Facts can be found in the details. Within every detail perhaps, there holds a shred of untold truth. There is a sense of objectiveness in regards to these small pieces of truth and their very real, factual nature. Paired with survival of the fittest, the truthful details manifest themselves in the form of American naturalism. The time for objective, factual honesty about the reality of life, day in and day out, is compiled throughout works of the American naturalist era. It focuses on the accuracy of hardships and not the relationships between people.
It places a significant importance upon the relationship between an individual and his or her milieux. A poignant piece of literature arose from the sentiments of this era and it is called A Piece of Steak, written by Jack London. London, in his writing, uses precise verbs to emulate the prevalent objectivity, and compiles them with adjectives to offer factual elements which furthers the idea that there is only one way in which the reader can interpret his story of sympathy and survival.
The objective truth throughout the piece of writing becomes quickly apparent with a multitude of very matter-of-fact linking and transitive verbs, which directly connects or explains what Mr. Tom King does, is or has. This effort to remain factual, yet still descriptive, mirrors the same tenets of American naturalism. London begins by introducing Tom King to the reader and doesn’t waste time with describing exactly what he is. Mr. King, “was a professional,” and that was all there was to it (London). There is no uncertainty in the statement as Tom King, the subject, is linked by was to professional.
No reader could dispute the statement, nor could any bias be found. This similar trend in diction and grammar continues throughout the piece. As the struggle to survive in the profession of prize fighting, Mr. King’s experience with survival of the fittest has an explanation similar to the aforementioned character description. Tom, growing weary of fighting to survive, a quintessential naturalist point, drew on every last bit of his strength. Seeing as though his, “heart had pumped too much blood,” through his veins, the functions needed to live were failing him (London).
The manner in which it is written, not only exemplifies the objective American naturalist nature, but it also embodies the factual approach to description. London doesn’t lean on perhaps, maybe or possibly as a crutch in his explanation, but instead lets his true naturalist colors show as he states definitively that the “heart had pumped too much blood,” and that survival was growing less plausible by the minute for King. This wain in strength was a customary happenstance for fighters like Tom and, “it was the iron law of the game” (London).
There was a clear choice to succeed and fight, or fail and capitulate when it came to Tom King’s circumstance. 1 London connects the subject “it,” a placeholder for the number of fights a man had in him, to “iron law of the game,” by the linking verb “was. ” He reinforces it with the adjective “iron,” a stiff and uncompromising metal which under no strength could it possibly be bent, showing that the law is most definitely unbreakable. If Tom could draw upon enough strength to win the fight it wouldn’t matter as to whether, “Youth was the Nemesis,” or even whether, “Tom King was an old un” (London).
All that would be known was that Mr. King was the fittest and he survived, receiving the veneration he so badly craved. London formulates his diction into an objective truth made clear by the balance of words on both sides of his verbs, whether transitive or linking. Taking the American naturalists presence in his writing one step further, Jack London incorporates numerous adjectives to strengthen the details, while still remaining objective, that help negate the presence of any loathed naivete and develops a further sense of factual understanding.
As London ventures into different syntax, aimed toward descriptiveness, he increases the presence of adjectives. Tom King, still paired with a linking verb, “was a solid-bodied, stolid-looking man” (London). King, undoubtedly being described objectively with the linking verb “was”, is paired with adjectives such as “solid-bodied,” or “stolid looking. ” Through connecting Mr. King with these adjectives to the already established, definitive linking verbs, the adjectives gain that much more credibility in regards to the validity of the description.
London expounds upon the harsh reality with these adjectives to play upon the survival of the fittest mentality of American naturalism. Objectivity and intricately implemented2 adjectives give a greater understanding as to who is Mr. King. After years of weathering and beating, the man had a jaw that was, “aggressive, brutal, heavy” (London). Words are never wasted with London and even asyndeton is used in this instance to draw more attention to adjectives, “aggressive” and “brutal” and “heavy” themselves. Perhaps, London also omitted the conjunctions as a reflection of Tom King’s poor and impoverished life.
The omission of “and” describes the mentality to save everything possible and never use more than necessary. King’s honest personality is shown within the more infrequent use of rhetoric and even more so in the constant grammatical and verb choice clues. As Tom struggles to push forward in the human rat race, which draws upon the naturalist idea of human beasts as opposed to beings, London increase the amount of adjectives in addition to his already objective verb choice. Mr. King fights his way towards freedom and survival at every opportunity with which he is presented.
Despite the fact that his opponent, “Sandel was certainly a coming man,” Tom continues to fight for the American naturalist survival (London). In this instance, London even uses descriptive diction to describe Tom’s opponent. Without such linguistic structures, Sandel would be merely a man, but with the added diction, it can be understood that Sandel was “coming. ” Sandel was on his way up and was pursuing and advancing and progressing. 3 It implies a need for a counterbalance which is Tom. If Sandel is ascending, then it can only be foreshadowed that Tom is descending.
In the absence of explanations like the naturalist nature of the piece would be lost and forever missing. The message of naturalism, perpetuated by London, isn’t meant to stay on the page, but instead it is meant to live in the mind of the readers in a distinct and particular way, which could only be achieved by his precise verbs and descriptive diction. The diction and compilation of particular syntax and sparsely placed rhetoric were meant to manifest within the reader’s mind to imagine a particular image with every description.
The linking verbs and transitive verbs provided a way in which the reader could establish the definitive nature of the writing, then the adjectives placed some more factual detail into the reader’s imagination, which culminates in sympathy for Tom and the image of a hard, weary, downtrodden life. 4 It soon became apparent that for King, “the challenges” would go on and youth would climb “through the ropes—youth unknown, but insatiable—crying out to mankind that with strength and skill it would match issues with the winner (London).
This single thought is the epitome of verb choice and descriptive style coming together to leave the reader with only one conclusion. King wasn’t going to be the fittest, the survivor or the free one. 5 Instead, King would face youth and youth would win. Still continuing to fight, London has his protagonist trying his very best. The heart with which too much blood has been pumped is being worked harder than ever to keep the fighter going, but the advancement is soon starting to decline.
King experiences a “sharp snap that was like an electric spark, and, simultaneously, the veil of blackness envelops him” (London). In this sentence, adjectives are running wild, painting a picture of every honest fact, while the objective verbs continue to add an additional layer of honesty or harsh reality to the American naturalist theme. A “sharp snap” was felt as opposed to a plain, undescriptive snap. The adjective adds more feelings that can only help the reader to feel the pain, the sympathy and even let London sway them towards King’s favor.
London, once again, favors the verb “was” as a way to continue in his path of objectivity and ends with a “veil of blackness,” that has surrounded Mr. King. Although foreshadowed earlier with the threats of youth, the moment finally comes where the fittest, Sandel, will be moving on and the others are left to fall. Without having established his predictable verb patterns and expressive diction, intertwined with some contributing rhetoric, London would not have been able to provoke the same range of emotions within each reader.
London binds his readers to one image and makes it difficult to have different variations of the same scene. Seeing as though every miniscule detail is recorded, there is little room for inference by the reader. The verbs, adjectives, occasional rhetoric and specific syntax promote London’s American naturalist take, as they are only implemented to detail an objective and detailed truth about the harsh reality of the naturalist life. The naturalist approach focuses on the inner beast and the inner beast is focused on survival. All diction, syntax and even rhetoric are pointed towards survival or describing one’s failure to survive. A Piece of Steak has a foundation which begins with the objective truth with which no one can argue. It is an objective truth that is unbiased in every fiber of its beast, rather than being. The next layer develops a description of the harshness of such a truth. The truth isn’t always the most pleasing aspect of life and the adjectives draw upon this to show the cruelty of a naturalist’s daily struggle.
These different components culminate in a singular understanding of every scenario. The American naturalist is shackled to the cornerstone idea which is that only the fittest can survive and fulfill their capacity for freedom. London provokes this same mentality in his readers and through covering every possible detail with each character and scene, a reader can only help but to imagine the scene in the same way. Jack London manipulates his readers with his writing to bind them to the experience of American naturalism.