Monday, October 22, 2012

Comparing and Contrasting Stepehn Crane and Frank Norris's naturalistic characters

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In comparing and contrasting the naturalistic characters Henry Fleming of Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage with the central character of Frank Norris’s McTeague we see such issues as temperament, instinctual and social forces that drive these men to act the way they do. Each character is faced with personal issues yet on different levels. I will show how these characters are affected by their surroundings and how to themselves they justify their actions. In comparing and contrasting the naturalistic characters Henry Fleming of Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage with the central character of Frank Norris’s McTeague we see such issues as temperament, instinctual and social forces that drive these men to act the way they do. Each character is faced with personal issues yet on different levels. I will show how these characters are affected by their surroundings and how to themselves they justify their actions.

With both these characters we see issues of instincts and hoe they react to them. With McTeague we see sexual instincts when he comes to be attracted to Trina. “The male, virile desire in him tardily awakened, aroused itself, strong and brutal”. This is the beginning of McTeague’s sexual instincts towards Trina. In Henry Fleming’s case we see the instincts of wanting to be a hero of war. Before he joined the army he dreamed of grand battles that “thrilled him with their sweep and fire”; he desired a “Greeklike” or “Homeric” struggle. Another example with McTeague and sexual instincts is when he overpowers Trina in the train yard. Here he can not control his urges and kisses her. After doing this he says, “I’ve got her, by God! I got her, by God”. Henry on another level of acting on instincts is overpowered by the instinct of fear. When he thinks he will be overpowered by “a red and green monster,” he runs. These characters where faced with different types of instincts but however both acted on the instincts they had.

These characters each possessed certain types of temperaments that we where able to see through their actions and thoughts. McTeague not being the brightest of characters thought people where often “making little of him”. This in fact caused McTeage to lose his temper easily and act in an angry manner. He would think this often so he felt the forces where working against him. Now with Henry he would justify what he did through his own frame of mind. When he ran from the battle he was able to justify this with the squirrel. He threw a pinecone at him and he ran also. One aspect of temperament that each of these characters possessed in common at some point in each of their own novels was that of superiority. Henry felt he was superior at one point for fleeing the battle and McTeague felt superior to Trina.

When looking into the issue of adaptation one may say they each worked in opposite directions. With McTeague and him adapting to his environment and the issues with Trina he seemed to do well in the beginning. He moved from the mines to the city learned a trait and started a business. McTeague then became involved with Trina. When his relationship began to dwindle and he lost his practice he was able to go and get another job. Still we see McTeague adapting well to his environment. After losing a second job and returning to his prior ways we see McTeague maladapting. His environment around him comes down. One may say the external forces are what directed McTeague. In the case of Henry Fleming we see him having a hard time adapting to his environment. He is always questioning what is around him and acting to me what seems to be incorrect or immoral. Henry has trouble adapting to war and the way in which the veterans think. He is constantly fighting against himself and what he has done. He is unsure of what to do next or how people are viewing him. Still, after Henry fights in the battle he continues to question why he is where he is and if what he did was rite. It is not until the end of the novel that we have a sense that Henry has adapted and come to terms with his environment. To me these characters acted oppositely when adapting to their surroundings. One regressed while the other progressed.

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Another aspect that one may say affected these characters was that of chance. In McTeague’s case we can look at this at great lengths. What if the two did not meet? If Trina had not chipped her tooth then she may not have ever entered McTeague’s office. If she was never in his office then they may not have married and this money may not have entered into McTeague’s life. The forces that brought these two together and in some people eyes what caused their destruction happened by the forces of chance. In Henry’s case one may argue if he did not find that platoon and was not hit on the head would he ever have been accepted back into his regiment? If he did not seem to hurt by the forces of war would he have been taken care of the way he was? Henry always was concerned with the way people viewed him. If it was not for this would he have fought the way he did in the later battle?

Both of these characters had naturalistic qualities that connected them and set them apart. We where able how these naturalistic qualities helped one character into finding more out about themselves and progressing into a stronger willed male. With the other we saw how the qualities of naturalism deteriorated him to the lowest possible level that being death. The Red Badge of Courage and McTeague are viewed both as naturalistic works yet to me it seems the demise of the character McTeague makes one think this is the stronger naturalistic pieces of the two.



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