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Race and Naturalism in the Short Fiction of Norris, Crane, and London

Jeanne Campbell Reesman

in The Oxford Handbook of American Literary Naturalism

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780195368932
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195368932.013.0016

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Race and Naturalism in the Short Fiction of Norris, Crane, and London

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This article discusses how Frank Norris, Stephen Crane, and Jack London addressed the issue of race. All three naturalists treated the theme of the racial “Other” as a criminal in works of short fiction, but adopted differing modes to convey their attitudes: Norris chose the narrative of descent; Crane, the fable; London, satire. As naturalist “muckrakers,” they shared a sense of wanting to explore racism as an important social problem in their time, particularly in the aftermath of the Civil War, but if they shared similar concerns, they did not share the same goals. Norris and Crane employed stereotypes and concealed the narrator's point of view—and their own position as author—in stories that ask few questions about race or racism but instead indulge in self-questioning by the authors, framed in terms of an incongruous irony. Unlike London's, their results do not seem to clamor for social justice.

Keywords: Frank Norris; Stephen Crane; Jack London; racialism; naturalism; racism; social justice

Article.  8613 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers) ; Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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