Naturalism In American Literature

Topics: Naturalism, Literature, Determinism Pages: 3 (414 words) Published: December 12, 2014
Naturalism in American
Literature

1865 –1900

Beginnings
Naturalism evolved as an extreme form of

Realism.
It was heavily influenced by Darwin’s theory
of evolution, suggesting that heredity,
environment, and social conditions shaped
human character.

Beginnings
While Naturalism was a philosophy,

Naturalism in literature began in France.
French critic and journalist Emile Zola is
considered the founder of Naturalism.

Characteristics
 The main characteristic of literary naturalism is

pessimism, emphasizes the inevitability and quality of
death.
 The author tries to maintain an objective tone and
sometimes achieves detachment or change by
introducing nameless characters.
 In determinism, the third characteristic of naturalism in literature, the notion that individual characters have a
direct influence on their lives is replaced by a focus on
fate or nature and is the opposite of the belief of free will.  One common characteristic of literary naturalism is the
surprising twist at the end of the plot. There is a strong
sense in the naturalist stories and novels that nature is
not affected by human struggle.

Themes
 Survival, determinism, violence, and taboo are key

themes.
 The conflict in naturalistic novels is often "man against nature" or "man against himself" as characters struggle
to retain a "veneer of civilization" despite external
pressures that threaten to release the "brute within."
 Nature as an indifferent force acting on the lives of
human beings.
 The forces of heredity and environment as they affect-and afflict--individual lives.  An indifferent, deterministic universe. Naturalistic texts often describe the futile attempts of human beings to

exercise free will, often ironically presented, in this
universe that reveals free will as an illusion.

Realism vs. Naturalism
As compared to romanticism and realism, naturalism is

a more recent movement in the literary cycle.
The...
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