The interpretation of the notion of the force of nature in literature and its correlations with determinism.
How does naturalism in literature reveal the force of nature? Why does naturalism neglect supernatural powers? Why does determinism deny the possibility of a man to have a free will that will influence the course of the events?
Naturalism in terms of literature is a special perception of the reality of the world around us. Everything happening around us seems to be an experiment held by nature.
"The naturalist is one who affirms that only nature exists and by implication that the supernatural does not exist... The natural world is all of reality; it is all there is; there is no 'other world' “
Introduction: Literature works throughout the history have been influenced deeply by naturalism and its branches. Naturalism originally is a doctrine dealing with a definite force that exists and functions according to certain laws, is stable and keeps repeating its cycles all the time. The leading for according to this doctrine is nature. Every single thing should obey the laws of nature and there is no other way to exist except the way of following whatever is supposed to happen according the natural forces. Naturalism in terms of literature is a special perception of the reality of the world around us. Everything happening around us seems to be an experiment held by nature.
Naturalism neglects supernatural powers and considers the nature (the outside world, environment) to be the primary reason for everything happening [Augustine]. Therefore everything can be explained in terms of nature. This natural power is above everything, even human beings. It does not take into account anything it just – exists. The question of naturalism is the question of nature affecting the outside world and the consequences it brings to it. Naturalism depicts everything exactly the way it is and considers everything to be the cause of natural influences. Naturalism with its all-embracing influence on the world makes people believe that everything is inevitable, implies that the individual’s will has no effect on the outcome. Therefore its close connection with determinism becomes sufficiently evident. As it is known, determinism deals with analyzing everything from the point of being predestined. It assures its followers that everything happens exactly the way it is supposed to happen and nothing can be done about it. According to determinism it is useless to fight your destiny, because you will face what you were supposed to face. Determinism denies the possibility of a man to have a free will that will influence the course of the events. Determinists think that no matter how hard you try to will still be in the right time in the place you are supposed to be to meet you future. One of the characteristics of the philosophy of determinism that is so ardently disputed is the assumption that if the person does not control its life and cannot change the course of the events therefore a man is just an object of nature’s manipulation. Being a simple object of nature’s manipulation means not being responsible for what you do or say. A human being turns out to be a go-between the nature and accomplishment of its will. It completely deprives people from having free will for doing anything is their lives. But what would our life be if we would have lost our believe in the possibility to have a free will because free will “… is the illusion of free will that powers the economies of the world, creates societies, and maintains order…” [Winn].
The controlling forces that leave us with no will is not represented by nature, but also our heredity and environment as the key factor of the formations of the personality of a man. Through heredity we get aptitudes and abilities that do put us on a certain path and are complemented with the influence of the environment. In naturalist literature, a character, not shown as an individual, but as a “consequence” of the will of nature, without really showing it subjectivity is the way the author of “Native Son” tries to achieve objectivity. The reader is given bare facts and decides himself what way he is going to interpret them. Everything is depicted very realistically, with accuracy peculiar only to science. Science has a very big influence on naturalism since it is so closely connected with nature and many things are presented through science terms nowadays. The more science develops the more naturalism has a base for its own development because it gets support and the acknowledgement of its main principles. Therefore naturalism in literature has a very strong background and though some moments tend to be contradictional, especially the matter concerning its connection with determinism and not having the opportunity to make a choice.
Richard’s Wright’s novel “Native Son” can be considered one of the brightest examples of naturalism in literature. Its naturalistic nature is revealed through the character’s disability to influence anything in his life and taking everything happening to him as a normal and impossible to change facts. Outer forces that catch him from the very beginning and continue carrying him till the end influence him enormously. Naturalism attains its peak throughout this influence. Outer forces in the novel are represented by three main factors: biological forces, environmental forces, and the right to reform. These three forces determine the whole life of the main character Bigger. They become vital and the most important factors influencing his life. Biological forces are represented by his color of skin and genetic code that transmitted certain abilities to Bigger. Environmental forces are represented by the situation and atmosphere of racism he lived in, people who surrounded him, ideas that were appealing to him, the values that he got from his family and so on. The right to reform is something he had no idea about, something that was not even set in his consciousness, and something he was not taught to use. The combination of these three forces makes a very strong integration whose influence is no way to be tolerated by a human being.
The structure of the novel corresponds to its genre; even in it the naturalistic influence is obvious. The novel consists of three books: Fear, Fight and Fate. Fear - is the fear of white people, the fear of being nothing and being worth of nothing in this life. Fight - is an attempt to do something, to do something to acquire the sense of wholeness. And finally Fate – is what cannot be escaped and what all the black people in 1930 had in common. Being black was hard because it automatically lead you to the life in poverty and hopelessness. It determined ones life completely for the very birth till the last breathe. The enviroment Bigger lived in was cruel. 1930 were the time when racism was a normal phenomenon and when black people lived in awful poverty. Richard Wright was a man that had no doubts in protesting the treatment black American got form the white people. Their racist persecutions by the Ku Klux Klan and by other racist organizations, the living conditions they found themselves in such as the impossibility to find a decent job and the obligation to pay a high rent influenced the lives of the afro-Americans a lot. It shows a lot of ”racial tensions, social barriers between classes and a young man’s anger and sense of helplessness over his position in life”[Butler 48]. It is not just book about survival in the conditions of harsh racism it is a book of growing up in an alien world, a world where a black person was not considered to be equal and was humiliated. Bigger kills and through it he acquires the sense of self-importance:
Conclusion: "I didn't want to kill," Bigger shouted. "But what I killed for, I am! It must've been pretty deep in me to make me kill! I must have felt it awful hard to murder.... What I killed for must've been good!" Bigger's voice was full of frenzied anguish. "It must have been good! When a man kills, it's for something... I didn't know I was really alive in this world until I felt things hard enough to kill for 'em. It's the truth..."[ Wright book 3].
Only at the end of the book Bigger changes a bit his view on the white-and- black relationship. Nevertheless, the reader does not feel sorry for Bigger. Like in the very beginning Bigger kills a rat. The poor little creature that stands in the corner and has no way out is killed ruthlessly with a griddle. Like this rat Bigger finds himself in the corner with no way out to escape. He was put in the conditions that there was nothing he could do about it. His life was predetermined as the life of that rat that happened to be in the wrong place and at the wrong time. This animal was a rat and had no other place to live but close to people in order to survive. Bigger did not even ever think about the possibility of getting another job and that he may be capable of something better than what he had. The rat did not think about any other possibilities because it could not, Bigger did not because he did not simple see any other possibilities in his life. Concluding, it is important to say that Richard Wright’s novel “Native Son” is an outstanding work arousing the most important problems of the time it was issued. It was the first true naturalist book to discuss and protest the racial discrimination in the United States. It showed how outer forces influenced and determined the lives of thousand of people through the life on Bigger Thomas. Wrights revealed the racism victim’s life in detail and the consequences it had for him. The author pointed out how important is the enviroment and as long as we do not change it for better we will keep observing the repetition of Bigger’s case. And if everything is predetermined by this enviroment is not it vital to change it and arrange in a more adequate way that would fit all the people inside it.
1. Keith Augustine “A Defense of Naturalism”
2. Jim Winn “The Science of Determinism”
3. Butler, Robert/ “Native Son: The Emergence of a New Black Hero”/ Twayne Publishers/ 1991.
4. Richard Wright /“Native Son” / Perennial/1987.