Realism refers to the truth perceived in factual happenings of life, especially the gloomy ones. The concept is interested in looking at the daily lives of individuals from both the lower and middle classes, whose character is determined by social factors. In literature, it explains life without forming ideas through the process commonly known as idealization. Although it is not confined to a particular century or certain writers, its close association with the nineteenth century literary movement places it in that historical timeline. Some of the particular individuals associated with this period of time are famous novelists from France, Balzac and Flaubert. The social plays written by Ibsen are associated with realism. Writers later argued that it was only focusing on external reality thus some of them embraced psychological realism that analyzed the intricate functioning of the mind (Realism, 2007).
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Realism is a common practice among various schools of writing. Although in a strict sense it is considered a technique, it is also representative of certain subject matter, specifically the ones representing middle class life. Its rise was fueled by various factors among them the desire to study methods of science and the effects of rational philosophy. Romanticists search for the ideal by going beyond the immediate while naturalists go beyond the superficial or actual in their quest for the laws of science that influence actions. However, realists concentrate on the immediate, the particular deeds and the consequences that can be verified.
A number of critics have pointed out that realism does not clearly differentiate itself from naturalism which emerged towards the end of nineteenth century. The term has different use in American and European contexts. In the context of American literature, it covers the period when the civil war began to the time when other writers such as Rebecca Davis, Mark Twain and William Howells among others wrote fiction aimed at accurately representing the lives of Americans in different contexts. As America recollected itself following the civil war, the improved democracy and formal education, growth of urban centers and industries, population increase as a result of immigration and the increase in the wealth of middle class people gave rise to readers who were interested in the culture changes. Realism was therefore regarded as a mechanism of imagining and dealing with social change threats (Moris, 2003).
The movement covered the whole country since it was widespread although most of its critics and writers lived in England. There were different characteristics that were associated with the movement which were the ideas realists believed in. They argued that moralizing was a difficult concept to incorporate in the novel. Their morality was therefore based on a rather paradoxical concept. The ethical beliefs they subscribed to held the view that the moral behavior schemes were associated with fictional characters and their deeds. However, Howells upheld a strong moral purpose in his works. According to him, social life in his familiar world was important and full of morality. He also believed that the health of life depended on the ability to use human reason in dealing with the selfish ambitions of human beings.
Realism considers the most mundane and uninteresting events and characters with the aim of deriving meaning from them. It strives to establish the link between the extraordinary and the ordinary and the visible and invisible of the nature of human beings (Campbell, n.d).
Campbell, D n.d., Realism in American Literature, 1860-1890, Web.
Moris, P 2003, Realism, Routledge, New York.
Realism, 2007. Web.