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A Study of American Naturalism in East of Eden

Author SuYaRan
Tutor LiHuiFang
School Hebei Normal
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords naturalistic factors narrative writing style optimistic tone under pessimism
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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American Naturalist Literature occupies an important position in the history of American literature. The profound socio-economic changes in the late 19th century had a major impact on its ideology and culture. Complex changes in the social life show a more extensive world for the writers and artists to create. John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was a writer of this period and his works are the combination of naturalism and realism. As an important novelist during this period, Steinbeck had made important contributions for the development of American literature. His works attracted a wide range of literary criticism from the critic community. I take a research on this thesis for the following two considerations: First, Steinbeck is one of the representatives of American naturalism writing in late 19th, he is indispensable in the heritage and development of American literary naturalism. Steinbeck’s writing is in a transitional period from naturalism to realism, although East of Eden belongs to the late works of Steinbeck’s writing career, naturalistic ideas does not disappear from this novel, on the contrary the biological "life cycle" has a greater impact on it, his creation follows his creative ideas he held when he first entered literary world. Through the research in this thesis, we can see the heritage and development of American literary naturalism in the late period. Second, although there are a lot of studies on Steinbeck, almost no one studies its naturalistic characteristics from a specific novel, especially from his late works. The overall study of the novel will help reveal Steinbeck’s creative thinking in his late writing and also will help readers have a good understanding of Steinbeck’s writing features.In the past decades, the literary criticism on Steinbeck can be divergent, almost all novels of Steinbeck have been studied, but their study was from different perspectives, methods and themes. The existing research on Steinbeck focuses on the following aspects: First, focus on its symbolic significance in the novel; Second, focus on the novels’pessimistic theme - the shattered American dream; Third, the study focused mainly on his early works, especially his most famous work The Wrath of Grapes and some of his short stories and medium-term works; in recent years, scholars committed to study the use of contemporary critical theory such as feminism, new historicism and the poetics pursuit of the novel in order to reveal the history and cultural values of the novels.The thesis is engaged in studying Steinbeck’s naturalistic viewpoints as well as the naturalistic writing style in East of Eden. The thesis is composed of three chapters, including the introduction and the conclusion. The introduction part introduced the origin and the development of American naturalism, simultaneously introduced Steinbeck and this novel’s creation background; the first chapter has analyzed the naturalistic factors in the novel, which is mainly about the environmental (natural environmental and social environmental) and the hereditary influence on characters’destiny. The second chapter focuses on the dominance of the instinct desire to person’s behavior and to characters’destiny; the third chapter has analyzed the American naturalism writing style; Conclusion: Naturalism has a full performance in East of Eden and studying of the novel provides us with valuable insights into Steinbeck’s novel style.

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