American Writers and Radical Politics, 1900–39: Equivocal by Eric Homberger

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By Eric Homberger

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Martin discovers the writings of Herbert Spencer, and through the ideas of evolution glimpses a universe obeying the laws of science and not random chance or divine will. The scientific world-view fascinates Martin, showing him an inner kinship between 'love, poetry, earthquake, fire, rattlesnakes, rainbows, precious gems, monstrosities, sunsets, the roaring of lions, illuminating gas, cannibalism, beauty, murder, levers and fulcrums, and tobacco'. Love alone seems outside the claims of the scientific world-view; it is transcendent, non-rational, utterly removed from ordinary life.

Henry Demarest Lloyd did much to publicize the operation of the Beef Trust in his book Wealth Against Commonwealth (1894). The Trust was undoubtedly a mighty force in Chicago life, and, when Lloyd was writing, was becoming an increasingly potent factor in national politics. The industry was a comparatively new one, made possible by the invention of the refrigerator car in the 1870s. The ability to transport cut and trimmed or 'dressed' sides of meat across the country enabled butchery for the whole nation to be centralized in Chicago.

3 She seems to have been unaware of the challenge which realistic and naturalistic novels were offering to contemporary taste. Among the flurry of replies to Mrs Atherton's article, easily the most passionate was by Upton Sinclair in Collier's Week(y of 8 October 1904. Sinclair was then twenty-six, and had published four undistinguished novels. His contempt for the bourgeoisie was no less real than Mrs Atherton's, but it lacked her haughty and aristocratic disdain. The bourgeois, he wrote, is well fed himself, his wife is stout, and his children are fine and vigorous.

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