Naturalism period appeared in 1890s-1950s, its manifest mostly on fiction in United States. Naturalism period is the continuation of Realism period which added determinism and pessimistic. The term of Naturalism first came from Emile Zola-a France artist-and some authors were influenced by his masterpieces, such as Noris and London. While American Literature on Realism period concentrated in literature technique, literature in Naturalism period illustrated the philosophical human science. They were skeptical on the explanation for human behavior in natural science exclusively of the human society. Emile Zola believed that human’s character could be identified by how they act with the others people and how they adapted in a new society. He also researched character of human might be governed by their environment.
Some Naturalism novels showed human daily activities was not always an uninteresting life, sometimes there could be a heroic and adventurous existence like violence involved body strength then continued to a brutal fight and ended in a tragic death. Moreover, it populated in lower class and in lower middle class which lived under a regularity and government power but they had compensating humanity value that can affirm their individuality and life. However, some naturalism fictions have a setting in an urban area, such as Norris's McTeague, Lee Clark Mitchell's Determined Fictions, Philip Fisher's Hard Facts, and James R. Giles's The Naturalistic Inner-City Novel in America. Sometimes naturalism novels described the characters who controlled and conditioned by their passion, heredity, chance, and environment.
In Naturalism period, there are some American outstanding novelist namely Mark Twain (1835-1910), Henry James (1843-1916), and Kate Chopin (1851-1904), while Edgar Lee Masters (1869-1950) is the one of famous authors in Naturalism period.
Some historical events happened in Naturalism period and they might influence several masterpieces sensitive to the tragedies in environment. The events are Spanish-American War in 1898, the election of Theodore Roosevelt as a President of United State, and the flight of the first powered airplane.
Naturalism period has its particular characteristics are:
• Its trend never be formalized nor dominated with the influence of one-writer
• More extreme and more intensive than realism
• It expresses more surprising aspect of life
• It focuses on the plot and what happen in the character’s life rather than the characters himself.
• Some masterpieces shows man’s instinct can’t be forced: biological instinct, social environment
• It has no place for the judgment of morality
• It influenced by society and art
Four major themes which mostly found in naturalism fictions are:
1. Conflict included in naturalism fictions about the relevance of human with nature or human with himself as a struggle to maintain a civilization although threatened to release the brute passion within;
2. Nature as the power detachment on the human life;
3. The power of heredity and environment affected and afflicted their personal life;
4. Naturalistic texts also described the futile effort of human being to gain their free will, moreover it showed freedom was just an illusion.
The Authors and Masterpieces
Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895)
Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (1922)
Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy (1925)
Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905)
Ellen Glasgow, Barren Ground (1925)
John Dos Passos (1896-1970), U.S.A. trilogy(1938): The 42nd Parallel (1930), 1919 (1932), and The Big Money (1936)
James T. Farrell (1904-1979), Studs Lonigan (1934)
John Steinbeck (1902-1968), The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
Richard Wright, Native Son (1940), Black Boy (1945)
Norman Mailer (1923- ), The Naked and the Dead (1948)
William Styron, Lie Down in Darkness (1951)
Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March (1953)
The Masterpieces of Naturalism Period Poetry
The Open Boat
By Stephen Crane
A man said to the universe:
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation." --Stephen Crane (1894, 1899)
By Edgar Lee Masters
If you in the village think that my work was a good one,
Who closed the saloons and stopped all playing at cards,
And haled old Daisy Fraser before Justice Arnett,
In many a crusade to purge the people of sin;
Why do you let the milliner's daughter Dora,
And the worthless son of Benjamin Pantier,
Nightly make my grave their unholy pillow?
Count That Day Lost
By George Eliot
If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went --
Then you may count that day well spent.
But if, through all the livelong day,
You've cheered no heart, by yea or nay --
If, through it all
You've nothing done that you can trace
That brought the sunshine to one face--
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost --
Then count that day as worse than lost.
Campbell, Donna M.1997.Resisting Regionalism: Gender and Naturalism in American Fiction, 1885-1915.Athens: Ohio University Press.
Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 6: American Naturalism - A Brief Introduction." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide.
Pizer.1966.Realism and Naturalism in Nineteenth-Century American Literature. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP.