McTeague: A Story of San Francisco

McTeague's Women in a Greedy World

The motifs of greed and possession run throughout Frank Norris's 1899 novel, Mcteague. At the beginning of the novel, we see greed in its most undiluted and disgusting form in the Polish Jew, Zerkow, and again in a more unstable, neurotic form in Maria Macapa. Both of these characters, to a large extent, have already fallen from society when we are introduced to them, and we see them in a degenerated state at the outset. In the character Trina, who is Mcteague's wife, we see avarice's power to transform a person from a good daughter and wife to an unkempt, selfish, and completely unsalvageable human being. Greed undoubtedly contributes to the downfall of both of the main women in the novel, and on the surface it seems that Norris is equating femininity with greed. However, given Norris's detailed descriptions of these women, we can view their rapacity as the result of environmental and hereditary factors, rather than as the expression of an intrinsically feminine flaw.

Near the start of the novel, Norris introduces Maria Macapa, the Mexican woman-of-all-work around the flat. The narrator immediately describes her as greedy and manipulative, but above all, unstable. When she first shows up, Marcus describes her...

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