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by Shalma Akthar

Realism (1855-1900) was a profound time in which the writers focused on social realism and realistic fiction. It focused on the abolition of slavery, common characters not idealized and man’s lack of control over his fate. Realism did not “fluff” up what was going on but rather reported the truth which was the realistic view. It contained two sub-genres that included naturalism and regionalism. Some of the most recognized writers of this period of this time include Mark Twain and Jack London who represented this period well. London’s To Build a Fire portrayed a man’s struggle to control his fate and Twain’s The Disgraceful Persecution of a Boy mocked the social injustice the Chinese were facing with his satire piece.

Jack London’s short story To Build a Fire represents the struggle men has with nature and how men cannot control his fate. An unnamed man walks through the Yukon trail with his dog believing it is 50 degrees below zero but in reality it is more. But the men posses the knowledge to survive. Throughout his whole experience his dog is beside him, waiting for the men to feed him. The men, often, feels jealous of the dog that can survive and feel warm by burying himself in the snow and rolling up into a ball. The men at the end, resorts to his last attempt to survive by attempting to kill the dog and using his body as shelter and warmth. But the men has no strength to “draw nor hold his sheath-knife nor throttle the animal” and cannot kill the dog. The men does anything in his power to control his fate by finding ways to survive but cannot because it is too cold for him to do anything. The dog who is supposed to symbolize nature on the other hand can survive without having any knowledge because it is within its existence to survive. London represents realism by asserting through his writing that men has no control over his fate no matter how much knowledge one has, it is up to fate.

        Mark Twain’s The Disgraceful Persecution of a Boy introduces the racial tension between the Chinese and white men in California. A young boy is convicted of stoning a Chinese men when he has been  told by society “it was a high and holy thing to stone a Chinaman”. The story represents a bigger problem than rather just outlawing the stoning of a Chinese man. Twain is trying to tell his audience that in order for the boy to treat the Chinese men fairly, than society as a whole must treat the Chinese men fairly. The boy stones the Chinese man because he is following what he sees and is taught. Twain also believes that punishing a boy for doing what he has been told to believe is not the correct manner to handle the situation; because the boy is not at fault for his actions, society is. Twain represents a bigger issue at hand and wants the audience to recognize it. On the other hand, London represents man's failure to control his future, together they both represent the Naturalism period.

Posted: Mar 29, 2014 by Talbia Abdullah

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