The Concept Of Realism In Literature

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Realism is a literary technique used by many. It is a technique, but also means a specific set of ideas, especially the depiction of middle-class life. Realism was a reaction to romanticism, developing ideas in scientific method (especially Darwinism), and the influence of new philosophies that focused on the more depressing aspects of life. In this time period are naturalism and realism. Naturalism and realism do not have a defined line between them, but realism sets a tone different from naturalism in the literary world. Some say realism is focusing on the philosophical ideas after Romanticism, and naturalism focuses on the real-world applications of these, especially involving the middle class: “The realists thus shocked their audiences by representing characters who for centuries had been considered too low and coarse for art. ”

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In literature, the term "realism" includes the historical time from the mid-1800s to the start of the 1900s. The literature produced from this period explored the real-life narratives unheard before. Realism also focused on presenting literature in plain speech, unlike the flowery high-brow of before. More education led to more readers, who had an appetite for realistic portrayals of themselves and their lives. The rapid development in industrialism and urbanization and rise in middle-class, plus greater immigrant population, gave writers ample content for varied storylines and the implications the culture shifts were having.

The works that came out of this era, along with bringing fresh ideas, brought a different tone. Gone were the long passages of romantic thought and descriptions of nature and beauty, and in was the realistic view of the world. These authors used plain language and believable plots to create a genre that, overall, can come off very depressing. With the rise in urbanization and education, these writers found that they could write about real life and everything that came with it, most importantly the sad parts. They wrote about depression and suicide and contempt for life. For them, “all that was left of reality was what you could see with your naked eyes: gritty, ugly industries; the power of money; starving, broken workers; social hierarchies; dirt, decay, and disease”.

In Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, the main character Hedda is a manipulative scorn who untimately kills herself out of frustration with the life pushed upon her by the patriarchal society she lives in. She cannot stand her purposelessness. She says, "A purpose? Something really tempting for me". Tagore explores futility and the non-truths we all come to bear in Punishment: "Chidam's only thought was to escape from the terrible truth - he forgot that a lie can even be more terrible". Lies and corruption and oppression surround their lives and eventually, they take no more. Realism also explores social norms and boundaries. After the suicide of Hedda, Judge exclaims, "But God have mercy - People just don't act that way!". Ibsen was focusing on something that had been little explored before and was too taboo: people are complex individuals who act only because and societal standards, and once they realize those are worthless, they are unpredictable.

To summarize, the realists were not simply gloomy; rather, they saw the world for what it was and took those ideas to paper. Without the realists, Romanticism would not have died and Modernism would not have come to life. As the text says: “Realism is nothing if not a capacious, roomy genre — able to move across borders and oceans, and as it moves, to take up new social relationships, new styles, new perspectives, and new resolutions”.

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