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Lucy Briito

Writing 37
February 7, 2016
Word Count: 2014
Set in Stone
Last Exit to Brooklyn, is a series of six short stories written by Hubert Selby Jr., portrayed
from a naturalistic point of view. The authors naturalistic purpose was to depict the world for the
evil it is by showing people and things for what they actually are. Among those six stories, three
particular short stories stand out, Another day Another Dollar, The Queen is Dead, and
Tralala. All three of these chapters have similar themes, revolving around the main characters
who have lost control of their inner lives because of the lack of power, exploitation of drugs, sex,
violence, and the influence of outside forces. The author Hubert Selby Jr. designed the novel to
be an idea that environment determines a character's actions. The environment conveys the idea
that the characters lacked control of their lives because of the world they coexisted in .The novel
targets middle and upper class individuals in particular to allow the audience to step away from
their comfort zone and see the life of the lower class. The detailed imagery gives the reader a
precise visual image of what each character goes through in their everyday life, as well a vivid
painting of the dangers of Brooklyn. Hubert Selby has previously stated the people in his story
are not fictional. He is writing about real people. Why is it so shocking to believe there is evil
and violence if it surrounds us? The answer is simple: it is within all of us. Evil is within all of
us. It is to the extent you are raised to stay away from the temptations and learn to cope with it.
While, others were never taught or just lack the ability.

The novel Another day Another Dollar is displayed in a naturalistic manner because
these characters are unemployed and have no one to turn to. With boredom and no sense of
direction this impoverished unwanted community have no one to govern them but a corrupted
police force - who also fail to do their job. The main characters in the novel Vinnie, Freddy, and
Harry are young, prideful, and out of control. The characters lack vision in their actions because
they are built not to display vulnerability but instead, turn towards violence in order to show their
dominance. An example is evident when the author uses dark imagery in a scene where Freddy
picks a fight with a soldier over name calling, and Freddy kicked him in the temple and the
yellow bastard eyes rolled back and his head splashed and thumped to the ground and someone
yelled the cops (Selby 17). The author establishes a pessimistic tone with the depictions of
hoodlums nearly killing a soldier who protects our country. Freddys inability to feel compassion
or restraint ultimately shows how he has no self-control. The message Selby is trying to convey
is that these are the real actions of people who cant be tamed because theyve lost vision of right
from wrong. This illustrates a perfect picture of America targeting the police. It takes both the
enforcement and its citizens to restore and follow order. Freddy didnt get punished for a first
degree murder, a crime punishable with the death penalty. Fate is feature of naturalism, fixed at
birth by ones opportunities, upbringings such as financial status and family. It is what
determines who a person might grow up to be or do. Yes there is a chance it could be different
but it is very unlikely to fight the odds that have been given to you. In The Naturalistic- Inner
City Novel in America Chapter 5: The Game of Mum as Theme and Narrative Technique in
Hubert Selbys Last Exit to Brooklyn by Giles, gives a great example explaining naturalism.
The assertion that Giles is trying to use allows him to reach readers outside working class
slums, he hoped to rouse designation and have the privileged in suburbia face reality in the inner

city. (Giles 121) Freddy and the boys never had control of their lives because it what was never
predetermined for them to have control. They dont have opportunities to better themselves. The
author uses his writing as an outlet to understand and help people step into the less fortunate
shoes of others. Selby depicts these individuals as savages. Referencing the beginning of each
chapter of his short stories he begins it with a biblical allusion. Ecclesiastes 3:19 speaks about
humans and animals being of equal. They both share the same fate. Humanity is not perfect:
everyone falls a bit short. We are beings who innately crave power and success. The verse
compares humans with beasts because humans are sinful creatures in need of a savior. The savior
in Another day Another Dollar would be a force of government who can control their citizens.
Despite of efforts being made to become selfless and faultless, humans fail every day and fall
short of becoming perfect.
In another chapter of the book, The Queen is Dead, the main characters sexuality
causes problems. Georgette is not accepted by her family, especially her brother who beats her
for dressing up as a woman. Naturalisms purpose in this chapter was to emphasize how difficult
it was for someone who couldnt be accepted and how that ultimately pushes a person to do
anything to feel wanted. During the middle of the nineteenth century being LGBT was looked
down upon. The author stresses with the underline symbol of drugs a symbol of escape from
reality. When being a victim of harassment, Vinnie and Harry two male characters in the novel
threw a knife at Georgettes leg. Georgette had no option but to go home dressed as a woman. She
knew her brother was home and wasnt ready to suffer the consequences. Selby emphasizes as
She limped toward the door and stopped in the vestibule, put a handful of Bennies in her
mouth, chewed then swallowed them. (Selby 35) Bennies are drugs prescribed to patients with
ADHD to aid a patient to remain attentive. If taken a large overdose one begins to hallucinate a

side effect the main character abused. She abused it because it was the closest form of stability
she could obtain. As soon as she would take the Bennie, she would go into a state of mind where
nothing mattered. The only thing that mattered was Vinnie the man she loved. Georgette had no
control of herself. Her addiction went from wanting to take drugs, to needing to take them. The
New York Times Beyond Revulsion by Eliot Fremont Smith is convinced that the characters in
the novel never had control of their lives, Reactions to this of pity or anger become irrelevant;
the feelings do go numb- not from horror, but from hopelessness. Georgette knows she wont be
accepted by neither her brother nor her mother. She doesnt pity herself or get angry for the way
she is treated. Instead, it is as if she has become immune to being treated harshly. Georgette lost
the ability to feel. She wants to feel emotions again and believes her savior is Vinnie. By having
sex with Vinnie, she will be able to feel intimacy and acceptance - a feeling foreign to her.
Georgette knows she will never be able to change the perspective of people so she becomes
hopeless that she will ever be able to feel accepted. Hence, she results to numbing herself
internally through the usage of drugs, Bennies. Donald Pizer published a paper, "Late Nineteenth
Century American Literary Naturalism: A Re-Introduction" asserting naturalism is The fate of
any specific individual was determined beyond his or control. This is represented in Georgettes
case because she could not control how people viewed the idea of being gay, none the less
transgender. Hubert Selby tried to justify why Georgette saw her true identity as a female rather
than a male through a biblical allusion. Genesis 1:27 translates the idea god created the female
out of a male. It is an example of naturalism by showing how Georgette views her true self to be.
She feels as if she is the incorrect gender meant to be female.
In possibly the books most controversial chapter, Tralala the main character Tralala
since the age of 15 has been having sexual intercourse with males with the notion that it is better

than having a real job. Tralala doesnt seem to have a family and a home to go to from the
conclusion she sleeps with a man each night and has no evidence of going homeThe author is
using naturalism to give an example of how one individual can fall into her position narrating the
process by which conditions in mid-century New York make Tralalas fate common among
others. Selby says Tralala doesnt have the ability to control her life even when given the
opportunity to bring some stability in her life. It isnt because she doesnt want to but more
because it is determined for her to continue living the lifestyle she lives in. When Harry, an Army
officer she intended to rob riches from, came into her life asking her to come live with him,
Tralalas greed was her downfall. An example is She ripped the envelope apart and turned the
letter over. Not a centif you do feel as I hope you do Im writing my address at the bottom.
(Selby 104) Her actions were apathetic. She didnt have any control to realize someone remotely
could have loved her. Instead of processing the idea of moving in with Harry, her mind focused
on money. Harry had bought Tralala some sweaters and dresses as a symbol of compassion. The
underlying meaning behind the clothes Harry bought Tralala, was that she only had a couple
changes of clothes in which she continued to wear over the years even when they turned old and
worn out. Tralala didnt have parents and if she did have parents, they may have had an influence
on her life to give her structure. The biblical allusion incorporated in Tralala is Song of Solomon
3: 2,3. It is about a woman roaming the streets looking for her soulmate but couldnt find them so
she continued her pursuit. Tralala isnt looking for her soulmate but for somebody to awaken her
inside - not just physically but spiritually. The feeling of having money will give her desires of
feeling important for once, since money is a symbol of wealth and position is an example of
naturalism because a greedy person will never be satisfied. It is the reason why she sought men
who had money and a great position Tralala believed money would bring her happiness.

Nevertheless, when given the opportunity to live with the officer, she was not fulfilled. On the
contrary the short story could be a mere example of Satire. The ending of the story is a scene
where 40-50 guys screwed her in one single night, Tralala lying naked covered with blood
urine and semen and a small blot forming on the seat between her legs as blood seeped
(Selby 114) The hyperbole in the death scene can be seen as fictional. A large crowd of 40-50
would be noticeable how is it no one cared to put a stop to it. The satire supports the depiction of
naturalism by criticizing the actions of society not putting a stop to an explicit scene where
children were witnesses.
Ultimately, Hubert Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn is written in a naturalistic point of
view to mirror how life is for those unfortunate. They never will have control because of the lack
of power, exploitation of drugs, sex, violence, and outside forces dont allow them to break the
cycle. They lack vision and look for outside forces to make a change. Naturalism is the ability to
depict the real world and real actions of people for what they are. It is set in stone for these
individuals to be the way they are because they were unfortunate to be raised into an era where
breaking away from a cycle is impossible to do.

Works Cited
"Bible Interpretation." Unity. 2012. Web. 31 Jan. 2016. <>.
Giles. "The Game of Mum as Theme and Narrative Technique in Hubert Selbys Last Exit to
Brooklyn." The Naturalistic Inner-City Novel in America. Print.
Hicks, Heather J., and James R. Giles. "The Naturalistic Inner-City Novel in America:
Encounters with the Fat Man." American Literature 68.3 (1996): 648. Web.
Katz, Joseph, and Donald Pizer. "Twentieth-Century American Literary Naturalism: An
Introduction." American Literature 56.2 (1984): 285. Web.
"Naturalism - Examples and Definition of Naturalism." Literary Devices. 2015. Web. 31 Jan.
Selby, Hubert. Last Exit to Brooklyn. NY, NY: Grove, 1964. Print.
Smith, Eliot Fremont. "Beyond Revulsion." The New York Times, (8 Nov. 1964). Web.
<file:///C:/Users/Downloads/Last_Exit_NYT_Review_1964 (2).pdf>.