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20090209-Crane and Norris

Page history last edited by Susie Fernandez 12 years, 5 months ago


     In the mid 19th century, Charles Darwin's Origin of Species sparked conversation on the concept of "What is mankind?"  People now questioned whether Man was holy and special or simply an animal like any other. In 1864, this controversy inspired Herbert Spencer to coin the term "survival of the fittest," which applied to both evolutionary survival and survival within society. This belief accompanied a rise in Naturalist literature, a form which emphasized that life is determined by heredity and environment. In most Naturalist novels, there is no free will--fate determines everything. A premium is also placed on observation rather than imagination in story writing. Naturalism tends to depict people on the fringes and in the depths of society, and explore topics such as racism, poverty, sex, and disease. It describes these things as they are, rather than giving an idealized version of how society should be. Norris's story, "Fataisie Printaniere" (1897), for example, describes characters' behaviors as having an animalistic quality, and their feuds and domestic violence as, "the existing order of things", denoting a feeling that circumstances are out of the people's hands.

     Stephen Crane (1871-1900), one of the major Naturalist authors, despite being the son of a minister, decided to disregard God. He worked as a newspaper man and wrote his first book, Maggie, in 1893. He also wrote the well known Red Badge of Courage, published in 1895. In 1897, Crane wrote The Open Boat, reflecting his personal experience on a boat which sank, and recognizing the power of the natural world. Crane focuses on nature's vastness and indifference towards humans. He specifically illustrates the correspondent's progression from belligerency toward nature to an avowal of nature's unconcern. Crane also shows that, despite a lack of God, humans can act selflessly toward one another.


(Word Count- 294)



"But to Romance belongs the wide world for range, and the unplumbed depths of the human heart, and the mystery of sex, and the problems of life, and the black, unsearched penetralia of the soul of man" (Norris, 926)

  •      Although the passage refers to Naturalism as Romance, this passage outlines the main characteristics of Naturalism. It shows the reader that Naturalism is taking Realism further by focusing on the depths of society and exploring topics that are not usually addressed in the literature of this time.


"As for the reflections of the men, there was a great deal of rage in them. Perchance the might be formulated thus: 'If I am going to be drowned- if I am going to be drowned-if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come this far and contemplate sand and trees? Was I brought here merely to have my nose dragged away as I was about to nibble the sacred cheese of life? It is preposterous. If this old ninny-woman, Fate, cannot do better than this, she should be deprived of the management of men's fortunes.'" (Crane, 1006)

  •      This passage demonstrates the initial belliegerence of the characters against nature, and shows their belief that nature is out to get them and is maliciously causing them to suffer. It also uses the idea of fate, which implies that the characters are not in control of their own destinies.


"It represented in a degree, to the correspondent, the serenity of nature amid the struggles of the individual- nature in the wind, and nature in the vision of men. She did not seem cruel to him then, nor beneficent, nor treacherous, nor wise. But she was indifferent, flatly indifferent." (Crane, 1013)

  • The passage demonstrates that nature is indifferent to the presence of the men out in the ocean.  Nature acts independently of the men- it just is.  Nothing in nature will change because the men are out on the ocean.
  • Initially, the correspondent is upset at the irony of potentially dying when he and his shipmates are so close to land. In this passage, he realizes that there is no irony: Nature is not malicious or calculating, and Fate is not a living or thinking being.


Key Terms:

Naturalism- an offshoot of realism which is concerned with preserving believable reality. It centers around the belief that characters' lives are determined by environment, heredity and bad luck. It focuses more on determinism than on free will, and also looks for the irrational and animalistic behaviors of its characters.


Social Darwinism- the idea that the principles of natural selection also apply to the societies of man.


Dramatic Irony- incongruity between what's being said and what is understood by audience


Atavistic- reversion to something ancient (specifically, in this case, a return to acting like the animals from whence people evolved)


Determinism- the idea that what happens to a person is out of his/her free will and must be either one outcome or another, with no other options


Conspicuous Consumption- buying things to demonstrate or publicize your wealth

Comments (7)

Susie Fernandez said

at 9:00 pm on Feb 9, 2009

Hey guys, here's a start. Anyone have a good definition for dramatic irony?

Lisa Sutton said

at 1:25 am on Feb 10, 2009

I added a definition for dramatic irony--it was the one he gave us in our discussion group on Friday

Lisa Sutton said

at 2:05 am on Feb 10, 2009

Okay guys--I did an incomplete, VERY CRUDE summary. PLEASE PLEASE FEEL FREE TO EDIT!!

Brian L said

at 12:05 pm on Feb 10, 2009

I put in my two cents, tho i think we should probably use the quote from the Open Boat about "the seven mad gods" etc

Lisa Sutton said

at 12:38 pm on Feb 10, 2009

we can use 3 quotes so we can definitely add that in.

Susie Fernandez said

at 11:02 pm on Feb 10, 2009

I added a couple more quotes. Please edit/add commentary! Is there anything to add about Norris to the summary?

Brian Croxall said

at 11:23 pm on Apr 16, 2009

Your notes for Crane and naturalism are very good. The summary nails pretty much everything. I was concerned that you didn’t spend as much time on Crane as one other things, but the passages you used covered the rest of what was needed there, I believe. Your definitions are also very good and hit every term that I had hoped you would.

Where you could perhaps improve is in the passages. Your explanations could be a little bit more thorough. For instance, when Fate is mentioned in the second passage, the correspondent doesn’t yet feel that Fate is totally indifferent. He’s upset at the irony of perhaps dying when he’s seen land so close. By the end of the story, however, he realizes that there is no irony because Fate is not a living/thinking thing.

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