…had a flying squirrel an’ let him go.

Buster Keaton riding on a minauture horse in front of a log cabin.

The wild west.

In his essay on McTeague (by Frank Norris), James L. Caron addresses the humor that pervades Norris’ naturalistic novel.  Caron refers to the content of the novel as a, “general discourse of the laughable that is based on incongruity.”  One of the most striking ways we see this incongruity is when the characters are portrayed as robotic machines trapped in routines they cannot escape.  Caron uses Maria as an example, “Maria exhibits mechanistic behavior whenever she is asked to identify herself: ‘Name is Maria-Miranda-Macapa. . . . Had a flying squirrel an’ let him go.”  But really, almost all the characters exhibit this mechanical love for the routine.  Think of how difficult it is for McTeague to stop his dental practice or how greed makes Trina a slave to polishing and loving her coins.  Caron argues that these behaviors are a source of satiric laughter on the part of the reader, because it is humans acting as machines.

Caron indicates that this regular laughter provides the readers with a sort of nervous release.  Where they laugh at not only the characters, but at themselves who are also trapped in the comedic tragedy of life.  So he argues that naturalism and humor inherently belong together:

McTeague in effect jokingly presents the implied reader with ideas derived from evolution about fundamental aspects of existence which he or she would otherwise repress and provides a momentary relief from critical reason.  In other words, the comic dimension of the narrative allows the reader an opportunity to indulge the liberating effect of laughter in a response to the deterministic tendency of naturalism.

Caron helps to drive this idea home by reminding us of the nervous laughter of Selina at the fight scene between McTeague and Marcus in the park.  Sometimes laughter is the only way to deal with the horrors that life throws our way.

Norris’ naturalism certainly benefits from the touches of humor throughout, in my opinion.  The novel would be much drier, and would not have as much staying power if we lost the horrified humor that pervades it to the very end where we leave McTeague handcuffed to a corpse in the desert.

Published in: on March 28, 2010 at 4:26 pm  Comments (4)  
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Mighty McTeague

Wooden Fist

Fists of Fury

A new game from Visceral Studios: McTeague’s Madness! Play as the mighty McTeague and explore 19th century San Francisco with all of its seedy underworld.  Vanquish your foes with fists made of wooden mallets affixed to the sinewy muscles of your bear-like arms.  Unleash deadly attack combos after filling up your rage meter by adding infuriating members to your social group.  Alternatively,  contain your rage and unleash it in Berserker mode, where your vision is destroyed, but you also destroy everything within a 100 yard radius with an explosion of suppressed rage.

Almost half a dozen professions available!  Knock teeth from their sockets as a dentist, use fishing to capture tasty fish, delve into the depths of the earth with mining, move heavy furniture with a flick of your mighty wrist, or down epic amounts of whiskey as a drunk.

Use your Find Gold ability to discover the minutest traces of the coveted treasure hidden in your home.  Once you have collected all the gold in your home, escape from San Francisco to explore another amazing ability: stealth detection.  Use your newly unlocked ability to evade the scheming Marcus when your Mac sense tingles.

Smash your way to riches with Mighty McTeague!  Available only for Nintendo Wii.

Published in: on March 21, 2010 at 11:28 am  Comments (2)  
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