Document Type

Sophomore Award Winner

Award Date

Spring 2012

Course Name

Literary Explorations II


Dr. Adam Kotlarczyk


Charles Darwin changed the face of biology and science when he published his groundbreaking work of scientific literature, On the Origin of Species. He proposed that all organisms are related and that a force, known as natural selection, acts on all living things. This book opened a whole new world for biologists everywhere. But it also brought about a change in the philosophy of literature, which is known as the naturalist movement. Writers began to believe that humans and animals are, in the end, the same- they are affected by similar forces and have the same instincts. Novels such as Stephen Crane’s Maggie, a Girl of the Streets clearly show how Darwin influenced the writing of the time. However, some novels that came out of this era do not fit as cleanly into this category. Willa Cather’s A Lost Lady seems to suggest many of the same ideas, but goes about it in a more delicate way. She doesn’t write with the grisly realist detail of naturalism, yet she still gives the reader a sense that Darwin’s natural selection is playing a role in the lives of her characters. Willa Cather’s A Lost Lady is a naturalist text because although it lacks many of the stylistic features of naturalism, it conveys the same idea- that humans are simply another type of animal- through the subtle comparisons she makes between humans and animals and the eventual outcome of each of her characters.



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