Interestingly, Wharton also had a successful career as a designer of homes and landscapes. Edith Wharton for one is frequently identified as perfectly representative of both aesthetic frameworks. The work of French novelist and playwright Emile Zola is often pinpointed as the genesis of the Naturalist movement proper.
The fact that Social Darwinism eventually came to be seen for the disguised racism that it is probably marred the reputation of Naturalist writing.
Zola crafts over characters for his epic, yet on the whole they are rather thinly drawn. This literary movement, like its predecessor, found expression almost exclusively within the novel. Who are the most famous naturalists ever?
One of the families is privileged, the other impoverished, but they each stumble into decay and failure.
True, the images presented of immigrant and ethnic groups are unflattering. The story is not rooted in a specific locale. Characters speak in realistic dialects. Still, one cannot escape the sense that Wharton subscribed to the notion of determinism — a world devoid of free will.
Characters are frequently referred to in animalistic terms, and there is an undercurrent of unhealthy sexuality that permeates the first sections of the novel. There was in the late nineteenth century a fashion in sociology to apply evolutionary theory to human social woes.
Like realists and naturalists of his time, he thought that fiction should reproduce reality.