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Characteristics of Realism and Naturalism

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1 Characteristics of Realism and Naturalism
Realism reacts against Romanticism’s idealized heroes and sensational situations. Realism aims at an accurate and unsentimental depiction of social issues and problems. Naturalism seeks to present human behavior objectively, as a scientist would. Naturalism was influenced by Darwinism and the theories of psychology and sociology

2 Humans Versus the Universe
In realist writing, characters face the kinds of problems and situations that readers might face in their own lives. Realists use sharp details and descriptions to provide an unflinching picture of a world that is sometimes unpleasant. Naturalist writers move beyond realism in their quest to dissect human behavior and show human beings as subject to natural forces beyond their control. Realism and naturalism are often stark, bold, and frank.

3 A Reaction Against Romanticism
After the grim years of the Civil War, realists reacted against Romanticism, striving to show not larger-than-life heroes in extraordinary situations but everyday people in ordinary circumstances. The realists sought a “very minute fidelity” to the common course of events, especially emphasizing urban environments and characters from the lower classes. Realist fiction relies on careful description, regional dialect and everyday speech patterns, and a focus on the ethical struggles of daily life.

4 The Literature of Science
Naturalism was inspired by the work of Charles Darwin, who broke new ground with his theory of natural selection, as well as by the emerging disciplines of psychology, the study of the human mind, and sociology, the study of human social behavior. For naturalists, human behavior is determined by forces beyond the individual’s control. Naturalist characters are subject to natural laws of the universe and live like animals, by instinct, unable to control their own destinies. Naturalists seek truth in the universe—no matter how dark that truth seems—and tend to look at human life as a grim, losing battle.

5 Human Nature in the Wilderness
Jack London was one of naturalism’s leading voices, and his work brought the movement’s stark perspective into popular culture. In his gripping wilderness tales, nature is a merciless force, indifferent to the humans who struggle for survival. Despite this bleak point of view, his characters demonstrate the vitality of the human spirit in the face of futility. The moments that London captures are dark but also honest and captivating. As a naturalist, London tries to show us humanity as it is in a cold universe—adrift but aware, like his character in the short story “To Build a Fire”:



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