Naturalism was a literary movement of the late 18th century characterized by its focus on realism and social commentary. The selections in the Naturalism Collection display the period's embrace of scientific principles and tendency to view society from a detached perspective.

Publication year 1904Genre Short Story, FictionTags Naturalism

"A Wagner Matinée" opens in Boston, where its narrator—a young man named Clark—has moved to, after growing up in Red Willow County, Nebraska. Clark has recently received a letter from his uncle, Howard Carpenter, informing him that his Aunt Georgiana will soon be coming to Boston to claim an inheritance. Howard asks Clark to pick up Georgiana at the train station.The letter sparks strong emotions for Clark, transporting him from his current life to his... Read A Wagner Matinee Summary

Genre Short Story, FictionTags Classic Fiction, American Literature, Naturalism, Realism

“Désirée’s Baby” is a short story by Kate Chopin, first published under the title “The Father of Désirée's Baby,” in Vogue on January 14, 1893. It later appeared in Chopin’s 1894 short story collection Bayou Folk. The story takes place in Louisiana in the antebellum, or pre-Civil War, period. Its characters are Creole—descendants of colonists who lived in Louisiana during its periods of French and Spanish rule, who typically spoke French and practiced Catholicism. Chopin... Read Desiree's Baby Summary

Publication year 1899Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Childhood & YouthTags American Literature, Naturalism

Published in 1899 and written by author Frank Norris, McTeague: A Story of San Francisco is a novel in the tradition of Naturalism, a literary movement that explores how people are at the mercy of forces, internal and external, that dictate their behavior and destiny. In McTeague, despite their attempts to fight these forces, even fundamentally good people are brought to their destruction by their nature, their environment, and their social class. As their tenuous... Read McTeague Summary

Publication year 1888Genre Play, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Identity: Femininity, Identity: Sexuality, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Play: Drama, Naturalism, Scandinavian Literature, Class

Miss Julie is a naturalistic play produced in 1888 by the Swedish playwright and novelist August Strindberg. The play follows the acute romantic entanglement of the three characters: Miss Julie, a young aristocratic woman; Jean, her father’s well-read and well-traveled valet; and Kristine, the cook. Through the psychological battle of wills between Julie and the ruthless Jean, the play explores themes of Class Conflict and Social Hierarchy, Gender Roles and Power Dynamics, and The Complexity... Read Miss Julie Summary

Publication year 1880Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Society: Class, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Fame, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Identity: Femininity, Identity: MasculinityTags Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Love / Sexuality, Realism, Realistic Fiction, Naturalism, Class, History: European, French Literature

Publication year 1900Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, American Literature, Gender / Feminism, Naturalism

Sister Carrie is a novel published in 1900 by the American author Theodore Dreiser. Dreiser uses the story of Caroline Meeber, a naïve young woman who gets caught up in the gaudy venality of the city, to explore the emptiness of materialism, the tension between flesh and spirit, the inevitability of loneliness, and the role of women in the emerging America of the new century. Now recognized as one of the defining expressions of American... Read Sister Carrie Summary

Publication year 1909Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Society: Class, Self Discovery, Identity: Gender, Natural World: Nurture v. NatureTags Social Justice, Naturalism

Publication year 1899Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Music, Relationships: Mothers, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Gender / Feminism, Classic Fiction, American Literature, Depression / Suicide, Naturalism

The Awakening is Kate Chopin’s second novel. It was first published in 1899 and is considered one of the first examples of feminist fiction.The novel opens in the 1890s Louisiana, at Grand Isle, a summer holiday resort popular among wealthy Creoles who live in nearby New Orleans. Edna Pontellier, her husband, Léonce, and their two children are vacationing at the cottages of Madame Lebrun. Léonce is a kind and devoted husband, but he is often... Read The Awakening Summary

Publication year 1903Genre Novel, FictionThemes Natural World: Animals, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Action / Adventure, American Literature, Animals, Naturalism

Originally serialized in 1903, Jack London’s The Call of the Wild is an adventure story about Buck, a dog from the Santa Clara Valley who finds himself living the life of a sled dog in the Arctic wilderness. Through Buck’s adventure, the novel addresses what it takes to survive in the natural world, contemplates the connection of life and death, and demonstrates the power of respect and love. The Call of the Wild was immediately... Read The Call of the Wild Summary

Publication year 1887Genre Play, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Relationships: Marriage, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Play: Drama, Classic Fiction, Drama / Tragedy, Play: Tragedy, Gender / Feminism, History: European, Mental Illness, Relationships, Scandinavian Literature, Naturalism

Publication year 1939Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Society: ClassTags American Literature, Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, History: U.S., Social Justice, Poverty, Politics / Government, Great Depression, Naturalism

The Grapes of Wrath is a 1939 novel by American author John Steinbeck. It centers on the Joads, an Oklahoma family evicted from their farm following the 1930s dust storms which ruined local crops. Losing their land, the Joads travel to California to seek work. On their journey they encounter hardship, prejudice, and police intimidation. However, when they get there, things become worse. They must stay in squalid camps and discover that work for migrants... Read The Grapes of Wrath Summary

Publication year 1905Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Class, Society: Community, Relationships: Friendship, Society: Economics, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Natural World: Nurture v. Nature, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Relationships: Marriage, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Values/Ideas: Equality, Identity: Gender, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Identity: Femininity, Values/Ideas: Art, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: HopeTags Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Satire, Class, Gilded Age, Naturalism

Set in New York’s high society at the turn of the 20th century, The House of Mirth (1905), was the second novel by renowned American writer Edith Wharton. Wharton drew upon her own privileged upbringing in a wealthy, long-established New York family for her astute observations of this social milieu during the Gilded Age, a period marked by economic disparities and ostentatious materialism. Prior to the novel’s publication in October 1905, The House of Mirth... Read The House of Mirth Summary

Publication year 1905Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Society: Immigration, Society: Economics, Society: ClassTags American Literature, Industrial Revolution, Naturalism

The Jungle, first published in serial form in 1905, is a realist novel by American writer Upton Sinclair. Although fictional, the work is often considered an example of “muckraking” journalism—turn-of-the-century investigative reporting that took aim at political corruption while advocating for progressive reform. As an exposé of this kind, The Jungle both exceeded and fell short of its author’s intentions. Sinclair’s graphic account of the unsanitary and corrupt practices of America’s big meatpacking companies horrified... Read The Jungle Summary

Publication year 1901Genre Short Story, FictionTags Naturalism

“The Law of Life” is a short story by early 20th-century American writer Jack London; it was first published in 1901 as a stand-alone piece in McClure’s Magazine, and included the following year in London’s collection, The Children of Frost. Like many of London’s works, the story’s setting and themes reflect London’s experiences prospecting for gold in the Yukon region of northwest Canada. Its fatalistic tone, meanwhile, is characteristic of the naturalist school of literature... Read The Law of Life Summary

Publication year 1901Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Literature, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Science & Technology, Society: Economics, Life/Time: The Past, Life/Time: The Future, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Historical Fiction, Social Justice, Naturalism, Technology, Business / Economics

Publication year 1897Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Natural World: Environment, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: FateTags Classic Fiction, Auto/Biographical Fiction, Naturalism

The prolific American writer, poet, and journalist Stephen Crane is the author of “The Open Boat.” He published his short story in 1897 after surviving a shipwreck earlier in the year. To cover the brewing war between Cuba and its colonizer, Spain, Crane boarded the Commodore as 1896 turned into 1897. The ship sank, and Crane and others endured a day and a half on a tiny lifeboat. Before publishing his fictional account of the... Read The Open Boat Summary

Publication year 1869Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Society: CommunityTags Western, Naturalism, Classic Fiction

“The Outcasts of Poker Flat,” a short story by American author Bret Harte, showcases the customs and dialect of American Western Regionalism. As one of the first American writers to popularize Regionalism, Harte paved the way for other writers in this movement. Originally written in 1869 and published in The Overland Monthly, the literary magazine of which Harte was the pioneering editor, the story thematically employs gambling terminology to depict the choices humans face when... Read The Outcasts of Poker Flat Summary

Publication year 1895Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: War, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & PrideTags Military / War, American Literature, Historical Fiction, History: U.S., American Civil War, Naturalism

The Red Badge of Courage was written in 1895 by Stephen Crane, a novelist, poet, and journalist well known for his naturalist style and for incorporating the inner lives of common and marginalized people. The novel won wide acclaim for Crane, though his life after the book’s publication was distinguished by scandal and money troubles. Its themes reframe the concept of military duty as a rite of passage, detailing a highly individual and self-searching act... Read The Red Badge of Courage Summary

Publication year 1902Genre Short Story, FictionTags Naturalism

“To Build a Fire” is a short story by American writer Jack London. It was published in Century Magazine in 1908, and this guide references the 1908 edition. An earlier version of the story was published in Youth’s Companion in 1902. It is one of London’s many adventure stories based in the Klondike, where he prospected as a young man. There are six film versions of the story.The story is set during the 1890s gold... Read To Build a Fire Summary