Literary Darwinism in Twain’s and Walker’s Stories

Literary Darwinism is the specific approach in the literary criticism according to which literature as the discourse is discussed as originated from and affected by definite evolutionary processes. Literature reflects the aspects of human nature, human development, the progress of human psychology, behavior, and culture. As a result, there is a great evolutionary heritage that influences people’s conduct and cognition. The associated patterns are traditionally reflected in pieces of literature as close to representatives of the same cultures (Guerin et al.). From this point, Literary Darwinism is related to the mythological approach, but it is rather opposite to the Marxist approach according to which literature is developed to reflect the society in general, but not a person in particular.

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Literary Darwinism discusses the aspects of evolutionary psychology, cognitive behavior, and genetic development in their connection with human cultural development as reflected in literature. Those patterns which are presented in the literary works can be discussed as the common symbols or myths related to the mythological approach. The evolutionary development of people is associated with the accumulation of shared knowledge and motifs which are presented in the literature in the forms of myths and archetypes (Guerin et al.). Literary Darwinism accentuates human needs and particular features of the people’s physical and mental progress. Realizing the definite form in myths and archetypes, the most common needs and features are reflected in the written texts.

On the contrary, the correlation between Literary Darwinism and the Marxist approach is rather obscure. It is possible to focus on the significance of the evolutionary development of humans and the world for Darwinists and the progress of society and its institutions for Marxists (Guerin et al.). Darwinists and Marxists concentrate on progress, but the reflection of this evolution in literature is different. If Literary Darwinism states human nature as the main object of description and reflection, the Marxist literary approach focuses on depiction and critique of society, social hierarchy, and economy.

The Reflection of Gloria Anzaldua’s Motif of Borders in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and “Everyday Use”

Gloria Anzaldua’s motif of borders should be discussed in the context of the complex theory of borderland. In her works, Anzaldua accentuates the notion of the ‘borderland’ identity according to which a person combines the elements of all the identities on which he or she ‘borders’ (Keating). As a result, a lot of cultures can border on in the personality. Moreover, the dependence of some territorial borders can become advantageous or disadvantageous for different persons. The motif of borders about borders of identity and the specific role of territorial borders is presented in such works as Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”.

Huckleberry Finn prefers to live near the Mississippi River because the nature of the region provides the effect of limitlessness and absence of dependence on any borders. The motif of borders in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is closely connected with the territorial borders and their effects on the people’s vision of themselves and others. Thus, Huckleberry Finn is affected by the fact of living in the territories which make the border between North and South and between East and West. That is why people living in these territories are characterized by the ‘borderland’ thinking when it is impossible to refer strictly to slavery typical for the Southern states or freedom principles proclaimed within the Northern states. Moreover, it is rather difficult to find the balance between the focus on industrialism typical for the Eastern states and the concentration on the uncivilized life characteristic for the Western territories. In this situation, Huckleberry Finn understands his identity and vision of the world basing on the ‘borderland’ principles. The protagonist is ready to avoid stereotypes and prejudice to form the complex vision of the problem of slavery reflecting the reality in the state which is on the territory of meeting borders. As a result, Huckleberry Finn is inclined not to concentrate on borders, but to reject the role of limits in people’s life. This principle works to regulate Huckleberry Finn’s relations with Jim who is not perceived as a slave (Twain).

The motif of borders about identity can be observed in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” where Maggie and Dee represent the different approaches to discussing their identity. If Dee stresses her national identity and shares the ideas of Pan-Africanism, Maggie is the representative of people with the ‘borderland’ identity similar to that one discussed by Gloria Anzaldua in her works (Keating; Walker). Being an African American, the person cannot discuss himself as fully African or American. Living in the USA, an African American develops a complex identity that depends on borders in nations and cultures. Maggie accepts this idea and interprets her ethnic heritage as an African American when Dee is inclined to build her identity on the idea of Africanism which does not correlate with her real origin.

Works Cited

Guerin, Wilfred, Earle Labor, Lee Morgan, Jeanne Reesman, and John Willingham. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. USA: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.

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Keating, AnaLouise. The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader. USA: Duke University Press, 2009. Print.

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. USA: Digireads Publishing, 2004. Print.

Walker, Alice. Everyday Use. n.d. Web.

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"Literary Darwinism in Twain's and Walker's Stories." StudyCorgi, 26 Jan. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Literary Darwinism in Twain's and Walker's Stories." January 26, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Literary Darwinism in Twain's and Walker's Stories." January 26, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Literary Darwinism in Twain's and Walker's Stories." January 26, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Literary Darwinism in Twain's and Walker's Stories'. 26 January.

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