Monday, October 8, 2007

McTeague & Gender

"Perhaps he dimly saw that this must be so, that it belonged to the changeless order of things--the man desiring the woman only for what she withholds; the woman worshipping the man for that which she yields up to him" (84).

Consider the courting process in McTeague, its attitude towards sexuality and gender: what is the role of women in the naturalist text? Remember, Open Boat was a male text....
Also, what is the logic (or calculus) of sexuality and desire? From where does it derive and to where does it lead? Do we hear about this logic in society today?

10 comments:

Meghan said...

Naturalism and sexuality

McTeague experiences “a crisis for which he was totally unprepared” (Norris 21): instinctual, animalist sexual desire. Yet Norris is not critical of McTeague’s inappropriate actions towards an unconscious Trina. His actions represent a natural heritage rooted in “evil vices” for which he is not to blame (22). When McTeague calls out to God, he attempts to deny the natural heritage that enables him to finally express his internal struggle with sexuality. His reliance on God, or social construction, prevents him from properly socializing. Instead his natural instincts burst forth in such an abrupt, pitiable manner that Trina’s rejection of the pathetic marriage proposal seems cruel. This further suggests that Norris intends McTeague to remain inculpable of his sexual desire. It is also interesting to note that McTeague only becomes a three dimensional character when he reverts to a more natural state. Sexuality and desire, therefore, are natural, albeit vices. God and propriety deny the natural history of humanity and handicap emotional freedom, creativity, etc.

Michelle Cheng said...

McTeague is described as a stupid ponderous man, somewhat characteristic of an ogre, who is content with the mundane rountines of his everyday life. He is ignorant to emotional experiences--most notably lust, passion, and love--until his encounter with Trina arouses a dormant desire he did not realize he possessed.

Trina is described as innocent and pure, which is emphasized by her physical attributes of pale white skin, baby blue eyes, and overall "baby-like" qualities. She is a stark contrast to McTeague's burly appearance, which intensifies the unlikely relationship between the two. Since it is implied that McTeague has never felt the intimacy of a woman's touch, he is initially "disturbed" and "embarrassed" (14) by her presense. Yet, he finds himself fascinated by her and compelled to perform a hazardous dental procedure despite his medical judgement. He is governed first by his curiosity of her, then soon afterwards, by his affections.

Norris's use of naturalism in this instance is most conspicious when McTeague's lust for Trina causes him to lose control of his emotions and actions. He experiences for the first time a wide range of primitive sexual instincts and like an internal conflict of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, McTeague struggles to contain the "the brute" (18) fighting to break free.

Trina is the epitome image of purity for McTeague. In fact, McTeague perceives her as too good for him. He believes that his sexual desires for her will taint and corrupt her innocence. It is interesting to consider sex in a primitive sense for this instance. Sex itself as an act is crude. If one thinks of words associated with sex outside of the romantic hollywood portrayal, one thinks of words such as "thrust," and "penetration" which has rough and primitive connotations. Because of this, McTeague tries desparately to suppress the animal within him because he wants to retain the sweet and naive image of Trina.

McTeague struggles internally, but is ultimately overwhelmed by his passions and grossly kisses Trina in an uncontrollable instant. The brute could not be contained, and the fact that he broke free so suddenly foreshadows the new and continuing struggle between McTeague's primitive instincts and his free will.

Shantae M. said...

Frank Norris describes Mc Teague as “immensely strong, stupid, docile, obedient” with a “heavy, slow to act sluggish" body (Norris, p. 6). This creates an image of an animalistic character; therefore his courting process is expected to be abnormal. When Mc Teague meets Trina Sieppe is not attracted to her. For example, she is “without sex....almost like a boy, frank, candid, unreserved (Norris, p. 17).” Trina is not sexual; therefore her gender is vague. After spending more time with Trina, Mc Teague develops deep feelings for her. During one of Trina’s dentist appointments, Mc Teague struggles with his sexual desires as his barbaric behavior comes out. He fights the demon inside him who wants to take advantage of Trina’s unconscious mind and body. Eventually the evil side of Mc Teague prevails and he desperately kisses her. This scene marks the beginning of his sexual desires for Trina. As a monstrous character, Mc Teague uses his strength by giving Trina a “bear hug” in hopes that it will force her to fall in love and marry him. These courting tactics are not normal in our society today; however due to his primitive behavior, Mc Teague himself is not normal.

josie said...

Although much emphasis and attention is focused on Mcteague and his struggle with the beast within, it is also important to recognize the unfamiliar change that is taking place within Trina. In the beginning of the novel, Trina was explained as not having a sex and being almost like a boy because of her innocence, which is the essence of her charm and bulwark of her identity. However, after she surrenders herself to Mcteague, she undergoes a sexual transformation and "the woman within her [is] suddenly awoke[n]" (Norris 53). Norris's use of the word "surrender" emphasizes Trina as a mere agent who can be controlled and overtaken by the influence of men in her life. McTeague is more obsessed with "winning" and "having" Trina, than actually earning her love and desire. Both McTeague and Marcus refer to Trina as an object to be owned and traded when Marcus so valiantly and selflessly chooses to
forsake his love,not even taking into consideration that Trina might refuse Mcteague" (Norris 35). Her future and environment is completely in the control of the men. Thus, as pitiable and helpless McTeague may seem to his physical and internal transition, I feel more sympathy for Trina, whose innocence and identity were abruptly stolen from her.

Kyle Curson said...
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Kyle Curson said...
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Kyle Curson said...
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Shantae M. said...
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M. said...

The relationship between characters, McTeague and Trina, begin as a friendship and develops into an internal struggle of self for McTeague which Trina must tolerate. Trina is described as being straightforward, petite, sweet, and pure. McTeague, the antithesis of her being, is an animal-like man whose strength overpowers Trina and whose character begins to embody his father's dynamism of a brute man. Frank Norris plays on naturalism in McTeague's character through his actions of bestiality as he forces himself to kiss Trina and act on his inherited instincts. Also, through McTeague's ambitious behavior of forcing Trina into marriage, she becomes vulnerable in her emotions and gives in to be McTeague's "irrevocably" (53).

At the beginning of the novel, before he meets Trina, he is of an innocent man, living his weekly habitual routine and unaware of all society. His change in behavior can only be referred back to his father. McTeague reflects his father's crude animal-like being in that he has embodied traits of becoming a future, possible, demented, melancholy man. McTeague's battle to find himself trouble his and Trina's relationship and is ultimately leading up to a reality that he must face.

Monica Chum

M. said...

McTeague is continually depicted as a “brute” and a beast-like man who stands as an outsider to the world surrounding him, a man who does not feel comfortable or relatively normal in his own society in general. Due to this mentality, it is only logical that McTeague would also generate abnormal and uncomfortable behaviors when an unfamiliar event happened in his mundane, routine life- such as courting a young, beautiful woman. McTeague clearly cares enough about the young Trina to want to hold back his barbaric, animalistic sexual instincts for the fear of tainting her, but without realizing the absurdity of his proposal awkwardly becomes an overwhelmingly monstrous being and scares his intended lady into a fit of vomiting sickness. This gesture of marriage and the courting process is seemingly random and aggressive yet for McTeague, who reacts like that “of a child”, it is all he knows.

Ashley McFadden