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On Naturalistic Elements in Winesburg, Ohio

Author WeiRenYi
Tutor WangMinQin
School Hunan University
Course Foreign Language and Literature
Keywords Sherwood Anderson Winesburg Ohio Naturalistic Elements TheSense of the Real The Objective Reality The PsychologicalReality
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2013
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As an important novelist in American literary history, Sherwood Anderson(1876-1941) is best-known for his masterpiece Winesburg, Ohio in1919. Since itspublication, it has won readers and scholars’ favor for its unique narrative technique,writing style and daring subject matter.Based on "the sense of the real" of naturalistic theory put forward by the Frenchnaturalistic literature master Emile Zola (1840-1902), it is intended to research thenaturalistic elements in this novel. Firstly, by cautiously reading, Zola’s "the sense ofthe real" contains two levels,"the objective reality" and "the psychological reality".Apart from truthfully recording the changes in American Midwestern townspeople’life in the transitional period from an agrarian society to an industrial one, Andersonalso delineates the "grotesque" groups by touching upon their inner heart. Secondly, itis expected to verify "the objective reality" by the detailed description of natural andsocial environment and the subtle delineation of physical deformities under theinfluence of such environment. Thirdly, it is anticipated to verify "the psychologicalreality" by faithfully exploring the unwholesome psychology of main protagonists.Finally, it is pointed out that the freedom from such unwholesome psychology mainlylies in mutual understanding and communication, the understanding of thequintessence of love and departure from the small town Winesburg.From the above-mentioned, the conclusion may be safely arrived at thatWinesburg, Ohio includes plenty of naturalistic elements, and there are much moredescriptions of "the psychological reality" than that of "the objective reality".Therefore, Anderson attached adequate importance to the exploration of characters’inner world, especially the repression and distortion caused by the transitional society.As a result, Anderson was able to create the unique "grotesques" in American literaryhistory. On the one hand, Anderson showed deep nostalgia for the past pastoral lifeand strong condemnation for the industrialization and mechanization causing deformities both physically and psychologically. On the other hand, Anderson wasthought of to be a writer with high sense of social responsibility.Although Winesburg, Ohio has always been analyzed and interpreted withdifferent literary critical theories, the application of Zola’s theory of Naturalism tointerpret it has not been touched upon up to now. It is anticipated that the thesis, as aninitial and beneficial attempt, will facilitate the all-round interpretation of this novel.

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