McTeague (Mac), a massive, slow-witted man with a blond mustache and enormously strong hands. An unlicensed dentist, McTeague sometimes pulls teeth with his bare hands. He snoozes away Sunday afternoons in his dentist chair until he meets Trina Sieppe, the cousin and fiancée of his friend, Marcus Schouler. His friend sees that McTeague and Trina are attracted and with fairly good grace accepts the situation. Many of McTeague’s violent and even repulsive qualities are highlighted by incidents in the novel. At an outing, Marcus and McTeague wrestle; Marcus, envious and angry, bites off McTeague’s ear lobe; the dentist, in turn, breaks Marcus’ arm. In adversity, McTeague’s brutality is intensified by drink. Sadistically, he bites his wife’s fingers until they are infected and have to be amputated. Adversity can only intensify his desperation, and one is not surprised when he beats his wife to death and then flees the consequences. In the middle of the desert, he is met by his former friend, now a member of the sheriff’s posse; again a violent struggle is the only response McTeague can give. He kills his friend, but not before Marcus has handcuffed them together under the boiling sun. McTeague’s death, like his life, is brutish. Readers have considered McTeague’s career, as related by Norris, a triumph of realistic description.
Marcus Schouler, who lives above McTeague’s...
(The entire section is 524 words.)