Realism and naturalism

The realism was a literary movement born in the second half of the nineteenth century, which sought to show that art form reality objectively and using the simple language of everyday speech.

Influenced by the development of the natural and social sciences, realist writers carefully observed and documented everyday life. His goal was to create detailed works that resemble the real world as much as possible.

The naturalism , however, was a literary movement considered a more thorough realism. It was characterized by being highly scientistic, taking various principles of determinism and materialism as the basis of literary creation.

In addition to observing and documenting everyday life, naturalistic authors experimented with their characters and believed that their freedom was determined by their social context and physical characteristics.

DefinitionIt is a literary movement that aims to show reality as it is presented, objectively, observing, documenting and presenting facts from the real world, abandoning the style of romanticism.It is a literary movement in which reality is represented objectively, with a scientific, positivist and deterministic approach, where the actions of the characters were determined by their social context and their physical characteristics.
Main features
  • Inspired by the development of science and technical advances.
  • Opposed to the ideals of romanticism.
  • Try to portray reality faithfully and objectively.
  • Its authors observe and document real-life events, places, and people.
  • Abandonment of the figurative style of romanticism, adopting a more colloquial and simple language.
  • Descriptive and detailed style of objects, places and characters.
  • Predilection for prose and the genre of the novel.
  • It shares many characteristics with realism.
  • He is a scientist, he tries not only to portray reality in a faithful and objective way, but he also seeks to interpret it.
  • It is deterministic and materialistic, the decisions of the characters are dictated by their social context and physical characteristics.
  • A more acute degree of observation, documentation and experimentation on the part of the authors.
  • Highly descriptive and detailed style.
Most used narrator typeOmniscient in the third person.Omniscient in the third person.
Type of main charactersThey are generally bourgeois individuals, although it may involve lower-class characters.Generally poor people, workers or with some type of illness, from the lower class.
AuthorsStendhal, Honoré Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Benito Pérez Galdós, Charles Dickens.Émile Zola, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Antón Chejov, Rómulo Gallegos, among others.

What is realism?

In literature, realism was an artistic movement of the mid-nineteenth century that set out to show reality as it is, objectively . He used the observation and documentation of events, people and places, drawing the world in the texts in detail.

As a consequence of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of new political and economic classes in Europe, the aesthetic vision on the representation of the world was affected. Furthermore, the development of experimental science and the study of society were important influences within this artistic movement.

Realistic authors favored concrete experiences of people and faithful descriptions of the events they observed. Inspired by scientific development, they abandoned the subjectivity of romanticism, opting for a more objective style.

Realism as a movement sought to draw reality, describing the world in which the works were developed, as if it were a painting or a photograph. The characteristics of the characters, both physical and psychological, were described with the presence of an omniscient narrator.

The consolidation of the bourgeoisie was key for the realistic movement to take place. It was intended that the art reflected more about this class, with characters that represented it.

Social criticism was also a characteristic point of this movement. The authors sought to go beyond entertainment and denounce those things of the time that caused evil in society.

For realistic and naturalistic authors, the prose writing of the novel was the ideal way to create their works. This genre allowed an approach to reality similar to that of scientific essays, with greater possibilities of creating a narrative world that was plausible. In addition, they opted for a simpler way of writing and attached to the way people speak, making use of colloquial language.

Characteristics of realism

  • Its intention is to portray reality objectively.
  • Inspired by scientific development, he turns to the observation of facts, documenting events, places and people.
  • It has a descriptive style of the external and psychological world of the characters.
  • Has a critical attitude from the point of view of the author, who uses the literary work to describe and denounce and not just to entertain.
  • His characters are mostly bourgeois.
  • Predominantly omniscient narrator and use of the third person.
  • Local or colloquial language and not very idealistic, opposed to the romantic style.
  • The represented world is known to the author, abandoning the use of fantastic elements.
  • The characters act according to the situation in which they find themselves.

Representatives of literary realism

Gustave Flaubert (French, 1821-1880)Madam Bovary (1856)
Stendhal (French, 1783-1842)The Red and the Black (1830)
Honoré Balzac (French, 1799-1850)Eugenia Grandet (1833)
Benito Pérez Galdós (Spanish, 1843-1920)The Golden Fountain (1870)
Leopoldo Alas “Clarín” (Spanish, 1852-1901)The Maid (1885)
Juan Valera (Spanish, 1824-1905)Pepita Jiménez (1874)
Charles Dickens (English, 1812-1870)David Copperfield (1850)
José López Portillo y Rojas (Mexican, 1850-1923)The plot (1898)

What is naturalism?

Naturalism is a literary movement that originated in the last third of the 19th century and founded by the French novelist Émile Zola (1840-1902), who embodied the basic ideas of naturalism in his essay The Experimental Novel (1880). This movement is linked to realism, but it exposes its main characteristics in a more exhaustive way.

This movement considered that the events and the context determine the actions of the people, that the novelist should proceed in writing in the same way that a scientist does science. In addition, he considered that the author should not only describe the observed reality, but should also experiment with the characters, placing them in different situations and showing their behaviors.

He was influenced by determinism , according to which there is a causal order that determines human behavior. Thus, the economic context and the social situation would dictate the behavior of the characters. The author worked on the characters, experimenting with them in various situations and showing how their behavior was commanded by their social and biological context.

In addition to determinism, naturalism also started from Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and from materialism . The characters were subject to their own physical characteristics, from which their behaviors and feelings were derived. This movement was secular and spirituality was subsumed to the natural world.

Like realism, naturalism was inspired by the natural sciences and social positivism, albeit in a more profound way. The authors methodically observed reality and documented their findings, using them as the basis for writing the work.

However, naturalism differs from realism by being a literary movement more representative of the lower and marginalized classes. His characters were workers, poor people, sick people and others who were not normally protagonists in literary works.

Society was presented from a much more pessimistic perspective, and this was the promoter of those negative situations that dominated the lives of the characters.

Characteristics of naturalism

  • Look for objectivity and reject subjectivity.
  • He is a scientist, he proposes observation and experimentation as keys in the artistic work of the novelist, which is equated to the work of the scientist.
  • In the construction of the work, the author tries to reproduce, describe and interpret the observed reality to the maximum.
  • It is deterministic, which means that the behavior of the characters is determined by their social context and their natural impulses.
  • The author experiments with the characters, based on their physical and social conditions, which generally present some kind of physical or psychological problem.
  • The language used is even more colloquial than in realism, using the jargon and vocabulary used in real life in even more detail.
  • It presents reality in its crudest expressions, presenting both the good and the bad, emphasizing the miseries of the poorer classes.
  • It is amoral, in the sense that reality is presented as it is, without making a value judgment on what is written about.

Representatives of literary naturalism

Émile Zola (French, 1840-1902)Nana (1890)
Emilia Pardo Bazán (Spanish, 1851-1921)The tribune (1883)
Anton Chekhov (Russian, 1860-1904)The Three Sisters (1901)
Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (Spanish, 1867-1928)The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1914)
Manuel Zeno Gandía (Puerto Rican, 1855-1930)The pond (1894)
Henrik Ibsen (Norwegian, 1828-1906)Specters (1881)
Rómulo Gallegos (Venezuelan, 1884-1969)Dona Barbara (1929)

Historical context of realism and naturalism

Realism and naturalism were influenced by various events that occurred before and throughout the 19th century.

The revolutions that occurred during the 19th century in Europe fed class consciousness among various social groups.

An example of this was the so-called Spring of the Peoples of 1848. This was the consequence of an agricultural and commercial crisis that hit France in 1847, and that led to the general uprising of the working class and the confrontation with the bourgeois class.

In addition, the fight for civil rights was a factor that impacted the social panorama. Until then, politics in France and the rest of Europe favored the upper bourgeois classes more and not so much the middle and working classes.

Clothed with political and economic power, the upper bourgeois class of the time had a conservative and secular worldview. Influenced by more materialistic philosophical perspectives and advances in science, it would emphasize observed facts and the explanation of reality.

On the other hand, the Industrial Revolution had as a consequence a transfer of work from the countryside to the city, streamlining communication and the development of written media. This made it easier for different ideas to spread quickly.

Finally, popular literacy also played an important role in the development of these movements. Education was systematized and gained some ground to illiteracy. Primary education would be established in large industrialized cities, where access to secular education would allow more people access to literary production.

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