How would you describe the characteristics of literary naturalism in reference to Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat"?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Naturalism is a literary movement which focuses on very specific aspects of life. The characteristics of Naturalistic texts contain the following ideals:

1.  The text is written from an objective point-of-view. This means that the author writes from a scientific perspective similar to that of an experiment. The author states that they are simply describing the action of what is happening- they do not attempt to change or influence the character or the action of the text in any way.

2. The characters described are typically deterministic. The protagonist simply sees a problem with the circumstances that they have found theme selves in, or other characters in, and wishes to change them.

3. Given the text is written from an objective point-of-view, the text is also pessimistic and emotionally cold. The author is, again, only describing what they are "seeing" from a observers point-of-view. They wish to have no compassion for the characters because it would force them to interfere with the action of the story.

4. The setting is one you would find in everyday life. There are no spectacular scenes in regards to elaborate castles or upper-class niceties. The settings are typically set in lower-class homes and workplaces.

5. The characters described are typical, like the settings. Walking around a mine would allow one simply pick any worker and place them into a Naturalistic text.

Crane's "The Open Boat" includes many of the characteristics as described above.

1. Crane writes the story of the men from an objective point-of-view. He refuses to influence the story in a way which would offer any relief to the men. Instead, the harshness of the sea proves to be more than the men can handle at times.

2. The men are deterministic. Many of them believe that they will be rescued or find safety soon. A few never give up hope.

3. Emotional coldness is exemplified in the descriptions of nature which surrounds the men. The ocean, the birds, and the empty house of refuge shows the disparaging circumstances that the men are truly in.

4. The setting is ordinary, like the characters. There is nothing elaborate about the men or the dinghy to which they cling to.

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