The leading factor that formed the foundation of the American Literary Naturalism as a literary mode can be considered the French Literary Naturalism. Emile Zola as one of the pioneers of French Naturalist novelist made a huge impact on his contemporary authors and under his influence many writers tended to write novels with naturalistic themes and style (High, 1986, p 85). His deep attraction to Darwin’s notes about environment and heredity made him to approach these ideas and elaborate them in his literary works.
Zola is considered as the pioneer of French literary Naturalism. In his novels, he gives detailed descriptions about the period he lives. Zola in his novels gave a significant importance to the themes of heredity and environment and his characters are usually bounded to these natural predetermined traits. His emphasize to community, where people act in groups, is remarkable since in settings like this humanity plays an important role. American naturalist authors were influenced by Zola who himself was influenced by French writers such as Flaubert and Balzac. He literally declared to be a “naturalist” in the preface of his novel, Thèrès Raquin (1868).
His techniques and style were extremely scientific and clinical like a pathologist or a physiologist. He believed that man’s actions and fate are totally predetermined to environment and heredity. After finalization of Thérés Raquin, he arranged Rougon Macquart (1871-1893), a cycle of twenty volumes, which dealt with the history of family from a natural and social perspective. Among these 20 novels, the most prominent ones are L’assommoire (1877) and Germinal (Cuddon, 1998, p 538). In his novel, La Débacle (1892), Zola deals soldiers’ hard times and struggles to survive in Franco-Prussion war, and La Curée (1872) is about an immoral relationship of a wife and a step-son when a wife betrays her spouse.
Zola as a naturalist had a great impact on American novelists; hence many writers who used to tackle realistic themes tend to be attracted to naturalism as a modern literary movement. Stephen as the first American supporter of naturalism wrote short-stories and novels under the shade of naturalistic themes, style, and techniques. His prominent literary works were Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893), The Open Boat (1845), The Red Badge of Courage (1845), and Experiment in Misery (1894). Through those works Crane showed that the individuals are controlled by their environment; life and death are determined by fate and social injustice (High, 1986, p 89).
Another American Naturalist who had a great share in American Literature was Hamlin Garland (1860-1940). In his novel, Main Travelled Roads (1891), Garland extremely protests against the unjust situation that has made the mid-west farmers a painful misery. This novel questions the credibility of the American Dream, since the capitalists have taken away the individual freedom.
Frank Norris (1870- 1902) is another American Naturalist writer, who the influence of Zola can be felt tangibly in his works. In his novels, characters are usually not able to control their own life and continue their plans. His most important works are Mc Teague (1899), The Octopus (1901) and pit (1903) (High, 1986, p 100).
At the turn of the nineteenth century, all Emile Zola’s novels became famous and influential and their renderings of fate, heredity and environment were elaborated and developed in American literary context at the turn of the nineteenth century, in Frank Norris, Stephen Crane and Hamlin Garland works (Lamb& Thompson, 2005, p 563).