Chapter

A World Full of Fists

David E. Shi

in Facing Facts

Published in print July 1996 | ISBN: 9780195106534
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854097 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195106534.003.0012
A World Full of Fists

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Literary naturalists unearthed sobering new facts about contemporary American life. By exposing the comfortable to the reality of violent households and repulsive persons, they reminded readers that the supposed moral benefits of poverty may come at the expense of humanity itself. Perhaps most important, the naturalists questioned the very notion of the autonomous self capable of moral judgment and independent action. What most sharply differentiated Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris, and Stephen Crane from William Dean Howells, Henry James Jr., Sarah Orne Jewett, and Edith Wharton was their recognition of the overwhelming power of economic forces and nonrational impulses. To one degree or another, the naturalists imposed upon the world of observed fact an austere assumption about the deterministic nature of existence. This led them to go beyond a realism of simple facts, literal objects, and evident moral choices.

Keywords: naturalists; Theodore Dreiser; Frank Norris; Stephen Crane; William Dean Howells; Henry James; Sarah Orne Jewett; Edith Wharton; realism

Chapter.  13456 words. 

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