Shelby Daniels-Young Outline Paper #1

I. Introduction
A. At first glance, Frank Norris’s McTeague only seems to confirm the naturalist theory that humans are in the end only pawns of larger forces of ancestry and inextricable urges, which indicates a rather bleak outlook on any chance of improvement.
B. Thesis: Rather than being resigned to the idea that humans cannot shed their baser instincts and are unable to advance, Norris actually seems to celebrate an older, less sophisticated way of life, with the modern city representing a step backward rather than forward in development.

II. Norris ridicules practices and phenomena that are a part of city life, especially those that are ordinarily taken to represent power and high social status
A. The Charlatan Dentist
1. Norris mocks McTeague’s mother’s hopes of helping her son rise in society, since the man behind his training is a joke professional (p. 2)
B. Marcus’s political speeches and activities
1. Marcus just repeats nonsense political phrases, and his parade is more delusional than grand (p. 10, 110, 156)

III. Instincts warped in the context of or as a result of city environment
A. Trina’s saving without knowing why
1. said to be instinct inherent in her “peasant blood” (p. 106)
B. Marcus and McTeague in the desert
1. gold and water senselessly put on same level of importance for the two men (p. 345-6)

IV. Favor given to the old ways of San Francisco rather than the new
A. Lottery vs. prospecting
1. The lottery is a corrupting influence that is fed by Trina’s claim of sole ownership of the money (p. 122)
2. Goodwill and partnership characteristic of the prospecting scene (p. 319-321)

V. Having succumbed to the demands of the city, simpler pleasures are difficult to obtain
A. McTeague suffers when deprived of the quality food and clothing he’s grown accustomed too (p. 225)
B. Contentedness upon returning to the mines at Placer County ruined by the pursuit of city officials (p. 304-5)

VI. Conclusion



Shelby:   Counterintuitive and illuminating.   I completely agree with you that there’s a persistent nostalgia in McTeague, a longing for a simpler way of life at odds with the complexities of the modern city.  Rather than threading your argument through Marcus, or McTeague’s mother, you might want to focus on old Grannis and Miss Baker, representatives of a bygone generation who remain old-fashioned in spite of the urban environment, and who manage to survive, even to flourish, when younger folks like Trina and Marcus fail to.   McTeague is an interesting case here, with his heart in Placer County, but unfortunately now under the power of modern San Francisco.   I look forward to a great paper analyzing all of these.         — wd

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