Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
J. D. Brasch
Naturalism considers human beings to be determined by their heredity and environment. The individual is at the mercy of determining social and economic forces. John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath is a naturalistic novel that examines the natural laws and social conditions that confront the Joad family in their struggle to survive the Dust Bowl Depression. Steinbeck notes the consequences that the "shining red earth" has on the "weary and discontent" people (The Grapes of Wrath,1939:124 and 211). The attempt to escape the harsh natural and economic determinism of their homeland also worsens their social condition. The strength of the naturalistic forces transcends the physical state of the characters to penetrate their very "souls [where] the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy" (Grapes 477).
In William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying Addie Bundren is also subject to the determining natural and social forces. The hot, "dead air", combined with the misfortune of marrying an unloving husband, has rendered both communication and love impossible for Addie (As I Lay Dying,1957:58). She cannot derive strength from her husband since he contributes to her despair. Addie Bundren cannot project herself into a lasting communion with another person and represents an isolated, alienated individual.
The tall convict, in Faulkner's novella Old Man, also retreats into a regressive condition of alienation from women and life outside the womb-like security of the Parchman Penitentiary. Determined by the natural forces of the flooding waters and the presence of the pregnant female that leaves him "impotent", the tall convict cannot discover the redemptive strength that Jim easy's human spirit provides (Old Man,1939:111).
Cherubini, Lorenzo, "Naturalism and the Individual in The Grapes of Wrath, As I Lay Dying, and Old Man." (1993). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6622.
McMaster University Library