The Evolution of Naturalism in American Fiction

English / April 23, 2015 / No Comments /
An analysis of how American writers shaped the French literary movement of Naturalism.

The paper begins with an explanation of the Naturalist literary movement. The paper then discusses the naturalistic properties in the following texts: Stephen Crane’s `The Open Boat,` Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” William Faulkner’s `A Rose for Emily,` Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” Tennessee William’s `A Streetcar Named Desire,` John Cheever’s “The Country Husband,” John Steinbeck’s `The Chrysanthemums,` and Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.” Through different time periods, different styles and even different genres, the paper compares the texts and their application of Naturalism in order to arrive at a better definition of a naturalist text.
“Everyone thinks they know what nature is. The word conjures up pictures of trees, birds, and flowers. But what has Naturalism been as a literary movement? How has it evolved as a concept in the history of American Fiction? According to the AOL Worldbook Encyclopedia, Naturalism is the attempt to apply scientific theory and methods to imaginative, i.e., fictive writing. It states that literary naturalists have often been the most uncompromising of writers, creating characters that are driven by their most basic urges. What is key to literary naturalism, as opposed to the mere depiction of nature in literature, is the way that naturalism encompasses and creates a sense of realistic motivations and desires of human beings in a realistic or natural setting. The Frenchman Emile Zola in his novels began the naturalist movement in literature. But it has always been most popular in America. In fact, when one thinks of what is quintessentially American about American fiction, one often thinks of its naturalistic qualities.”

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