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  • Topic: Frank Norris, McTeague, Erich von Stroheim
  • Pages : 4 (1530 words )
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  • Published : February 28, 2001
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Character Analysis of McTeague

Frank Norris's novel McTeague explores the decay of society in the early twentieth century. Set in San Francisco, "a place where anything can happen…where fact is often stranger than fiction" (McElrath, Jr. 447), Norris explores themes of greed and naturalism, revealing the darker side of human psyche. What can be found most disturbing is the way that Norris portrays McTeague, in shocking detail, as nothing more than a brute animal at his core. Norris explores the greed and savage animalism that lurks inside McTeague.

McTeague is first portrayed as a gentle giant. The reader is introduced to McTeague as he sits in his dental parlor, smoking his cigar and drinking his steam beer. He is described as a tall, slowly moving man. McTeague's mind was as his body, heavy, slow to act, sluggish. Yet there was nothing vicious about the man. Altogether he suggested the draft horse, immensely strong, stupid, docile, obedient (Norris 7). Immediately one can visualize McTeague, a large lumbering mass, going about his daily activities in quiet solitude. The dental practice that McTeague runs provides him with a sound income, and in the first few chapters of the novel, he desires nothing more out of life than to practice what he loves. "When he opened his Dental Parlors, he felt that his life was a success, that he could hope for nothing better" (Norris 7).

Upon meeting Trina, his best friend Marcus's love interest who comes to him because of a broken tooth, his psyche begins to change and animalistic feelings begin to well up inside McTeague. "The male, virile desire in him tardily awakened, aroused itself, strong and brutal. It was resistless, untrained, a thing not to be held in a leash an instant" (Norris 25). Norris uses the animal imagery to describe the deterioration of McTeague's human qualities. When McTeague tells Marcus of his intentions with Trina, there is a palpable tension between the two characters....
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