The novel McTeague by Frank Norris is filled with multiple naturalistic themes such as instinct, economic hindrances, fate, survival, violence, and life being unfair. The main character, McTeague, experiences the ideas behind many of these themes. McTeague is an uneducated dentist from a poor family who has opened a dentist shop in San Francisco. His best friend, Marcus Schouler, brings his cousin, Trina Sieppe, whom he is courting, to McTeague’s parlor for dental work. McTeague becomes interested in her while working on her teeth, and Marcus graciously steps aside. Trina’s mother, Mrs.
Sieppe, announces that McTeague and Trina are to marry. Shortly after, Trina finds out she has won the lottery. After hearing this, Marcus then becomes jealous and believes he has been cheated out of money that would have be rightfully his if he had married Trina. Trina refuses to touch her money of $5,000. She insists that she and McTeague must live on the earnings from McTeague’s dental practice alone. Though the couple is happy, the friendship between Marcus and Mac deteriorates and catastrophe strikes. After many naturalistic events occur, McTeague begins to slowly and negatively adjust. In the novel McTeague, the title character was the most dynamic; this is seen through his portrayal at the beginning, his shifting in the middle, and his drastic transformation in the end.
In the beginning of the book, McTeague is seen as a kind, patient, hard-working man, even though people tended to dislike him because of their fear of his size. McTeague is shown or portrayed as a good-hearted, ethical man; “another better McTeague rose with the brute”(Norris 24). McTeague is hard-working for many reasons. Because of his poor family, McTeague couldn’t afford proper education so he taught himself by reading books on dentistry and watching the charlaton (a person practicing quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to gain money) operate. Then he eventually opened up his own dental office. McTeague is shown as a kind and patient person because of how he felt when he did finally open his own parlor. Norris writes, “when he opened his dental parlors, he felt that his life was a success, that he could hope for nothing better” (Norris 3).
This shows how McTeague was a good-hearted man because he thought the life he had was all he needed. McTeague was thankful for what he had and was content. After the portrayal of the beginning of the novel , McTeague starts to change because of slight issues occuring. McTeague’s bestfriend, Marcus had kindly allowed McTeague to be with Trina, but once Marcus finds out that Trina won the lottery he gets jealous and feels regretful. Marcus then goes to McTeague to express his feelings on the matter and requests to get a cut on the money Trina won. McTeague shows his patience and respectful manners by saying to Marcus, ” It ain’t mine to give” (Norris 112). Marcus then gets mad and pulls out a knife.
Marcus eventually runs out of the parlor but this act affected McTeague so negatively that part of his ‘brute side’ shows when he says “I’ll show Marcus Schouler — I’ll show him —I’ll”. McTeague continues to say, “I’ll show him” (Norris 115). After this incident McTeague looks to drinking to take control and cope with his situation.
This makes McTeague mean and ‘vicious’; “It was curious to note the effect of the alcohol upon the dentist it did not make him drunk, it made him vicious” (Norris 240). This shows the growing change with in McTeague, gradually forming into who he becomes in the end. In the end, McTeague does an act that confirms his drastic transformation.
After his shifting attitude in the middle, McTeague loses his job because of Marcus. McTeague’s wife, Trina does not allow him to use her lottery money to help support them, which aggravates him and also causes them to have to move to a smaller home. Trina becomes more and more miserly. McTeague and Trina’s life together declines. Many more affairs occur so McTeague starts drinking more frequently, often causing him to be violent.
“And Trina fearfully saw the palm suddenly contract into a fist” (Norris 236). This continues to show the harmful change in McTeague. Through many struggles, emotionally, financially, and mentally, McTeague just lets go of himself.
Then one night McTeague goes to far and he beats Trina to death. This happens because McTeague was drinking again and he becomes obsessed with getting his hands on her money. “But her resistance was one thing to arrive him to the top of his furry” (Norris 294). This shows the finalization of the changing McTeague.
After killing Trina, McTeague takes her money and leaves town, this bring him to his drastic transformation of cruel, vicious, and a murderer. After many naturalistic events occur such as, instinct, economic hindrances, fate, survival, violence, and life being unfair, Mcteague develops very negatively throughout the novel because of many dramatic affairs. McTeague was perceived to be kind, hardworking and patient, but after marrying the women his best friend were to marry, the dispute over money, the loss of his best friend, constant violence, and alcohol, McTeague becomes violent and a murderer.
This was shown through the many events that triggered McTeague to become the man he was at the end of the Novel.