To Build a Fire

Literary Naturalism: A Comparison of Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and To Build A Fire College

For centuries, philosophers have debated just how much truth can be found in the concept of free will. As humans, we tend to favor a viewpoint that grants us more control, that is, that we are capable of determining our future with our actions. However, with the movement of literary naturalism came the counterargument: with the forces of economics, biology, and psychology, humans are left with no free will. This concept has been explored in naturalist writings, including Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and To Build A Fire, which both explore the extreme control one’s environment can have on life. Though the texts use contrasting settings, both are set in worlds of harsh cruelty closing in on the protagonist. While both works prove to be exemplary examples of literary naturalism, using similar characterization and thematic techniques, differences lie in how the natural forces are used to leave protagonists without control or hope.

Both works feature a theme of environmental determinism. In Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, protagonist Maggie is surrounded by rampant poverty, crime, and alcoholism. Though Maggie imagines growing up and out of this world she knows, this proves impossible. No matter how honest her actions are,...

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