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Chapter 9 - Naturalism

from Part II - Literary Contexts: Sources, Influences, Allusions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 December 2019

Steven Frye
Affiliation:
California State University, Bakersfield
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Summary

Critics have long debated the origins and influences on what might be called the McCarthian universe of violence. This chapter argues for a rethinking of the place of American literary naturalism – particularly the works of Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, Jack London, and Theodore Dreiser – as a key influence on McCarthy’s understanding of the omnipresence and inescapability of violence in human existence. Reading both McCarthy’s and the literary naturalists’ connections to the pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer and the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin in the mid-nineteenth century, the chapter marks striking similarities between the judge’s philosophy in Blood Meridian of “before man was, war waited for him” and the naturalist philosophy (as perhaps most purely articulated in Dreiser’s The Financier) that “life was war.” Both McCarthy and the naturalists, then, display an acceptance of a world and universe in which morality and justice no longer held any sway, violence, degradation, corruption, and indifference are the only constants, and human beings are little more than flickering, momentary flashes, either subject to or reveling in these violent characteristics.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Naturalism
  • Edited by Steven Frye, California State University, Bakersfield
  • Book: Cormac McCarthy in Context
  • Online publication: 12 December 2019
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108772297.010
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  • Naturalism
  • Edited by Steven Frye, California State University, Bakersfield
  • Book: Cormac McCarthy in Context
  • Online publication: 12 December 2019
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108772297.010
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Naturalism
  • Edited by Steven Frye, California State University, Bakersfield
  • Book: Cormac McCarthy in Context
  • Online publication: 12 December 2019
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108772297.010
Available formats
×