Man—the nature of man, the metaphysically significant, important,
essential in man—is now represented by dipsomaniacs, drug addicts, sexual
perverts, homicidal maniacs and psychotics. The subjects of modern literature
are such themes as: the hopeless love of a bearded lady for a mongoloid pinhead
in a circus side show—or: the problem of a married couple whose child was
born with six fingers on her left hand—or: the tragedy of a gentle young
man who just can’t help murdering strangers in the park, for kicks.
All this is still presented to us under the Naturalistic heading of “a slice of
life” or “real life”—but the old slogans have worn thin. The obvious
question, to which the heirs of statistical Naturalism have no answer, is: if
heroes and geniuses are not to be regarded as representative of mankind, by
reason of their numerical rarity, why are freaks and monsters to be regarded as
representative? Why are the problems of a bearded lady of greater universal
significance than the problems of a genius? Why is the soul of a murderer worth
studying, but not the soul of a hero?