James T. Farrell American Literature Analysis
The literary heir of Dreiser, Farrell is the epitome of the naturalistic writer whose protagonists’ behavior is shaped by their social, psychological, political, and financial environment. In his essay “Some Observations on Naturalism, So Called, in Fiction” (1950), Farrell defines his concept of naturalism: “By naturalism I mean that whatever happens in this world must ultimately be explainable in terms of events in this world.” The definition effectively distinguishes his fiction from that of those naturalistic novelists such as Frank Norris who frequently resort to the supernatural or mystical in shaping their plots. Moreover, Farrell documents his novels, piling up realistic details that circumscribe his characters choices, making them victims of their environment.
Farrell’s world is, for the most part, Chicago’s South Side, where he grew up. His Irish Catholic protagonists closely resemble their creator, particularly when the Danny O’Neills and Bernard Cams are intellectuals and writers confronting the role of the artist in an alien society. Even the Studs Lonigan figures, who are less articulate and more passive, are alienated (though they ironically belong to a gang) and isolated from their peers by their insecurity and their insistence on being stereotypical tough guys rather than individuals. The Farrell protagonist is often alone and typically alienated from self; consequently, he is a person divided into outer toughness and an...
(The entire section is 2232 words.)
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