American Naturalism in Short Fiction Criticism: Major Authors Of American Literary Naturalism - Essay

Warner Berthoff (essay date 1965)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Berthoff, Warner. The Ferment of Realism: American Literature, 1884-1919. New York: The Free Press, 1965.

[In the following excerpt, Berthoff provides a brief overview of Ambrose Bierce's short stories and compares his short fiction to that of Edgar Allan Poe.]

Ambrose Bierce … has maintained a curious kind of underground reputation, less as a maker of books than as a personal legend, a minority saint for the cynical and disenchanted. (A passion for taut, precise, desentimentalizing English is a special part of this legend.) Growing up into the holocaust of the Civil War, in which he served with honor and was badly wounded, he became a writer whose voice and...

(The entire section is 658 words.)

James Trammel Cox (essay date summer 1957)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Cox, James Trammel. “Stephen Crane as Symbolic Naturalist: An Analysis of ‘The Blue Hotel’.” Modern Fiction Studies 3, no. 2 (summer 1957): 147-58.

[In the following essay, Cox offers an analysis of “The Blue Hotel” to illustrate his thesis that Stephen Crane is more of a symbolist than a naturalist.]

The limitations of labels are less apparent when the term, like naturalism, has clearly definable boundaries than when it suffers from an excess of meaning, as in the much discussed omnibus romanticism. But they are no less real, and no less critically inhibiting. In the case of naturalism I would say this is particularly true, and...

(The entire section is 5887 words.)

George Monteiro (essay date spring 1971)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Monteiro, George. “Society and Nature in Stephen Crane's ‘The Men in the Storm’.” Prairie Schooner 45, no. 1 (spring 1971): 13-17.

[In the following essay, Monteiro views the major thematic concerns of Stephen Crane's “The Men in the Storm” to be violence against man by nature and society.]

Stephen Crane was a philosophical naturalist. This commonplace observation, so dear to the literary and cultural historian, is unfortunately less than accurate. For the truth is that at no time was Crane able to commit himself fully to the implications of the determinism he so much wanted to accept. The difficulty lay in his inability to resolve the conflict...

(The entire section is 1713 words.)

Sydney J. Krause (essay date autumn 1983)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Krause, Sydney J. “The Surrealism of Crane's Naturalism in Maggie.American Literary Realism 1870-1910 16, no. 2 (autumn 1983): 253-61.

[In the following essay, Krause investigates the surrealism found in Stephen Crane's Maggie.]

The source of Maggie's plight is that her lack of toughness unfits her to withstand the animal callousness of real-life experience. Traumatized by betrayal in love and rejection at home, she sinks into psychic paralysis. In Crane's day, it was his subject that troubled readers; in ours, it is his method. Thus, while the modernist may find passing amusement in those early critics who were put off by Crane's obsession with...

(The entire section is 4276 words.)

John J. Conder (essay date 1984)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Conder, John J. “Stephen Crane and the Necessary Fiction.” In Naturalism in American Fiction: The Classic Phase, pp. 22-42. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1984.

[In the following essay, Condor outlines Stephen Crane's naturalistic vision in “The Open Boat” and “The Blue Hotel.”]


“The Open Boat” is the center of the Crane canon and the appropriate work with which to begin a discussion of Crane's naturalism. In its brilliant starkness, the central image portrays a naturalistic vision of man. Men adrift in a boat, a human creation, confront the sea, the world of nature. Unwillingly they receive...

(The entire section is 8998 words.)

Yoshinobu Hakutani (essay date 1980)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Hakutani, Yoshinobu. “Early Short Stories.” In Young Dreiser: A Critical Study, pp. 151-68. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1980.

[In the following excerpt, Hakutani discusses Theodore Dreiser's contribution to American literary naturalism and the influence of French naturalist authors upon his work.]

In the summer of 1899, shortly before the writing of Sister Carrie, Dreiser tried his hand at the short story, his first concentrated effort to write fiction.

During this period Dreiser managed to express himself on the concepts that had been latent in his mind for a long time. When he first read Herbert...

(The entire section is 3983 words.)

Irene Gammel (essay date 1994)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Gammel, Irene. “Female Sexuality and the Naturalistic Crisis: ‘Emanuela’.” Sexualizing Power in Naturalism: Theodore Dreiser and Frederick Philip Grove, pp. 83-99. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1994.

[In the following essay, Gammel examines the treatment of female sexuality in Theodore Dreiser's “Emanuela,” contending that in his work he “celebrates sexuality as the major driving force in life, holding it up as a force of progress endlessly engaged in battles against sexually repressive social conventions and institutions.”]

Surrounded by an aura of what Dreiser often calls a “pagan” sensuality, many of his female characters...

(The entire section is 6831 words.)

Earl J. Wilcox (essay date 1983)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Wilcox, Earl J. “Overtures of Literary Naturalism in The Son of the Wolf and The God of His Fathers.” In Critical Essays on Jack London, edited by Jacqueline Tavernier-Courbin, pp. 105-13. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1983.

[In the following essay, Wilcox assesses the extent of Jack London's literary naturalism through an examination of his The Son of the Wolf and The God of His Fathers.]

Two problems arise from the assertion that Jack London was a literary naturalist: lack of common agreement on a definition of the term “literary naturalism” and the need to demonstrate the precise ways in which London's fiction can be called...

(The entire section is 4309 words.)

Jeanne Campbell Reesman (essay date winter 1997)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Reesman, Jeanne Campbell. “‘Never Travel Alone’: Naturalism, Jack London, and the White Silence.” American Literary Realism 1870-1910 29, no. 2 (winter 1997): 33-49.

[In the following essay, Reesman explores the naturalistic nature of Jack London's fiction.]

The afternoon wore on, and with the awe, born of the White Silence, the voiceless travelers bent to their work. Nature has many tricks wherewith she convinces man of his finity,—the ceaseless flow of the tides, the fury of the storm, the shock of the earthquake, the long roll of heaven's artillery,—but the most tremendous, the most stupefying of all, is the White Silence. All...

(The entire section is 8316 words.)

Barbara Hochman (essay date 1988)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Hochman, Barbara. “Norris's Dubious Naturalism.” In The Art of Frank Norris, Storyteller, pp. 1-19. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1988.

[In the following essay, Hochman disputes Frank Norris's reputation as a naturalist, contending that the imaginative force of his work “is not to be sought in his naturalist concerns, but rather in a cluster of preoccupations that center on the vulnerability of the self.”]

“You don't understand. … It runs in my family to hate anything sticky. It's—it's—it's heredity.”

—Annixter in Norris's The Octopus


(The entire section is 7793 words.)

Donna M. Campbell (essay date autumn 1994)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Campbell, Donna M. “Edith Wharton and the ‘Authoresses’: The Critique of Local Color in Wharton's Early Fiction.” Studies in American Fiction 22, no. 2 (autumn 1994): 169-83.

[In the following essay, Campbell maintains that in Edith Wharton's “Mrs. Manstey's View” and Bunner Sisters the author “interfuses the city landscapes of naturalism with the potent iconography and themes of local color, providing a chilling commentary upon the limitations of local color fiction in a naturalistic world that encroaches upon the threatens its ideals.”]

Edith Wharton's impatience with what she called the “rose and lavender pages” of the New England...

(The entire section is 6103 words.)

Scott Emmert (essay date autumn 2002)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Emmert, Scott. “Drawing-Room Naturalism in Edith Wharton's Early Short Stories.” Les Cahiers de la Nouvelle/Journal of the Short Story in English, no. 39 (autumn 2002): 57-71.

[In the following essay, Emmert elucidates the distinctive form of Wharton's literary naturalism, which he refers to as “drawing-room naturalism.”]

In her biography of Edith Wharton, Cynthia Griffin Wolff discusses the ways in which the nineteenth-century upper-class girl was encouraged to deny her feelings, particularly sexual ones. As a young girl of that class, Wharton was pressured into early self-denial. One of the primary lessons Wharton learned was that “[s]ociety had...

(The entire section is 5558 words.)