The Triumph Of Naturalism 

Summers     ENG 232 / Project #2:  The Triumph Of Naturalism     Spring ‘16


Choose ONE of the following possibilities to develop for Project #2.  Remember that the essay—whether written in conventional or “creative” style—should follow the accepted of correct writing:  a clearly-stated thesis in the introduction; a body/development consisting of at least three points; and a strong conclusion.  In addition to demonstrating unity, coherence, and thorough development, the essay should be as grammatically correct as you can make it.  Also, use quotation from the works as necessary to support and exemplify your statements.


You will use the Norton text (or the text you’re using!) as your primary source for paraphrase and quotation, but you may choose to employ 2-3 secondary sources.  Be sure to follow correct MLA “parenthetical” style and Works Cited format.Don’t forget:  An essay is at least FIVE PARAGRAPHS total!



1)  How can Edith Wharton’s stories “The Other Two” and “Roman Fever”  be placed in the School of Naturalism”?  Or can they, based on your understanding of the principles of “Realism/Naturalism”?  Obviously, her work lacks the element of physical struggle central to the works of such writers as Upton Sinclair, HamlinGarland, Jack London, Stephen Crane, and Eugene O’Neill—but does she portray a different type of “fang and claw” competition between members of the human species?  Is the categorization of Wharton’s work as “drawing-room naturalism” accurate?  Why or why not?   Support your position with examples!




2) (CREATIVE TOPIC!)   YOU are Alice HaskettVarickWaythorn, the thrice-wed lady of Wharton’s “The Other Two.”  Assume that Mr. Waythorn, feeling manipulated and exploited, has filed for a “New York Divorce,” claiming that your wed him under false pretenses and that you are using his wealth and position to advance yourself and your daughter socially.  In a letter to the estranged Waythorn, explain—from your side—why you have been married twice previously.  What, exactly, was lacking in Haskett and Varick?  Why did you leave them?


What dilemma have you faced (a dilemma that a worldly man such as Waythorn) should

understand?  What “value” can you offer Waythorn to compensate your lack of innocence and the

apparent existence of your “hidden agenda” in  marrying him?  In short—what will he receive as

“pay-back” for his role in the marriage?


REMEMBER:  YOU, pragmatic woman, are realistic, and have “been around the block,” as the

“vulgarian”  would say; while Waythorn, for all his financial success and urbanity, still clings to archaic notions about “honor, commitment, loyalty,”  ad nauseam, poor lamb that he is—all those quaint, romantic illusions the people have about this “marriage contract”!


NOTE:  In YOUR letter, Alice,  quote yourself from the story; refer to the scenes and incidents that occur!  You don’t have to cite yourself in the text of the letter; simply attach a “Work Cited” at the end of it!



ENG 232 / Project #2:  The Triumph Of Naturalism          Spring ’16Page Two

Due:  Thursday, March 17th


3)  According to playwright Eugene O’Neill, The Hairy Ape is “a symbol of Man, who has lost his old harmony with nature, the harmony which he used to have as an animal, and has not yet acquired, in a spiritual way, a harmony with the ‘New Age’ of automation and machinery in which he finds himself today…The struggle in drama used to be with the gods, but it is now with himself, his own past.  His attempt ‘to belong’…Yank is really yourself and myself.  He is every human being.” (Interview, New York Tribune, March 16, 1924)


If Yank Smith (and to a lesser degree, his stoker-mates) are indeed symbolic of this “disharmony,” and inability  “to belong,” how does O’Neill portray this quality through the play’s setting and dialogue?  How does he communicate that “The Hairy Ape” is an “absurdist” play about “not belonging” in the world?


REMEMBER:  O’Neill’s use of “dramatic expressionism” in presenting this setting and dialogue!



4)  Along with such mainstream naturalists as Upton Sinclair and Jack London, Eugene O’Neill was considered a “fellow-travelers” in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 that toppled Tsar Nicholas’s regime in Russia, executed his family, and began the creation of the Soviet Union—a political entity based (some would loosely or erroneously) on the principles expressed by 19th century political/economic theorist Karl Marx.  “Marxist Socialism” (Collectivism, Communism) is based on the Marxist assumption that history has evolved (either naturally or, as Lenin and Stalin maintained, through armed revolution) from the Classic Age of Greece and Rome, through Feudalism to the Industrial Revolution, and finally to the overthrow of “reactionary capitalism” to the “Worker’s Collective,” in which “all individuals contribute to the greater good of the state as they can and receive from the state the goods and services that they need” (to quote Marx).


The force that drives this evolution, according to Marx, is class struggle, loosely expressed as the ongoing conflict between the privileged “Haves” (the wealthy) determined to maintain their dominance over the poor “Have-Nots”—striving to take power and resources from the “Haves.”


In “The Hairy Ape,” two economic cultures co-exist; one, the sweaty, hard-working stokers performing the laborious and dangerous work below decks to provide the comfort and easy pleasure of the moneyed “elite” living it up in palatial staterooms and saloons above.  Stalin’s government considered the play an anti-capitalist polemic, and thus was approved for performance in the USSR.


However, modern critics reject the reading, maintaining that Yank’s “alienation” (the sense of “not belonging”—also, try “anomie,” “angst”) represents more than simply his exploitation by the plutocracy.  In this reasoning, his “awakening” (induced by Long’s socialist rhetoric and Mildred’s appearance) is more than a growing sense of class-exploitation.


Yes or No, then:  Are we to read “Ape” as a political document, protesting the inequality of the system; or, is Yank’s problem more complex than this, caused by a sense of detachment and rejection by the world itself?  Does he represent the “meaninglessness” of life in the modern dystopia?   Pick a position; support it!




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