The greatest difference between naturalism and realism in literature was


Realism and Naturalism are a reactivity versus Romanticism (imagination, poetry and also pclimbed, as well as the major themes : nature, exoticism, background, and heroes illustrated as superior individuals) bereason it was thneed to have lost touch through the modern.

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Three changes took area in the time of the 19th century : the industrial radvancement, the scientific revolution, and the ethical rdevelopment.

In Great Britain, the Victorian Era lasted from 1837 to 1901. In the USA, the Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1865.

Jean-François Millet, Des Glaneprovides, 1857.

The industrial revolution

The Industrial Revolution was started by the invention of the heavy steam machine (coal, railways, factories).

All this happened in the cities : the rise of the population resulted in misery and social problems such as alcoholism, tuberculosis, prostitution… Tright here was a shift from a belief in progression to a boosting pessimism.

The scientific revolution

The Scientific Revolution expanded in the transfer revolution, started by the heavy steam engine:

1830: Manchester-Liverpool railway1869: Transcontinental railmeans in the USAThomas Edichild invents the gramophone, the light bulb and also the electrical chairPierre and Marie Curie find radioactivity…

The world was transforming incredibly fast.

Auguste Comte (1798–1857) is at the origin of a thoughtful concept referred to as Positivism. He devised the “law of three stages” : (1) the theological, (2) the metaphysical, and also (3) the positive.

The theological phase of man was based on whole-hearted belief in all things via reference to God. God, Comte says, had actually reigned supreme over humale visibility pre-Knowledge. Humanity’s place in society was governed by its association through the divine presences and via the church.

The theological phase deals with humankind’s accepting the doctrines of the church (or area of worship) fairly than relying on its rational powers to explore basic concerns around presence.

Comte defines the metaphysical phase of humankind as the moment because the Enlightenment, a time steeped in logical rationalism, to the time ideal after the French Revolution. This second phase states that the universal legal rights of mankind are many essential.

The central idea is that humankind is invested via particular legal rights that have to be respected. In this phase, democracies and also dictators rose and also fell in attempts to keep the natural rights of humanity.

The last phase of the trilogy of Comte’s universal legislation is the scientific, or positive, phase. The central concept of this phase is that individual civil liberties are more essential than the rule of any type of one perkid. Science is paramount and also can give male absolute understanding and power.

The ethical revolution

The moral radvancement noted the finish of the hypocrisy of the Victorian principles. In the Origin of Species (1859), Darwin argued for the first time that male descended from apes : tright here was no require for God, simply a struggle for life (“survival of the fittest”).

Darwin influenced Marx (communism and also class warfare) and also Nietsche (vision of super-man).

Conflicts and struggles define the future of society. It was a time of intense approach, and ethical and scientific transforms.


Realism is the fact of being faithful to truth. It was a motion away from romantic illusion, in order to acquire closer to the social and psychological fact of the moment. It is the belief there have the right to be a correspondence in between truth and also its depiction.

Reality is a subject matter : the life of simple human being in simple cases – for circumstances the bourgeois middle-class as exceptional people are not realistic. Balzac talked about eincredibly classes of culture yet exceptionally regularly, he selected.

Reality is additionally a issue of verisimilitude : exactly how characters are figured out by their environment, chronological narratives, psychological measurement of the characters, existence of an omniscient narrator.

Realism in England

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was a realistic who lived in the time of romanticism but she was not romantic at all. She described middle classes in the countryside (just how to obtain married) with 2 forms of heroines : romantic on the one hand also and also reasonable and realistic on the other hand.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) defined realism via a strong social dimension: he depicted the functioning class and the poor and also encountered poverty and also rebellion versus injustice. Dickens’ personalities are defensemuch less orphans in a cruel people and his novels were provided for social redevelops.

In Oliver Twist (1838), there is sentimentality and pathos (influence of melodrama) yet likewise humour and caricature to mitigate tensions.

Uriah Heep in David Copperfield (1850) is evil, ugly, red-haired and also smelled a fish. This romantic realism depicted social difficulties as well as imagination and sentimentality.

Realism in the USA

After the Civil War, the vision of the Romantic America (Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans) had actually disshowed up bereason of the growth to the West (“Manifest Destiny”) and also bereason the cultural facility of the USA relocated from Boston to New York (which represented modernity).

Harriet Beecher-Stowe (1811-1896) provided to write children’s books. She composed Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852, which was a pamphlet versus slaextremely from a Christian and also sentimental allude of watch. Afrihave the right to Americans observed it as a paternalistic portray, not realistic at all. Its aim wregarding draw civilization versus slaexceptionally and also indirected started the Civil War.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) is Samuel Clemens’ nom de plume. He was largely a humorist with a strong regionalist tradition and offered the vernacular (the language world speak) as well as western tell-tales as inspirations.

He properly stood for the spirit of the post civil battle America via The Guilded Age (1873), a satire of the “robber barons”, and Life on the Mississippi (1883) as soon as he was a steamboat pilot.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) is totally written in the vernacular language of the young Amerideserve to boy that ran ameans from “sivilization” (people of the South) with Jim, a runamethod servant. They recurrent the society of the South before the Civil War in a criticism of Southern society.

The slaincredibly mechanism had corrupted the South not just for it was negative however also for the culture corrupted the individuals. Huck has actually a “crisis of conscience”: need to he denounce Jim or not? He prefers not to and to perform wrong: this mirrors the principles and also the influence society can have on individuals: Huck has a “sound heart and a dedeveloped conscience”.


Naturalism is an extreme create of literary realism, based on the idea that science might describe all social phenomena, and also was to provide the technique for the development of literature.

Contrary to Realism, which was a quite loose activity, it constituted a actual college of thought around its founder, the Frenchmale Emile Zola. One of its a lot of well known manifestos was Zola’s Le roguy expéripsychological (1880). Its major tenets were :

absolute determinism and also materialismthe natural scientific researches as a methodological model: Darwinism and Claude Bernard’s speculative medicine (Review à la médecine expérimentale, 1865).

Consequences of this clinical outlook

No cost-free will : man is figured out by situations past his command also (instincts, atmospheres, heredity; therefore a lot of naturalistic novels take the develop of social and psychological tragedies.

As visible in Zola’s La Bête Humaine (1890), civilisation is just a varnish: under the influence of tension, sexual desire or alcohol, male reverts to animality. This conception of life is of course extremely pessimistic, because life and also the individual will are seen as meaningmuch less.

Because the clinical technique is the design for literary creation, the naturalist writer must not usage his creativity, but just search and also document facts – social, biological, mental facts.

They usually made substantial preparatory research study before creating. Like a medical scientist, the writer renders experiments and also observes the results : after establishing personalities in a provided situation and setting, they observe their reactions. In a method, they aim at dissecting the human mind and the body.

Because their aim is to define social truth “objectively” and to deny the clintends of the creativity, their emphasis was not on develop yet on contents. The choice of topic was often the reduced classes, through a watch to denouncing the state of society; they were often accprovided of picking the a lot of sordid elements of huguy nature (vice, violence…).

The plot was a lot of of the time presented chronologically (insistence on the determinism of causes and effects) and also it can, in the worst situations, be extremely loosely built, out of a specific carelessness about the aesthetic result.

The impression of objectivity was regularly achieved by means of lengthy descriptions, which tries to show the interplay in between man and also his setting, and with the use of a distanciated omniscient narrator, whose treatment was occasionally limited to external focalisation. The style was occasionally unequal and also awkward.

All this fit Zola’s definition of the work of art: “Une oeuvre d’art est un coin de la nature vu à travers un tempérament”.

Naturalism in the USA

Naturalism was a lot more crucial as a motion in the States than in Great Britain. This deserve to be partly explained by the truth that the social adjust was also quicker and also even more radical in this country after the Civil War (1861-1865).

The period observed the finish of the agrarian myth of a pastdental America in the face of fast industrialisation, especially in the North, and the cshedding of the Frontier in 1890. The Amerideserve to dream of capitalistic success did not materialize either for many immigrants and also the metropolitan poor.

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Out of these deep pertains to, an original form of Naturalism was born, which could mix Zola’s positivist ideology and a truly aesthetic innovativeness and a symbolic technique.

It was represented by authors such as Stephen Crane (1871-1900) in The Red Badge of Courage (1896) and also Maggie, a Girl of the Streets (1893); Frank Norris (1870-1902) in McTeague (1899); Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) in An Amerideserve to Tragedy (1925); Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) in The Jungle (1906).

The Great Depression (1929-1935) that complied with the 1929 Wall surface Street crash and ruined international trade, placing millions of employees global ouf of a job, as necessary experienced a revival of Naturalism, which lasted till the second World War.

It is greatly represented by John Steinbeck (1902-1968), whose occupational is marked by compassion for negative and marginal human being : Of Mice and Men (1937), The Grapes of Wrath (1939).

Richard Wbest (1908-1960), an African Amerihave the right to author whose Native Son (1940) faces the difficulties of race and also violence, was also a Naturalist.

An example : Of Mice and also Men

Of Mice and also Men is not just a naturalistic novel, it has actually various other dimensions. Yet it is rather close to the basic pertains to of naturalism, both in subject issue ad in narrative method.

The option of bad farm hands as protagonists and also, for the plot, of a violent murder carried around by a mix of social oppression and sexual desire, ties in through the objective of depicting culture as it is, under its often sordid elements, with a critical aim.

The scientific technique that underpins the novel is behaviourism, a then prominent institution of psychology influenced by biology. It sees animal of huguy behaviour as a solution without referral to moral worths or “metaphysical” notions like the spirit. Eactivities and also motivations are irpertinent here; so is teleology (determicountry by last causes).

In Of Mice and Men, this purely objective approach is embodied in the framework of the text by its being created like a phase play. It is composed in the summary of settings – which pose the social context and also the atmosphere, of actions, of dialogues on the vernacular. The narrator does not intervene in the story; he is a mere spectator or witness, using the techniques of exterior focalisation, or zero focalisation.

Anvarious other naturalistic template is the parallel in between men and animals, initially seen in the title. The mercy killing of Candy’s dog parallels that of Lenny in the end. The men are little bit even more than animals: the ranch culture is choose a pack of dogs or wolves, in which only the dominant male has actually a best to a female, and where everyone intents on deffinishing his territory (even Crooks, the babsence male, transcreates his exemption into a desire for privacy). Lenny is innocent but dangerous, thus animal-like; his love of soft points is the way in which desire and also sexuality discover their means to a tragic end.

Finally, nature is seen under a twin element. In the opening and also cshedding scenes, it is invarious to guy, in true Darwinian fashion. Yet it deserve to also be motherly, as in the workers’ dream of a farm.

It is then Edenic, in harmony with male, as in the Jeffersonian Frontier. It is an illusion, yet dreams are effective too: they have the right to influence reality, as they influenced the resides of these characters. “Real” realism hregarding take them right into account also.

It is maybe in the humanitarian undertone of the book and also in this facility perspective to men’s dreams that Steinbeck goes beyond a pucount naturalistic strategy.

Naturalism in England

Due to the heritage of realism that had actually pervaded English literature considering that the finish of the 18th century, a tradition that did not deny the clintends of the creativity, the naturist movement had less audience than in France and the USA.

Yet the boosting pessimism of the late Victorian age, fuelled by the ethical crisis complying with Darwinism and the rise in social problems, made naturalism a strong influence on significant writers such as Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) in Tess of the D’Ubervilles (1891), Jude the Obscure (1895) or Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) in Heart of Darkness (1899), and Lord Jim (1900).

Hardy and Conrad common through the naturalists a sense of tragedy, a idea in the uselessness of humale totally free will certainly, and also a conviction that savagery lurked just beneath the veneer of civilisation.

Yet their style was very literary and also symbolic, and they expressed doubt around the opportunity of ever before getting to the reality – as opposed to the early naturalists’ idea in the infallibility of science.

The end of Heart of Darkness, a violent denunciation of European colonialism in Africa and a pamphlet about the relativity of the notions of civilisation and savagery, ends on these mysterious words: “The horror, the horror!” that sound like a nihilistic declaration of the imopportunity of knowledge.

These aesthetic and also epistemological qualities recognize Hardy and Conrad through the naturalistic school perhaps much less as they make them forerunners of Modernism.

The criticism of Realism

Realism and Naturalism are based upon the premises that fact deserve to be recognized (science as full knowledge) and also deserve to be represented objectively (transparency of the medium). Hence its closeness to the social sciences and psychology (realism) and also to biology (naturalism).

These activities aimed at representing society as it is, regularly with a crucial intention (Dickens, Hardy, Conrad). The best theoretical difficulties confronting realism were those of the meaning of “reality”, and also of the opportunity of “objectivity”.

The notion of “objectivity”

An artist deserve to never before be totally “objective” and transcribe “reality” as it is : even Zola’s motto (“A occupational of a art is a edge of nature viewed via a temperament”) reintroduces subjectivity. A temperament is the artist’s subjectivity, expressed in a selection of topic matter and also an option of treatment.

Why select just the middle classes or the poor? Exceptional human being or the aristocracy are likewise a part of truth. Happy-endings deserve to be as true to life as naturalistic tragedies.

Art necessarily indicates a “point of view”, as illustrated in Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady (1881). It is the story of a young American woman, Isabel Archer, who is both the protagonist and the “centre of consciousness” of the novel.

Everypoint is viewed via her subjectivity; even the narrator becomes much less and also less omniscient as the book creates. This elicits doubts about the opportunity of absolute knowledge, as corroborated by the “impressionistic” style and the open finishing, which keeps a number of feasible conclusions available to the reader’s creativity.

The novel stands in between Realism and also Modernism, and announces the “stream of consciousness” approach.

Anvarious other reaction against the strictures of Realism wregarding be found in the activity called Aestheticism, whose the majority of famed practitioner was Osvehicle Wilde (1854-1900). A famed dandy, Wilde was very famous among the Victorian better classes, yet this open up homosexuality carried about a trial and priboy sentence, and the finish of his career.

His functions, celebrated for their incisive wit and also many kind of paradoxes expose the arbitrariness of typical wisdom and also morality. Plays favor The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) are a sharp critique of Victorian principles and hypocrisy, satire under the veil of comedy. His only wonderful novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) betrays the affect of aestheticism (Dorian Gray is a dandy like Wilde himself), creates the independence of art from morality, and also provides the great as a way of contrial and error a “realistic” conception of life and art.

Wilde likewise wrote tales (“The Happy Prince”) and brief stories (“Lord Arthur Savile’s crime”). The latter is a parody of Victorian moralistic stories, frequently aimed at the education and learning of young gentlemales. It is centre on the paradox of a moral crime, or a murder committed out of a sense of duty.

Being told by a cheiromantist that he will certainly commit a crime, Savile decides to kill before marrying, for fear of bringing dishonour on his bride. He ends up killing the cheiromantist and also lives happily ever after. The story is a satire on the fashionable superstitions of the time: the fortune-teller reveals to be a fake, and also his prediction a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is also an indictment of the confusion in between morality and upper-course selfishness and also conventions.

As a crime without punishment, it is the opposite of a ethical tale, even though it masquerades as one. The story is not realistic because it does not obey the regulations of verisimilitude, and also given that its comic tone contrasts with the seriousness of many realistic works, yet it does have actually an indirect social relevance.

“The Canterville Ghost” is the parody of a Gothic tale (the ghold is not frightening and is compared to an actor). It follows the framework of the fairy tale, in which a pure young girls saves the damned spirit. But its main incentive is a compariboy between Britain and America, or 2 visions of the civilization. One is traditional and also superstitious; the various other is positivistic and also pragmatic: the Americans offer the ghold oil to lubricate his noisy chains, the youngsters play tricks on him and lead him to despair.

Even in his comedies and parodies, Wilde’s writings were affected by the aestheticist philosophy of men prefer Pater, who linked realism through a bourgeois outlook (capitalistic, rational, ethically conventional), and pictured the reality of refined life as that of the sensations and also the imagination.

New clinical views of reality

In the finish of the 19th century, science underwent drastic alters, which doubted its capacity to image “reality” as it is.

The ideology of William James in America, known as Pragmatism, declared that in both scientific research and psychology, knowledge depended on certain points of see, and that no concept is able to account totally for reality. This conception had actually a solid affect on his brvarious other Henry James, the novelist.

Freud’s psychoanalytical concept stated that the Unconscious continues to be forever elusive : consciousness deserve to never be finish. The frontier in between normality and madness is ill-identified, so that we all rebuild fact according to our obsessions : absolute expertise and also full objectivity are impossible.

Einstein’s theory of relativity, which indissolubly attached time and room, likewise deduced that the regulations of physics are relative in the measurement wbelow we belengthy. The subatomic level obeys various rules, as expressed in Eisenberg’s principle of indeterminacy.


Modernism was born from the fragmentation of the simplistic outlook of Realism: it is actually even more “realistic” to take into consideration fact as an agglomerate of various, partial views of reality, the imopportunity to reach a complete, coherent totality stemming from the multiple mental and epistemological factors of the building and construction of the genuine.

In the visual arts, tright here were a number of attempts to integrate these brand-new explorations.

Cubism, created by Pablo Picasso and also Georges Braque, consists in writing a rhythmic synthesis of multiple visions of a things, viewed from various angles at various times; it thereby integprices the fourth dimension of fact in a two-dimensional occupational of art.

Surrealism, with its refusal of rationality and also stress on the unmindful, with such techniques as collage and écriture automatique, had actually the aim of going past realism by implies of the insights of psychoanalysis.

In literary works, Modernism was particularly characterised by its conception that the work of art was an autonomous whole; by the subversion of the standard opplace between pclimbed and poetry; by a frequent recourse to multiple narrators and also various perspectives on reality (as opposed to the omniscient narrators of Realism and Naturalism); by a breaking up of the “stream of consciousness”, or “the attempt to convey all the contents of a character’s mind – memory, sense perceptions, feelings, intuitions, thoughts, in relation to the stream of experience as it passes by, regularly at random” (Martin Gray’s Thesaurus of Literary Terms).

The most famous authors of this movement are the poets Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot (The Waste Land, 1922) and the novelists Virginia Woolf (Mrs Dalloway, 1925), James Joyce (Ulysses, 1922), D. H. Lawrence (Womales in Love, 1921; Lady Chatterley’s Lover, 1928); and the Americans William Faulkner (The Sound and also the Fury, 1929), John Dos Passos (Manhattan Transfer, 1925).


Even though they appeared leading in the time of the second fifty percent of the 1ninth century, Realism and Naturalism never before had a place of hegemony. The presence of the Fantastic opened up other avenues to the building of literary definition, and doubted the exceptionally scientific and rational outlook on which these motions were based.

The epistemological fregulations of a belief in the transparency of fact and also language quickly spelled their demise under the onslaught of Modernism.

Yet the inspiration to explain various other realities in order to make the reader evaluate or questioned them remained alive for a while (Naturalism lasted until the 1940’s in the States) and also has actually not, also today, lost all its appeal or usefulness.

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