of Darwin’s groundbreaking work, the Origin of Species, a new group of people, the Social Darwinists, applied the theory of natural selection to social hierarchy. A most notable Social Darwinist, Herbert Spencer, coined the term “survival of the fittest”, implying that people in higher social groups were more “fit” to survive than those who were in lower social groups (Bannister, “Social Darwinism”). This idea of social evolution contributed to the dehumanization of people. More social theorists, scientists, and …show more content…

Maggie’s life is awful; she has a perpetually drunk mother and a careless, angsty brother who often take their frustrations out on her. She sees that Pete seems to have an abundance of money and worldly experience, and thus is fascinated with him and pursues him in an attempt to alleviate herself into his world and gain what she could have by his side. Pete is likewise influenced by this desire acquire possessions in his pursuit of Nellie, “the woman of brightness and audacity” (Crane 629). Cather’s characters are also influenced by this desire to accumulate possessions. Mrs. Forrester, for example, switches her business suddenly from Judge Pommerey to Ivy Peters without warning. She does this because Ivy promises to make her more money than the Judge can. Her desire to accumulate possessions is overruling her obligation to honor her and Judge Pommerey’s friendship. Ivy himself is likewise driven by a desire to collect all that he can; he had always had an ultimate aspiration to own the Forrester’s land and henceforth is the reason why he buys out the Forresters(Cather 89). The need to accrue wealth is shown as an influence behind the actions of many characters in Naturalist writing.
Naturalist writing is also characterized by the apathetic tone that writers use to describe their characters with. Naturalist writers treat their characters as subjects of a scientific project, and therefore write with a strictly observational voice. For example, Crane describes

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