Give an example from the works of Stephen Crane or Jack London for each of the characteristics of Naturalism in American literature: Nature is depicted as cruel and indifferent, characters are not individualized, and people are pawns of an indifferent universe.

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One story that demonstrates naturalism is Jack London's "The Law of Life." In this story, there is a Darwinian portrayal of an old Indian's subjugation to the laws of nature.

London develops the theme of Determinism, in which man and animal are subject to laws of nature which are beyond...

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One story that demonstrates naturalism is Jack London's "The Law of Life." In this story, there is a Darwinian portrayal of an old Indian's subjugation to the laws of nature.

London develops the theme of Determinism, in which man and animal are subject to laws of nature which are beyond their control. In this story, an old Eskimo chief named Koskoosh sits alone, "forlorn and helpless." His granddaughter ignores him because "she was too busy to waste a thought on her broken grandfather, sitting alone." The duties of life call her; he is too close to death now. Koskoosh watches and listens to the others as they break camp, harness their dogs to the sled, and depart; he faces his last hours alone. Koskoosh's son has his own family now that he must care for; besides, the old chief is unable to see well, and he is too old to travel. As he lies near a fire with the wood left to him piled within reach, the Koskoosh ponders many things. "I am as last year's leaf, clinging lightly to the stem," he thinks.

As he lies alone waiting for death, old Koskoosh recalls his past and the times of famine and times of plenty. When some wolves approach him, he drags from the fire a burning stick to frighten them away. But gradually, there is "a ring of crouching, jaw-slobbered gray wolves stretched around him." Koskoosh hears them form a circle and close in. He waves the burning stick wildly, but eventually, they snarl and refuse to leave because they sense that the old man is vulnerable. Finally, Koskoosh abandons hope, and he drops his blazing stick into the snow. Then, he put his head upon his knees. "What did it matter after all? Was it not the law of life?" The wolves move in to kill him.

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Naturalism was a movement initiated by Emile Zola (a French author). Naturalism became popular in the United States during the Realist movement (given both shared many of the same characteristics). Most evident in Naturalistic writing was the power of nature over man and the lack of free will.

In regards to Stephen Crane, his work in Naturalism depicted nature as being cruel and indifferent in regards to the life of man. In his poem "A Man Said to the Universe" Crane's Naturalistic perspective regarding nature's indifference is made apparent.

A man said to the universe:
"Sir, I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."

Here, nature (the universe) comes off as being utterly indifferent to man.

In regards to "characters not being individualized," one can see an example of this in Crane's short story "The Open Boat." While the names of the characters in the text are intermittently used, the majority of the story refers to the men as titles: the oiler, the corespondent, the cook, and the captain. The men are not named (with the exception of a few names used in dialogue). Therefore, the men remain anonymous and general in character.

Perhaps the best story which depicts mankind as pawns is Jack London's "To Build a Fire." In this story, the man decides to travel across the Yukon for the first time. As a newcomer to the area, he has no clue as to what lies ahead. Thinking that he is strong enough the make the journey, the man's life actually is taken by the extreme cold. Essentially, the one point from the story that proves the man to be a simple pawn is the fact that nothing he does really matters. Nature rules the "game" and even his dog abandons him (able to survive the extreme cold given its "brotherhood" with nature). The man's death means nothing to nature. He set out to conquer the wilderness only to die as a result of his inability to concern himself with the power of it ("Fifty degrees below zero was to him just precisely fifty degrees below zero. That there should be anything more to it than that was a thought that never entered his head.").

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