Madyson Mabry

Mrs. Kitt
Eng. 3p/per: 3
28 March 2017

Naturalism and Realism in Literature

Realism, which focuses on life as it is, and Naturalism, reaching more

darker, fatalistic aspects of text, are both heavily used in American

literature. Many examples of realism are shown in “An Occurrence at Owl

Creek Bridge”, which is a story about a man who faces death and plans his

escape. “A Journey”, which is a story that uses naturalism, is focused around

a woman who tries to hide the fact her husband is deceased in fear of

getting kicked off a train. “To Build A Fire” uses both realism and naturalism

to tell the story of a man fighting nature to survive in the snow-filled forest.

The theme seen in all three of these stories is, man is alone in his effort to

survive, and can be found through realism and naturalism.

“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” represents the theme because of

its realism. At one point in the story where the main character, Peyton, is

thinking about his escape, he tells himself, “If I could free my hands, I might

throw off the noose and spring into the stream” (Bierce). This example from

the text shows how the main character thinks about what he could do to

escape from death. Although he is physically tied up, he is literally and

figuratively alone in his effort to live. The point of view in the story also adds

to show how Peyton struggles to survive when the text states, “He was not
conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was

trying to free his hands” (Bierce). This evidence from the texts describes the

main character’s unconscious ability to know when he is in danger, and save

himself when he is in pain. This represents the theme that man is alone in his

effort to survive when it’s seen that Peyton is targeted with danger and must

use his best abilities within himself to live.

“A Journey” represents the theme of man being alone in his effort to

survive because of its realism, naturalism, and irony. An example of this

theme is seen when the text says “Her mind refused to act: she could not

plan, combine…” (Wharton 166). The main character just found out her

husband has died and is in a state of shock. It describes how she had to deal

with her husband’s passing, without getting caught despite her mind being

all over the place. Another example of the main character saving herself is

when she says, “Oh, no—no, please! He mustn't be disturbed” (Wharton

166). This example describes the theme because the wife does anything she

can to avoid others from discovering her dead husband. She desperately

tries to hide her husband’s disposition in order to stay on the train they were

traveling on. Although she does this, she does not get a say in her fate, her

unexpected death at the end. This short story represents the theme man is

alone in his effort to survive based on how the woman must get through

difficult obstacles in order to not get kicked off the train.

“To Build A Fire” shows the reality of the theme man is alone in his effort

to survive because of its constant use of naturalism and realism. A quote
from the story describes the theme when it says “And the man, as he beat

and threshed with his arms and hands, felt a great surge of envy as he

regarded the creature that was warm and secure in its natural covering”

(London 362). This represents the man’s single effort to survive because the

main character realizes that an animal that has thick and warm fur, isn't

what he's capable of having in the cold. This connects to the theme because

it shows how the main character must use his resources and work with what

he has in order to survive in the snow. Another example would be when he

realizes he is beginning to get into some trouble when he thinks “Well, here

he was; he had had the accident; he was alone…” (London 295). At this

point, he is aware he is alone in the wilderness and must survive on his own

with no help from others. These examples connect to the theme man is alone

in his effort to survive because it shows how the main character has to face

the harsh and unavoidable while also try and survive through it.

It's undeniably true that humans are completely alone when it comes

to surviving in this world. Humans must thrive to live if they do such things

to survive on their own, and it seems that everyone in literature and real life

work to live, therefore, revealing how a man has a single effort to survive.
Works cited

1)Wharton, Edith. A Journey. N.p.: n.p., 1899. Print.

2) Bierce, Ambrose. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. N.p.: n.p., 1890. Print.

3) London, Jack. To Build A Fire. N.p.: n.p., 1908. Print.Madyson Mabry