Monday, October 8, 2007

Fiction in Naturalism (Remember to sign your comments!)

"Did that wonderful service of gold exist outside of her diseased imagination?...
It was not impossible..."


Consider the subplot of Zerkow & Maria Macapa: what is the role of stories/fictions/myth in naturalist texts? We encountered some already in The Open Boat--Why is Zerkow interested? What does he have Maria do? Consider repetition wherever you encounter it in the text....

7 comments:

m said...

When considering the story in context with the times, (when naturalism was being developed, scienctific knowledge was leaking down to the masses and the notion of god was being questioned) it seems that the stories the characters rely on are being mocked. Just as religions utilize the same texts over and over again, and rely on them for inspiration for whatever emotion need be stirred, Maria's recounting of the gold service is told in the same way each time, yet never fails to enthrall Zerkow. Those characters that rely on myth or fiction in naturalistic texts come off weak as a result of their consistent fascination with repetition. Yet the story is given some credibility with the simple suggestion that "it was not impossible", so it is unrealistic to draw a standard conclusion that any element of fiction present in naturalistic work (excluding the work itself) is present only for ridicule. Perhaps we are merely invited to consider and question these elements of myth and fantasy as the characters display them for our examination, for at the time of McTeague, many elements of myth and supersition were prevelant in society.

Suzannah Powell

scott said...

The subplot of Maria Macapa and Zerkow adds to the unsophisticated air of this book as well as provides a backdrop of greed and mystery. As characters, Maria and Zerkow do not inspire greatness or on the contrary, dazzle the reader with creatively evil intent. These two are simple, basic creatures, one of whom truly desires only one thing in life, gold. The simple trading between the two is a primitive interaction, even more so than the crude "dental profession" that McTeague practices. Maria and Zerkow are two adults living in a modern city, yet the allure of "junk" and gold consume a large portion of their lives and imaginations, for Zerkow all of his imagination. The tale of Maria's family and the gold dinnerware is enticing, but the thought of recovering the pieces in their glory is irrational. This subplot, however, does illustrate the power of the primeval desires that have been a part of human nature for millenia. Norris includes this subplot of greed and mystery to demonstrate the presence and power of the innate in a major city, a place of the utmost modernity and rationality. The gilded trappings of any city can only disguise the debauchery within.

Scott

Shantae said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shantae said...

Naturalism, by definition, excludes the acts of a natural power, yet the subplot of Maria and Zerkow, and in particular Zerkow's character, is full of religious undertones. Maria's description of the gold service is like the reading of a holy text - an "illiterate" and "unimaginative" character suddenly becomes "eloquent." Even her name, Maria, is a form of Mary. Zerkow's obsession with her story, however, and his general worship of gold is even more religious in nature. He begs Maria to describe the gold service over and over, and feels privileged to even be near someone who has seen such a spectacle. Zerkow, in fact, chooses to believe that Maria's story is true; he is compelled to believe in the existence of this splendor, despite the fact that it's highly unlikely that he will ever even see such a display of gold, let alone possess it. This brings to question the worth of worship.
It is also worth noting that Maria and Zerkow, in addition to being symbolically religious, are despicable characters. As Maria makes her rounds through the flat, nearly every character deplores her presence. The description of Zerkow, as well as his greedy obsession, make it easy to see him as an incarnation of evil.

Marissa Rousseau

M. said...

In a world that is brutally real, myths serve as an escape from the everyday reality that the characters have to experience in a naturalistic novel. Maria Mercapa and Zerkow are two characters in McTeague that are sort of an escape from the usual naturalistic viewpoint. Maria Mercapa and Zerkow both bring a sort of absurdity to the novel that juxtaposes their ideas and style of living with the very monotonous way of living of McTeague, for example.

It is as if Maria and Zerkow both live in their own mythical worlds: Maria, telling her doubtful and ridiculous stories and repeating the phrase “…had a flying squirrel an’ let him go” (38) after her name and Zerkow, who actually wants to believe Maria’s stories due to his obsession with gold. Both of these characters challenge the rest of this naturalist novel and represent the diversity that exists hidden even below uneducated, primitive characters such as the main character, McTeague.

Stephanie Uriarte

M. said...

In McTeague’s world of routine, where the shop girls and dental clients show up on cue day in and day out as McTeague watches from his bay window, Maria and Zerkow offer a sudden contrast. Although they interact with everyone else, they are two people far removed from the rest of McTeague’s world. Maria is described as a woman used for the amusement of others. Marcus used Maria as a way to make Trina laugh; although she is in some ways more complicated and intelligent than McTeague, her character is continuously mocked, an annoyance to the rest of the boarders. Maria’s myth sets a comical tone to the sterile monotony of the rest of the novel. We are reminded with every repetition of the story that Zerkow’s and Maria’s lust for gold and grandeur are not too different from McTeague’s animalistic desires. However, Zerkow and Maria are the only characters that are seen as “others” in the novel, while McTeague is regarded with respect as a “doctor.”

--Tracy Pham

Carol said...

Maria’s mythical tale of gold unites Maria and Zerkow by providing each with what they most wish for. Maria, a poor “maid of all work” (152) whom everyone regards as crazy, longs to be desired and respected. This is shown though her constant attempts to imitate the style of “the girls who tended the soda-fountain in the candy store” (23). She wishes to be “in the world [and] debonair” (23). Zerkow’s insistence upon her constant repetition of the story provides Maria with “someone to talk to […] who believes her story” (122). This fills her with a sense of self-worth, probably making her feel important and cared for.
Yet, while this myth comforts Maria, it only feeds Zerkow’s avarice. Though he is provided with a hope of future wealth, he is driven mad with his greed. Zerkow’s marriage to Maria was not a demonstration of his love for her, but of his obsession with gold. It appears that the more Zerkow hears this myth, the more fanatical he becomes.

Carol McBirney