Emile Zola (1840-1902)
As you can see, our only mistake in all this is that we accept only nature, and that we are not willing to correct what is by what should be. Emile Zola
What is the worldview of those artists that the critics categorize as “naturalists?” “Naturalism, in brief, is the expression in literature of that artistic temperament which leans to an extreme realism, which looks upon life as largely the result of the interplay of mechanistic forces on the individual and society, interpreting that role largely as the sum total of man’s environment and inherited characteristics.” Or in other words, the sum total of nature and nurture. This begs the question: Is nature and nurture all there is?—and the answer is no. It is at the same time simpler and more complicated than that. But students of Simple Reality already know that.
Humanity is lacking in awareness as to the nature of reality. This can be characterized in many different ways and with many different metaphors or analogies. But however it is described, the remedy is the same and as we know quite simple. But first, let’s look at naturalism more closely.
Emile Zola in his 20 novels had the following goal in his own words. “We are looking for the causes of social evil; we study the anatomy of classes and individuals to explain the derangements which are produced in society and man. Humanity, limited from the past by its particular inheritance and circumscribed in the present by the environment in which it moves, is as restricted, as bound in its personal freedom, as was Prometheus to his rock.” A pretty good description of P-B as long as each individual understands that they have created their own suffering and not the jealous gods. Naturalists are also not specific or profound enough to guide us in getting a handle on what to do about shifting to a story that would free humanity from its Prometheus-like suffering.
In looking at five of Zola’s twenty novels we can see that he is focusing on the symptoms of human suffering and not the causes. “[First] was L’Assommoir (1878), a study of alcoholism; Nana (1880), a study of sex: Germinal (1885), based on the problem of labor in the coal mines; La Terre (1888), which portrays the economics and way of living of the French peasant; and Le Debacle (1892), a study of failing imperialism.”
Policy makers and so-called problem solvers often mistake symptoms for problems which blocks any attempts at finding solutions. It is not a case of humanity evolving into higher consciousness as too many people believe but rather each human being simply transcending the illusion of P-B by learning to live in the present moment. Responding to life rather than reacting would have all novelists categorized under the same heading: namely “presentists.”
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion on this blog and in printed books by Roy Charles Henry.