Essay title: McTeague, or Animalism – Unpublished
The last decade of the twentieth century in America saw a rise in programs for human’s “self betterment.”A popular form of betterment is that of the inner animal.Interest in Native American animal mysticism, vision quests, and totem animals have increased dramatically in the past few years.
No forms of media have been spared; Calvin Klein’s supermodels come on during sitcom commercials to tell viewers they need to be a beast, or to get in touch with their animal within.In the last decade of the nineteenth century, however, animalism was viewed not as a method of self-improvement but as the reprehensible side of humanity that lingered beneath the surface, waiting for an opportune time to come out and play.In Frank Norris’ novel McTeague, humans are no better than the beasts they claim to control.They cage and torment defenseless creatures, but cage and torment themselves far, far, worse.McTeague, Trina, Zerkow, and Marcus are animals in thin human’s clothing, walking the forests of McTeague, waiting for the opportunity to shed their skin and tear each other apart, while the real animals of the world continue leading lives far superior to their human counterparts. McTeague, the title character of the work, is the king of beasts in San Francisco.
A charlatan dentist who constantly mumbles and growls when speaking, he makes his living by causing great pain to his fellow human beings.The woman he falls in love with, Trina Sieppe, is a patient in his chair.McTeague’s love is spawned from the agony of false orthodontics.Although etherized, Trina experiences the hurt of McTeague’s drills.
As he works his macabre work on the beautiful girl, McTeague begins to see her as more and more attractive.The pain is a sexual catalyst for McTeague; like an animal on the hunt, he becomes aroused by the suffering he causes Trina.The instinct to take advantage of the defenseless girl becomes overpowering, and he eventually gives in to his raging, bestial nature and plants a dog-like smooch on her lips.From this love forged in sex, the downfall of McTeague and Trina is cast. McTeague resembles the beast inside more and more as his marriage progresses.
At first, sexually dominating Trina satiates him.Like a drug, however, a greater dosage is needed to sustain McTeague’s high.He begins to verbally abuse the girl, refusing her simple affections and pleasures.Then, as his financial life begins to slide downhill, McTeague begins the physical abuse.A slap here, a punch there, until the boxing of ears is a commonplace occurrence.McTeague acts like a grizzly bear keeping its mate from wandering to far.Even this doesn’t please his sadistic nature.
McTeague begins to drink, and his alcohol-sodden brain allows the beast to take full control.He begins biting Trina’s fingers.Although the skin is not usually broken by his chomps, her fingers are bruised to the point where she finds work difficult if not incapacitating.
Eventually, McTeague does begin to break her flesh with his teeth, and the paint that she works with poisons her fingers, requiring amputation.Mutilated and finally crushed, Trina leaves McTeague, causing the beast to take full control of the fallen man. McTeague’s pact with nature is sealed when he kills Trina in the coatroom of a school.When he flees, he relies on his animal instincts to keep him alive.Like a deer chased by a wolf, McTeague manages to elude his pursuers until they trap him in Death Valley.
The hunting pack then closes in, and McTeague joins the hunters in a blood-soaked death. Trina is as much an animal as her husband.She is initially repelled by the dentist’s brutish nature, but as soon as he casts his dominating spell on him, her masochistic animal nature awakens.
She experiences sexual arousal from McTeague’s domination, and is hooked from the first time.Her love is a deadly addiction; the drug eats away at her until she “dies.”She stays with McTeague through the beatings, the chewings, and the verbal abuse, always coming back for more because she likes it.Only when McTeague irrevocably mutilates her does she leave him.She is proud of her bruises, happily trading stories with Maria Macapa like teenage schoolgirls comparing their make-out sessions.
Trina’s sexual beast is never satisfied, always craving more and more abuse; abuse that McTeague is more than willing to give her. Trina’s “other” dark side involves her extramarital affair with her fortune.The sheer luck of the lottery winning changed the girl forever.The cash was never to be spent, only saved; a noble, if not intelligent, plan.However, Trina’s simple animal mind can not grasp even this simple concept.She begins pilfering whatever money there is around the house, keeping it in a sack in a box.Trina hoards everything,.