The Genes Run in the Family
In the nineteenth century, America was a place of immigration and new ideas. Many immigrants came to the United States in pursuit of the American dream, the “ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunity” (Dictionary.com), but attaining this goal was not as easy as it may sound. Some were born into the American dream while others who were born into the lower class had to try and work towards the dream but oftentimes failed. In the novel McTeague, Frank Norris depicts how the force of heredity affects an individual’s success with the American dream through McTeague, Maria, and Zerkow. All three of these characters are given parents and ancestries that are the main cause of their downfalls.
Norris demonstrates how in the end, one’s own success is determined by that of their parents as he supplies McTeague with several opportunities throughout the novel to change his fortune, but it is his parents’ fault that he is not able to succeed. McTeagues father is described as “steady, hard-working” while at work, yet when at home he is “a brute, crazy with alcohol”(Norris 2). This alcoholism dug his father deep into a hole and he eventually died from it, never amounting to anything more than a shift-boss at the mine. McTeague follows this path of his father when he too becomes a drunken brute and “his stupidity, the sluggishness of his brain, seemed to be unusually stimulated”(Norris 234) by the alcohol. McTeague’s alcoholism leads him to beating Trina and eventually killing her for the money. His father did not beat and kill McTeague’s mother because she had no money that she was keeping from him, but McTeague inevitably fell into his father’s drunken footsteps and was pushed even further by Trina’s actions towards his death. One of McTeague’s opportunities for success arises after he kills Trina and leaves with all of the money, but his inherited stupidity managed to reap no benefit from the opportunity. He was forced to leave the area and flee from law enforcement officers, so he travelled to various mines, once again a miner like his father was. His father being a miner and McTeague’s imbecility work in harmony to conclude that it was inevitable McTeague would further follow his father’s