Main Purpose: Similar to realism, naturalism offered a pessimistic view of the world, where your environment not only determined who you were but also how you acted.
An irrefutably important work in the scientific realm, many authors argued that Darwin’s controversial tenets regarding the nature of humanity and existence could be transferred to the interactions of daily life. As one of the first books to formulate a plausible theory of evolutionary biology, it suggested that we too are subjects to the laws of nature, and that getting ahead in the world would require fierce, merciless competing against other opponents.
In his book The Experimental Novel, Zola asserted that “the naturalistic evolution, which is the main current of our age, is gradually drawing all manifestations of human intelligence into a single scientific course”. Believing people’s actions to be the product of their environment, he envisioned life’s most awful depravities combining in the dinny quarters of France’s mining district in this bleak novel. Not only did he expose poor working conditions and corporate corruption, but he also showed man at their lowest point, engaging in brazen rioting and violence as a result of the poor conditions.
Ibsen meant to portray his characters with as much ambivalence as possible, forgoing a didactic approach for a more, well, natural one. When Hedda becomes entwined in a power struggle between two University professors (one of them being her husband), she becomes subject to their deviant intentions, causing a steep decline from her carefree but apparently sordid life. Ibsen sought to portray his theater with a neutrality bordering on real life, creating a lucid and familiar setting for his audience.
As one of the masters of Russian theater, Chekhov revolutionized the art by placing great emphasis on more “natural’ acting and set design. As one of his finest works, The Cherry Orchard depicts the end of an era for an Aristocratic Russian family who knows that they will lose their house and suffer. The viewer should know immediately how it will end for them, but the play uses present society’s deterministic circumstances to prompt its characters to find home in the mundanity of daily life.