Thursday, March 25, 2010


I thought it was a great technique that Norris used when he would repeat almost word for word something he had written earlier. He used this in regards to the description of Trina and also with the story of the gold plates. I thought it really got the feel across of just how blase life on Polk street was. I felt the humdrum day to day routine that these people were living each time I picked it up. I also think that it laid down a sharp contrast for the completely crazy events that happened in the end of the book. Set the stage for the tranquil, peaceful ending and then blew it apart, which ultimately reflects what naturalism is all about.

Overall the main thing that intrigued me about this book was Trina's downward slide. She came into a large amount of money, what should have been an especially great thing considering her economic situation. It was like watching a train wreck! She goes from being a thrifty shopper, to not sharing her tea with Maria, to rolling around in her money, her only desire to possess something that has no intrinsic value in possessing it. It was a weird, strange trip. While I think it was an exaggerated example I can see what Norris was trying to say about human nature. Sometimes we cling to that thing that makes us comfortable, that deep desire that makes us feel good inside, even though it has gone well beyond being healthy and is actually ruining us. She was so caught up in just having the money that when the rest of her life fell apart all around her she didn't think anything of it. I couldn't believe how much of their stuff was sold and she didn't once crack into the five thousand. When the money is initially won she tells McTeague they would be foolish to waste it on buying more tickets yet she goes in the extreme opposite direction and doesn't use one cent of it to keep themselves from having to live in complete poverty. In the end the money was not used for anything which I see as a bigger waste. At least the man who bought more tickets was buying the chance to win more money.


  1. I think part of the lesson Norris is attempting to draw is that these primal urges, as he views them, are entirely self destructive. What is more, the more we avoid these urges, the more destructive they prove to be when they manifest. To be honest, I find such a perspective very depressing. It seems the only solution he offers is to be well off enough to get a solid enough education to culture yourself (after all, he implies multiple times that lack of education doomed a character to death by ignorance). Without such an education, we are doomed to explode in primal violence, hurting ourselves and everyone we know and destroying everything we care for.

  2. "Set the stage for the tranquil, peaceful ending and then blew it apart, which ultimately reflects what naturalism is all about"--yes. The clinging you mention becomes something that Trina can't help.

  3. Depressing as it is, it seems that most lottery winners end up worse off for their wins. Perhaps Norris did have authentic insight!