"The Forces of Naturalism"

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The Forces of Naturalism

Following the declining of romanticism in the nineteenth century, realism and naturalism became more prevalent in American fiction. Stephen Crane and Jack London embodied the naturalistic genre by writing stories that show how forces of society, nature, and economy shape the lives of their characters and let fate determine their lives. The naturalism of the stories is shown by the indifferent and objective environment in which each character is placed. These surroundings are shaped by forces that are overwhelming to their characters, as is consistent to naturalism. Crane and London also differ in their representations of the possibilities of their characters.

In Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Stephen Crane places his main character, Maggie, into an urban environment. The indifference of this setting is shown through the interactions and apathy of the many residents. The story begins with a fight breaking out among a large group of boys.

"The engineer of a passive tugboat hung lazily over a railing and watched" (11). Rather than break up the fight, the onlookers merely observed. Crane writes "A dozen gruesome doorways gave up loads of babies to the street and gutters" (15). This is another example of the city environment that apathetically gives its young to the forces of the streets. There are further examples of indifference demonstrated by the interactions between the characters.

When the children are all gathered together in the apartment, Crane shows their mother's own attitude toward them with "Come ahn an' I'll stamp yer faces t'rough d' floor." (47) and "Git outa d'way" (16). Perhaps the best example of the characters' indifference is when Crane writes "The babe, Tommie, died. He went away in an insignificant coffin." (24), "She and Jimmie lived." (25). This short and matter-of-fact consideration is all that is said...