Social Determinism and Blind Fate in McTeague and Sister Carrie In the nineteenth century, many writers were influenced by several theories. One of these theories is the theory of social determinism. Social determinism is a belief in the central nature of people whose society has a strong effect to shape their characters according to their needs. Frank Norris and Theodore Dreiser, considered as Naturalist writers, have employed the theory of determinism in their works. Both of them argue that people have shaped by certain social forces, and these social forces play an important role to control people’s fate.
Hailley Forester January 9th 2018 Adv. American Lit. Period 1 McTeague’s Portrayal and His Deadly Transformation The novel McTeague by Frank Norris is filled with multiple naturalistic themes such as instinct, economic hindrances, fate, survival, violence, and life being unfair. The main character, McTeague, experiences the ideas behind many of these themes. McTeague is an uneducated dentist from a poor family who has opened a dentist shop in San Francisco.
At first glance, McTeague seems like a tragic story that was written simply to entertain the reader. But when the story is examined within the context of its time period and common ideals, it becomes evident that Frank Norris is using this novel to comment on the theory of Social Darwinism. This concept applies natural selection to the human race. It is the idea that human social organization is based on the survival of the fittest and that certain class or races dominate because they are biologically superior. Through the characters and circumstances in the novel, Norris makes it very clear that he supports this idea.
It has its origins in the works of Emile Durkheim, who was especially interested in how social order is possible or how society remains relatively stable. As such, it is a theory that focuses on the macro-level of social structure, rather than the micro-level of everyday life. Notable theorists include Herbert Spencer, Talcott Parsons, and Robert K. Merton. Functionalism interprets each part of society in terms of how it contributes to the stability of the whole
Carnegie, Conwell, and Alger Advocates of Wealth for All During the late nineteenth century, a form of Social Darwinism emerged called the Gospel of Wealth also known as the Success Gospel. Social Darwinism is “Herbert Spencer’s adaptation of Charles Darwin’s concepts of natural selection and “survival of the fittest” as it applies to human society” (Nash p. 417). Social Darwinists believed that the social order was the product of the natural selection of the individuals that were best suited for the existing living conditions. These individuals were white, Anglo-Saxon, wealthy men. This theory, Social Darwinism, was applied to the monopolistic efforts of businessmen as John D. Rockefeller, Jr. so eloquently stated: “The growth of a large business is merely the survival of the fittest” (Nash p. 417).
For those who have parent’s that were once immigrants or have strong culture beliefs causes background difficulty to adapt and fit into society. In the story of Frank Norris “McTeague” he provides examples of how the characters in one’s ethic background surpasses ethnic tendencies. In “McTeague” the reader is able to see the stereotypes of the 19th Century in America. The characters of McTeague, Trina and Zerkow are used to show the reader how their stereotypes have affected them through the novel and to some lead them to their death. We start of with one of the main characters.
However, the author quickly juxtaposes this idea with demeaning details that reveal McTeague’s downfall. McTeague is “sluggish”, “stupid, docile [and] obedient”. These characteristics convey a lazy ambition and weakness to push boundaries. This juxtaposition creates a sense of pity due to the promise and strength that McTeague possess yet his indolent mind holds him back. The emphasis on small details in the third paragraph shows McTeague’s lack of
This theory was based off Sutherland’s differential association theory, which had nine propositions outlining the process by which individuals acquire attitudes favorable to criminal or delinquent behavior with the basic idea that people tend to associate with others in which they come into contact. However, social learning theory puts more of an emphasis on definitions and applied the idea of operant conditioning by using positive and negative reinforcement. Thus, the theory assumes people are blank slates; people are not entirely good or entirely bad. They are either neutral or fall somewhere on the spectrum between good and bad. This theory also assumes that people are then molded into a criminal or a non-criminal since people end up in one group or the other based on people learning through
The theory of Social Darwinism states that in a society, the strongest and most well-fit humans will survive and the weak will die out. These ideas became well known in the late nineteenth century after they arose from Charles Darwin’s popular theory of natural selection. Novelist Frank Norris incorporated Social Darwinism into his work to show how certain classes and races dominate due to their biologically superior qualities. Norris believed that if a man tried to change the social status that he inherited at birth, he would eventually be brought back to the class that he was born into. In McTeague, Norris’ view of survival of the fittest is shown through the downfall of McTeague and Trina and the success of Miss Baker and Old Grannis.
HISTORY 15200 - EXAM 1 - Akanksha Tripathy How did William Graham Sumner justify Social Darwinism? How was this ideology used in relation to Gilded Age economics? Social Darwinism is based on the theories of evolution developed by British naturalist Charles Darwin. It is a term coined in the late 19th century to describe the idea that humans, animals and plants, compete in a struggle for existence in which natural selection results in "survival of the fittest. The term social Darwinist is applied to anyone who interprets human society primarily in terms of biology, struggle, competition, or natural law.