Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Norris, McTeague, Day#2

--Since no one responded to this question last class, I can ask it again: look at depictions of inside and outside spaces here. How is the city and its surroundings represented? How are the interior spaces and all their decorations depicted?

--We talked last class about the origins of Californian culture in the Gold Rush and Starr's vision of a materialism that was central to the founding of California. How does this materialism, a focus on wealth and the importance of material objects, manifest itself in the narrative? Who is materialistic and why? How does it shape their behavior?

--Marcus and McTeague's friendship has soured and yet it remains central to the narrative. What is Norris' vision of male behavior and friendship here?


  1. I think McTeague, Marcus and Trina are all materialistic in this novel. I also think that this is a reflection of Norris' view of the effect of the Gold Rush on the California population. Gold plays a huge role in this novel. McTeague is very proud of his huge gold molar outside of his dentist office. Also, Trina is obsessed with money as well. Once she wins $5000 dollars, her whole demeanor and personality changes. She eventually exchanges her money for gold coins and counts them obsessively. She also favors the gold coins over the silver. But as infatuated as McTeague and Trina are with gold and money, Marcus still wants in on the $5000 as well. He is materialistic too.
    I think that Norris is trying to point out the negative consequences of the Gold Rush. We as a society put so much pressure on the importance of money. People were literally killing each other and going crazy to get their share of wealth. McTeague is definitely a product of the Gold Rush. Even though he is by no means rich, he is still obsessed with money and status, so much that he would open a dentist office without even having his dental license. Norris is trying to make a commentary on the negative impact of materialism and capitalism.

  2. I think Norris has an interesting take on male behavior and their friendships in McTeague. I was surprised even early on, when Marcus so readily gives up Trina. On page 47, after just a moment of thought he says, "Go ahead. I guess you want her pretty bad, I'll pull out then." Although his reasons seem a bit superficial (as he goes on in detail of how heroic, bold and sincere he feels), it seems as though Norris takes a very optimistic view of male camaraderie. In these early chapters, I felt the author believed that male friendship was more important that any women. Even though Marcus' love for Trina may not be very deep, it is still suprrising to see him offering her up to a friend. This gesture initially increases their bond, as "their mutual affection and esteem increased" (pg 47).

    However, as the novel progresses tensions rise between the two. Marcus grows envious after Trina wins the lottery and questions himself for giving her up. I think Norris' view on male relationships (that we've seen thus far) is truly fleshed out in the fight scene at the picnic. The stereotype of male competition is apparent as a "fun" fight turns quite serious. They taunt each other, which only leads to increased rage on both ends. Eventually, the "it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt" doctrine comes in as bitten ears and broken arms result from the fight. Norris calls the men "beasts" and the tone of these passages suggests animal-like qualities. The stereotypical image of the addrenaline-powered male who can't control what he is doing is definitely present and I think this ultimately tells us how Norris is portraying males in the narrative.

  3. I agree with the first post in saying that McTeague, Marcus and Trina are materialistic throughout the novel, although I more so want to focus on McTeague and Trina as materialistic and how it relates to their relationship.

    On page 145 Trina begins to think about marriage with McTeague and seems disgusted by the idea of just feeling contentment with him, "or else --worse than all--she would come to be content with him" (145). From that I get the idea that she doesn't feel the love of a man, and for a man is good enough (a characteristic of materialism, I feel).

    Then in looking at McTeague, although not perhaps entirely materialistic but goal oriented, on page 149 McTeague seems to day dream of the better life, has ambitions of living in a big house of his (Trina and his) own, "he began to observe the broader, larger interests of life, interests that affected him not as an individual, but as a member of a class, a profession, or a political party" (149).

    As the story goes on though I found it interesting in how McTeague calls Trina little woman representing his ease in accepting his elevated class status and her independence. However this too becomes a problem when her economic independance increasingly exaggerates.

    I don't know if any of this makes sense, I tend to just ramble on here sometimes.

  4. The concept of materialism or greed has a central role in the narrative. It is the source of all of the tension or conflict throughout. Marcus and McTeague's fight and falling out was due to Marcus' regret and desire for Trina's five thousand dollars. Trina he was able to easily give up in the name of friendship, but a large sum of money would be out of the question. Furthermore, the quarrel between Mr. and Mrs. McTeague was also fueled by greed. Trina was unable to part with her precious hoarded coins to pay for half of the house rent. However, curiously in the case of Maria and Zerkow mutual materialism brought them together.
    Zerkow is the most recognizable materialist character. He surrounds himself with material items, never satisfied, always on the pursuit of wealth. Loving gold more than anything else in the world. Trina is also a hoarder. Similar to Zerkow, she loves to possess money for its own sake, loves to see her accumulated safe of coins grow and grow. She can't part with any of it. McTeague is also materialistic. He is completely enamored and overcome by his precious huge gold tooth, flaunting his success for everyone to view. He craves luxury, and desperately wants a house. Marcus is obviously materialistic, letting five thousand dollars come between him and his best friend. The effects of the Gold Rush weight heavily on the lives of the characters.

  5. The imagery of spaces in McTeague is bleak, unexaggerated, and most of the time dirty. Unlike many of the books we’ve read so far, McTeague’s surroundings are not romantically described. Most things are dirty, old, and utilitarian. For example, McTeague’s dental parlor,

    “McTeague mad it do for a bedroom as well, sleeping on the big bed-lounge against the wall opposite the window. There was a washstand behind the screen in the corner where he manufactured his moulds. In the round bay window were his operating chair, his dental engine, and his movable rack on which he laid out his instruments. Three chairs, a bargain at the second hand store, ranged themselves against the wall with military precision underneath a steel engraving of the court of Lorenzo de’ Medici, which he had bought because there were a great many figure in it for the money” (7).

    The monetary value of McTeague’s possessions and their uses are the terms which his office is described. Even his reading material was chosen because of the sign value of its historical figures. None of the characters seem inspired by their surroundings, and there is no further elaboration of the scenery except to say what was there, how much it cost, or how it functions. This description is appropriate though for a story about greed, since money seems to be the focus of the character’s lives. It is also is a hallmark of the realist novel to tell things like they are, without exaggeration.

  6. I think overall McTeague has issues with materialism and sign value. Through many descriptions that Norris uses of his life and his surroundings, you can see that many of his objects are all about how much something means to someone. I think this is my least favorite piece that we have read because his descriptions of space and surroundings are extremely materialistic and I agree with what Caitlin said that they are just dirty and un-romantic. I think it is important though in our study of space and travel that we read something like this because it gives us a different perspective of a travel/space narrative. I think it is important to also realize the time this novel is set in because it helps to understand how and why the characters are so materialistic. If I read this novel without knowing it was in the time of the gold rush, it would evoke some sense of sympathy for the characters that their lives were so invested into material objects. It is funny to realize that things that people were writing about then can also be seen today, it makes me think about how we live our lives and what is behind our motives when buying things.

  7. Materialism drives many of the characters in McTeague. Some characters, such as Zerktow and Maria Macapa are completely driven by materialism. Maria Macapa steals, badgers, and rummages through everyone’s things in order to buy neck scarves. She continuously talks about the gold that she once believed she owned. This is the only part of her past that she ever speaks of and cares about. Zerktow is even worse, because gold is his only driving factor. He is obsessed with Maria’s stories, and makes her repeat it. Gold is the only thing that he cares for. This love of speaking about materialism is what drives them to become engaged.

    Materialism in this novel has negative effects on characters relationships as well. Although Marcus is upset with McTeague for getting Trina, he is more upset over the $5,000 that she won. He believes the money belongs to him, and he nearly kills his best friend over this won money. The $5,000 is a catalyst in the disintegration of Mac and Marcus’ relationship. Mac himself wants to spend all of the money, but does not get the chance. The only thing Mac wants, other than Trina, is a gold tooth to put outside his Parlors. He is extremely proud of it, when Trina buys it for him. When he receives it, he thinks of the dentist he competes with of being envious of the tooth. When he obtains this piece of materialism, he is happy that it will make others envious. Trina herself becomes a miser when she receives $5,000. Instead of enjoying this money, and buying a house, which is what she wants, she hordes the money. She then adds to the money and can’t bear to part with it. She is even willing to make her husband angry and hurt him, then part with any of the money. The money begins driving her actions more so than when she had none.

  8. Norris's view on the male relationship is interesting. Marcus willingly gives up Trina to McTeague selflessly. Although Marcus was attached to Trina he very easily gave her up for his love-stricken friend. This shows how good of friends these two are (at least in the beginning of the story) as not many men are able to give up their girl even if it is for a friend. After this event the two are still on speaking terms and go out often for a steam beer. When material wealth is presented in the form of $5000, the friendship turns sour. Marcus even goes so far as to throw a knife at McTeague's head.

    It seems that Norris believes that men can be friends no matter what circumstances, until of course there is vast amounts of money at stake. It seems that Marcus is not remorse at the fact that he let Trina go, but is depressed that he let her go when she acquired the money. Norris is suggesting that a woman cannot get between friends, but money and materialistic objects can break up a friendship that has existed for years.

  9. Norris's view on the male relationship seems to center around the male ego. Marcus is bothered by the fact that he lost a chance at 5 thousand dollars and therefore becomes upset that he allowed McTeague to have Trina to qualify his feelings. However when Marcus begins to feel resentment he does not approach McTeague with a conversation but instead ignores him at the lunch table and makes snippy comments to him, until finally his anger explodes towards McTeague and he throws a knife past Mcteague's head. On the other end of this McTeague is totally oblivious that his friend is upset even to the point when Marcus confronts him about money McTeague has no foresight that his friend is truly hurting. McTeague only reacts to Marcus minutes after he had a knife thrown at his head because he didn't want to be shown up infront of his pals at the bar. Norris seems to think that males have a lack of emotional communication. This again can be seen because the dispute ends when a third party suggests the two apologize. Thereafter Marcus becomes best man in McTeague's wedding and eventually welcomes back his pal. "I'm sorry" seem to be a small gesture when in comparison to the reactions of knife throwing, and breaking and entering.

  10. I find this book interesting because of all the materialism. i tink we've all read about the gold rush before, but for me all my knowledge of it had been from a historical standpoint and not a narrative of this sort. i have never really thought about how people of this time would have acted and what they would have valued, but, with such an emphasis on finding gold at the the time, i can definitely believe that materialism would have been very prevalent in the way people interpreted the things around them

  11. Materialism certainly was a central vice of the characters in McTeague.It's kind of hard to argue that it is not when the gold rush is a subject. I think McTeague takes issue with this materialism, and everything that goes along with that.

    I think that the example of Trina becoming stingy when receiving the the 5k is McTeague's criticism. Instead of making wise decisions with the money, Trina kind of went crazy. The economic independence does her no favors, and I think that was a larger theme of McTeague's writing.

    As Notorious Big said, "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems."



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