Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English



First Committee Member

Joseph B. McCullough, Chair

Second Committee Member

Richard Harp

Third Committee Member

John H. Irsfeld

Graduate Faculty Representative

David Wrobel

Number of Pages



To best represent a people of a specific spatial and historical context, literary texts must necessarily demonstrate a vested interest and familiarity of a region and its inhabitants’ common experiences. In examining one particular aspect of regional naturalism in American literature, this study explores the basic tenets of Prairie Naturalism as defined by three major authors: Hamlin Garland, Willa Cather, and John Steinbeck. The short stories in Hamlin Garland’s Main-Travelled Roads (1891) establish the foundation of Prairie Naturalism with meticulous attention to daily lives on the plains and with political strategies to improve the lives of the oppressed. Willa Cather’s novels, O Pioneers! (1913) and My Ántonia (1918), again place national attention on the plains and provide representational balance with positive and negative aspects of prairie life. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1939) gives voice to an otherwise marginalized population in desperate need of conditional improvement. All three authors’ works function first as truthful representations of prairie ecology, economy, and ethnography; they function second as deconstructive entities against images of the pastoral plains inhabited by noble yeomen.


Literature in English, North America