In the annals of literature, naturalism was the dominant genre of the late 19th century. In this signifier of literature, writers such as Stephen Crane and Jack London made their Markss. Another writer, who made his grade and even defined himself within the confines of this genre, was Frank Norris, the writer of a Naturalistic chef-d’oeuvre called McTeague. For those who have familiarized themselves with Old Norse mythology and mediaeval English literature, the characters in McTeague work stoppage a familiar chord. The full narrative reads like an heroic poem, with its munificent descriptions and fate-driven characters. Through his description of imagination and idea, Frank Norris recreates the Norse heroic poem through the typical lens of Naturalism by replacing the concepts of the mythology with the inclinations of his characters.
But why would Frank Norris make this? And for that affair, why is it even of import? The grounds for these are really simple. Frank Norris began composing McTeague as an assignment at Harvard University, but continued composing the novel until its completion in 1899 ( Hart ) . During his clip there he would hold besides studied old literature, including the heroic poems and sagas. He would hold been inspired by these old texts to make narratives based upon similar rules, and he would hold tied the principles of the literature to the literary motion which he identified with.
Of class, to understand how Naturalism and heroic convention connect, the reader must hold a modest apprehension of both conventions. Epic composing contains the undermentioned conventions: detailed romanticized description, a journey, usage of supernatural elements including destiny, large-scale struggle or a affaire d’honneur, and a descent into the underworld. This signifier of literature was besides written entirely in a poetic signifier from the earliest known heroic poems ( I.e. Iliad, Aeneid ) to the late 13th century ( I.e. Divina Comedia ) .
Relatively, American Naturalism is an highly immature motion. Harmonizing to Doctor Robert L. Lynch of Longwood University, the convention of American Naturalism is that the literature “ assumes that worlds have small or no control over what happens to them. [ They ] are unable to exert free willaˆ¦ andaˆ¦ are at the clemency of external and internal forces which control their fates ” ( Lynch ) . At this point a analogue is get downing to look. Both the Epic and Naturalist Hagiographas are driven by destiny and amongst other higher powers.
But how does American Naturalism straight relate to Norse heroic poems? The reply is merely wyrd ( marked wA«rd ) . Harmonizing to Liuzza, “ Wyrdaˆ¦ is related to the verb ‘weorthan, ‘ intending approximately ‘to occur. ‘ [ It ‘s ] intending scope from a impersonal ‘event ‘ to a prescribed ‘destiny ‘ to a personified ‘Fate ‘ ; it is utile to believe of [ it ] as ‘what happens, ‘ normally in a negative sense ” ( Liuzza ) . Wyrd can besides be described as the inexplicability and inevitableness of the transition of clip ; an object which can non be controlled by homo will or ideal, but invariably exerts its ain force over all worldly things. In this manner, Wyrd besides can be used to depict destiny ‘s physically described efforts in McTeague on the characters.
Another manner in which McTeague straight relates to the Norse heroic poems is in the usage of characters to expose human virtuousnesss and frailties. In the heroic poems, virtuousnesss are represented by mighty heroes, like the bravery of Beowulf or the trueness of Sigrun in Saga of the Volungs ; frailties are normally represented by monsters similar enviousness as Grendel or the greed of Fafnir the firedrake in Beowulf & A ; Saga of the Volsungs, severally. Unfortunately, this is where Frank Norris interruptions from heroic poem convention, in that none of his primary characters represent virtuousness. However, he represents the frailties of world laudably. He particularly focuses upon the devolutionary power of greed and the homicidal influence of wrath and enviousness. Of class, to back up my statement it is necessary to pull analogues between the characters in McTeague and the monsters and constructs in some Norse heroic poems.
In McTeague, the character of Marcus Schoeler is a symbol of human enviousness, shown in an intense scene:
“ But Marcus was far from appeasedaˆ¦ it seemed that Marcus was stating Heise of some injuryaˆ¦ and that the latter was seeking to lenify him. All at one time their talk grew louderaˆ¦ Marcus swung himself around in his chair, and, repairing his eyes on McTeague, cried as if in reply to some protestation on the portion of Heise:
‘All I know is that I ‘ve been soldiered out of five-thousand dollars. ‘
‘aˆ¦it ‘s my due – it ‘s merely justness ‘ ” ( Norris 82-83 ) .
In this scene, Marcus is claiming that he deserves the money that his cousin Trina won in the lottery, since he gave up his suit of her for McTeague, his friend at the clip.
This puts the character in a similar visible radiation to Grendel. Grendel and his nameless female parent were exiled from human society, probably for their engagement in a blood-feud. Grendel kills the warriors of Denmark ‘s King Hrothgar while they celebrate in their mead-hall because of his enviousness for their felicity and good luck. This covetous embodiment in Beowulf meets his destiny at the custodies of a epic character, who challenges him on his ain unarmed footings ( T. b. Liuzza ) . Marcus Schoeler dies, likewise, to the bare custodies of McTeague ( Norris 243 ) .
This analogue between Marcus and Grendel is deeper than a simple happenstance. It could be similar because of the old axiom that “ there is nil new under the Sun, ” or it could be a similarity caused by Frank Norris ‘ ain acquaintance with the old romantic method of description ( Ecclesiastes 1:9 ) . The same destiny awaits both characters, as described above, and they are killed by their unarmed oppositions, who drew them into conflict by playing to their covetous natures.
There are two characters whose compulsion with money becomes a manifestation of human greed. Trina McTeague is one of them. After she wins the lottery, she becomes haunted with stashing her money unto herself and non sharing it. She besides saves whatever money she ( and her hubby ) earns, even unto the hurt of her ain wellness ( Norris ) . In one scene she is described as “ [ playing ] with [ her ] money by the hr, stacking it, and repiling it, or garnering it all into one heapaˆ¦ once more, she would pull the heap fondly toward her and bury her face in it, delighted at the odor of it and the feel of the smooth, cool metal upon her cheeksaˆ¦ She loved the money with an strength that she could barely show ” ( Norris 170 ) .
This love of wealth and the desire to stash merely for its ain interest is reflected in the firedrakes of Norse mythology. In Saga of the Volsungs, the firedrake whose name is Fafnir kills his male parent in order to take the ransom paid for his brother Otter. Fafnir is slain by a hero who comes seeking glorification and luck, but as he passes he lays the undermentioned expletive, “ that same gold will be your decease [ Sigurd ] , as it will be the decease of all who possess it ” ( Byock 65 ) . It is besides reflected by the obsessional care of the Dragon in Beowulf, who goes on a violent disorder when he discovers that a individual cup is losing from his cache ( T. b. Liuzza ) .
These word pictures are really similar, and they all end in the same destinies for those who follow the same way. They are all slain by worlds. Though the exact fortunes are different for each one, the overall construct is the same, Trina, Fafnir, and the Dragon in Beowulf are all undone by their greed, and they are all killed.
Some may reason that this word picture could be applied to most of the characters in McTeague, particularly Zerkow. The lone job with this thought is that Zerkow ne’er really has a proper cache. In Norse heroic poems, the firedrakes described are ever in ownership of great wealth that attracts the attending of the human hero of the narrative. Zerkow is described reasonably specifically as being in ownership of nil better than “ a suffering hut ” repeatedly throughout the novel ( Norris ) .
Another interesting analogue is the curst hoarded wealth. In McTeague, the narrative reaches its flood tide when McTeague kills his married woman and takes her luck. This is his journey, as he attempts to travel to Mexico. Through a series of wyrd events he winds up traveling into Death Valley, the regular underworld of this heroic poem, with the gold and is captured by Marcus Schoeler. After he kills Schoeler, McTeague finds himself handcuffed to a cadaver in the center of a desert with no H2O, gazing at the aureate coop of a bird who he would n’t give up and the pouch of aureate coins that he stole ( Norris 243 ) . In Saga of the Volsungs Sigurd is killed by his in-laws after an object from Fafnir ‘s cache ( the ring Andvaranaut ) is given as a nuptials set twice ( to different adult females each clip ) ( Byock ) . In Beowulf, the same hoarded wealth spells Beowulf ‘s decease sentence, and would hold done the same for all the Geats had Wiglaf non had it burned with Beowulf ( T. b. Liuzza ) .
In all instances, the desire to get, and the gold itself lead to the deceases of those who have sought it out. The firedrakes who held it are killed by worlds, who in the terminal are doomed wholly by the pecuniary hoarded wealth that they fought so difficult to derive. As it is said at the terminal of Beowulf, “ In the barrow they placed rings and bright gems, / all the furnishings that those foolhardy men/ had seized from the cache before, / allow the Earth keep the hoarded wealths of earls, / gold in the land, where it yet remains, / merely as useless to work forces as it was before ” ( T. b. Liuzza 79 ) . Of class, Frank Norris uses his stoping scene to reflect upon the values of industrial America and the shallowness of his coevalss ‘ greed.
But it ca n’t perchance be all bad. There has to be some salvaging grace in McTeague. This is the instance, and the brace of characters spookily mirror both the actions and the fortunes of another brace of characters in Saga of the Volsungs.
In McTeague, we are presented with the character of Old Grannis, who is described as an Englishman in his 1960ss who does book-binding. We are besides presented with the character of Miss Baker, a adult female in her 1960ss who lives next-door to Old Grannis. Though they both act awkwardly in societal occasions when the other is present, they have ne’er been introduced officially. What eventually brings them to be introduced is that Grannis sells the device which he invented for book-binding. Miss Baker, non hearing him at work through their little divider of wall, takes tea to his flat and offers him a cup. He accepts, and “ together they [ enter ] upon the long retarded love affair of their platitude and uneventful lives ” ( Norris 177-182 ) . After this, they are ne’er mentioned once more, and we are left to presume that they live the remainder of their lives in felicity.
In Saga of the Volsungs, we are presented with the subplot of the warrior Helgi. After a successful conflict, Helgi comes across a big group of “ womenaˆ¦ by the border of a forestaˆ¦ siting in magnificent garb ” ( Byock 48 ) . He discovers that the adult female at their caput is named Sigrun, and she is being delivered to get married Hodbrodd, the boy of King Granmar. She begs for Helgi to contend Hodbrodd and Granmar so that he can take her alternatively ; which he does ( Byock 48-50 ) . This rite of proposal and conflict to take a married woman is common in Norse fables, and was a common usage among the Germanic folks like the Huns ( to whom the Volsungs, including Helgi, belonged ) . After a successful conflict at a topographic point called Frekastein, “ King Helgi assumed power in that land andaˆ¦ married Sigrun and became a celebrated and first-class male monarch. And he is out of the saga ” ( Byock 50 ) . Much like Old Grannis and Miss Baker, we are left to presume that these legendary figures live out the remainder of their life in peace.
In a unusual turn, at the conflict of Frekastein, Sigrun comes to the assistance of Helgi along with her set of shield-maidens ( I.e. Valkyries ) ( Byock 50 ) . Sigrun ‘s aid for Helgi is reflected in Miss Baker conveying tea ( a notably British usage ) to Old Grannis ; which makes him experience significantly better and brings them closer. Besides, in a similar mode, when these chapters end, both braces are ne’er mentioned once more. In both instances, readers are left with the feeling that the characters will populate long and be comfortable, whether that prosperity be emotional or pecuniary. The lone difference is that we are blatantly told in Saga of the Volsungs that the characters had long lives. In McTeague we are left with the feeling that this will be the instance, but the stoping of the scene is equivocal, much like the terminal of the novel. In both instances, these are sub-plots, and hence non the most of import point of the narrative.
The most of import point that can be drawn from this is that Frank Norris was an educated author whose work used all of the conventions of the Norse heroic poem to make a novelized analysis of human frailty. He speaks specifically to the nature of human greed by maintaining it in human footings, instead than using olympian imagination to the same thoughts. By transforming the monsters like Grendel into human equivalents he maintains the pragmatism of the American Naturalists while still making a fulfilling description. This Ameri-Norse heroic poem redefines an old original while at the same time carry throughing the construction of the most popular literary genre of its clip. This is why we remember McTeague, in malice of the baseness of the characters.