Written by Stela Blazic


realism and naturalism in storytelling


  “Concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary.”

    This is the definition of the realist movement as given by Wikipedia.com. This literary, art and philosophical movement started in France somewhere around 1850 and lasted until about 1890. The main themes were the customs and habits of a period or place, the links with the historical, political and social context, the influence the environment has on individuals, social misery and problems as well as the social rise and ascension. The most common protagonists belonged to the middle class and the lower middle class since realists thought that their works needed to serve as a social commentary and not just practice language forms and all a language can offer. Most of the authors were extremely concerned with objectivity and did almost anything and everything to increase this such as writing in third person, consulting different documentation and searching for the authentic. This movement was preceded by romanticism and neoclassicism. Naturalism was in direct opposition to these movements and all they stood for, namely all the excess of high symbolic, idealistic and even supernatural treatment of characters and the ideological views of the world, people and situations. Realism is very interested with sensual perception people have of things, places, events and other individuals. This movement claims that all objects, beings, actions and things are worthy of being represented in art and literature and as such deserve to have the truest representation possible. The most famous European realists in literature were the French men Honoré de Balzac, Guy de Maupassant, Gustave Flaubert and the Russian Anton Chekov. The movement was introduced to England by George Eliot who said in Adam Bede (1859) that her purpose was to give a “faithful representation of commonplace things.” In the United States, the main supporters of realism were Mark Twain and William Dean Howells.


 “Naturalism is a movement that seeks to replicate a believable everyday reality

   This is the definition given of naturalism by Wikipedia.com. Many people confuse realism and naturalism since they both were present around the same time, both were very popular and both were in opposition to romanticism and neoclassicism. Even though both movements seem to stem from the same roots, they do present one big difference. Realism was mainly concerned with an authentic description of its subjects while naturalism took that description one step further and was greatly influenced by science and scientific methods. This movement was founded, or is at least considered as such, by the French writer Émile Zola somewhere around 1870. The subjects were similar to those of realism in that not one of the writers talked about the important people such as the King or about the rich people. The main focus was put on prostitutes, on middle class labourers, on people from the street and there were no limits and no taboo subjects, everything was allowed. The most famous writers from this movement were Edmond Louis Antoine de Goncourt and his brother Jules Alfred Huot de Goncourt as well as J.K. Huysmans and Émile Zola in France, with George Moore and George Gissing in England and Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris and James T. Farrell in the United States. All of these writers were greatly influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution and by science and scientific experimentation. Their great belief was that a person’s character is determined by one’s heredity and by one’s environment: “Naturalistic writers regard human behaviour as controlled by instinct, emotion, or social and economic conditions, and reject free will, adopting instead, in large measure, the biological determinism of Charles Darwin and the economic determinism of Karl Marx.” (MSN Encarta)