top of page
  • Michael Rickard II

“If We Don’t Have the Hardest Luck of Any Two People I Ever Heard of.” How Fate Dooms Frank Norris&#

In naturalist novels, secondary characters also suffer bad fates. Continuing naturalism’s theme of life’s unpredictability and tendency to end badly, Marcus laments how he let Trina, and more importantly, her money, slip away:

You fool, you fool, Marcus Schouler! If you’d kept Trina you’d have had that money. You might have had it yourself. You’ve thrown away your chance in life—to give up the girl, yes—but this,” he stamped his foot with rage—“to throw five thousand dollars out of the window—to stuff it into the pockets of someone else, when it might have been yours, when you might have had Trina AND the money—and all for what? Because we were pals. Oh, ‘pals’ is all right—but five thousand dollars—to have played it right into his hands—God DAMN the luck! (102).

Luck can seemingly be good such as Trina winning the lottery or Marcus finding Mac against odds in the desert, but what seems to be good fortune can turn bad. Trina’s wealth causes her to lose her sanity and life to miserliness while Marcus meets his death when he finds Mac in the desert. The secondary character Maria Macapa, comes to a violent end when her greedy husband kills her over her family’s mythical golden treasure.

Related to luck is naturalism’s characteristic of God’s absence from mortal events. God does not perform any miracles to deliver the characters from danger in McTeague.

Looking at McTeague, it seems inevitable the title character is doomed to fail, partly due to nature and nurture, but largely due to life’s unpredictability. Although Mac begins the novel as a professional, it is more due to dumb luck than skill. It is only a matter of time before societal forces catch up with McTeague, both in stripping him of a profession he is not licensed to hold, and later, to his death as he is unable to deal with life’s misfortunes. The text suggests Mac’s docile and dim-witted nature (nature) and changing societal forces such as the rise of the professional class (nurture) lead to his downfall when unexpected problems arise such as the loss of his profession. McTeague follows naturalism’s characteristic of life’s unpredictability dooming one or more characters. Societal forces such as capitalism lead to destruction as Trina’s hoarding of wealth prevent her and Mac from leading a normal life. In the end, it is life’s unpredictability that dooms McTeague’s characters. Trina sums her and Mac’s ultimate downfall best when she laments. “Oh!...If we don’t have the hardest luck of any two people I ever heard of” (228). Life is unpredictable in naturalist novels like McTeague, and while fortune leads to good things, it more often leads to bad things, ultimately ending badly for Mac and many of McTeague’s other characters. Work Cited

Norris, Frank. McTeague. Signet, 2011.

5 views0 comments
bottom of page