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Frank Norris’s 1899 novel McTeague transparently portrays the glorious yellow blaze as the predominant image of the entropic narrative. Gold infatuation is not so surprising considering the late nineteenth-century monetary controversy among silver proponents and gold proponents. The prospect of operating exclusively on a single commodity monetary platform instilled fears of money shortages, deflation, and economic depression. The controversy eventually settled on demonetization of silver and sole reliance on the gold standard. As the single standard, gold then assumed a precarious identity as both artificial and natural resource. The ambiguous nature of gold as commodity money and object enables the mounting tension in McTeague. Both narratives of McTeague-Trina and Zerkow-Maria reflect this dichotomy through conflicting behaviors of consumption and saving. Instinctual responses to gold’s paradoxical nature serve to dismantle the barriers of faux gentility as human behavior devolves to its most uncultivated forms. Although interpretations frequently vilify greed as the atavistic flaw of the novel’s ethnic characters, it is rather the precarious nature of gold which compels adversarial responses of object-inspiring leakage and money-inspiring injection which ultimately determine the savage actions in McTeague.

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This page is a summary of: The Yellow Blaze: Naturalism's Response to Gold Economics in Frank Norris's McTeague, Studies in American Naturalism, January 2022, Project Muse,
DOI: 10.1353/san.2022.0001.
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