During the mid-to-late 19th century, Realism, an effective literary and artistic
movement was on the rise. There were many factors contributing to the strong
emergence of Realism, a reaction against romanticism, an interest in scientific method,
the systematizing of the study of documentary history, and the influence of rational
philosophy (Chase). In Realism the details along with cause and effect of
environment and of circumstance, become the grounds for exploration of human values
and fate, which in turn places the emphasis on the individual and their social
In definition Realism is, “the creation of the effect of the representation of the concrete, historical nature of human life” (Longman).As an artistic movement it is the product and expression of the dominant mood of its time. It is considered a pervasive rationalistic epistemology that turned its back on the fantasies of Romanticism and was shaped instead by the impact of the political and social changes as well as the scientific and industrial advances of the day (Longman). Realism is considered to be the representation of the common life during a time when man was seen as a secular being living amongst a world not transformed or informed by spiritual presence, and what was real was what could be demonstrated physically. Also Realism represented during an age
when individual rights had been derived with a consequent focus on self as the object of moral and political concern and importance.
Many saw realism as being faithful to experiences of life lived in a physical and social environment. Realism’s strongest argument was that it was a representation of life as it is lived. It brings one closer to the physical and intimate existence and is therefore less likely to be distorted and influenced by ideology. Realism was concerned with the way life was truly being lived and what is actually happening at a given moment. “Realists center their attention to a remarkable degree on the immediate, the here and now, the specific action, and the verifiable consequence” (Chase).
Realism at a basic level was grounded in the consistent reporting of every facet of daily life. According to William Dean Howells, “Realism is nothing more and nothing less than the truthful treatment of material” (Carter 36). The public’s preference for reading realism parallels changes that occurred during the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century. Some changes and developments brought about by realism were, “growth of investigative journalism; rise of muckrakers; and the establishment of a fascinations with the camera as a means of capturing the realities of a single instant, unvarnished by sentimentality” (Carter 36).
Realism brought about changes in literature especially concerning the plot and character. The character became more important than action and the plot and complex ethical dilemmas became the subject matter. Characters appeared to have complex
motives and moods. They were in close relation to each other and nature and acclimated themselves to surroundings instead of automatically reacting to it.
As is the case with most things, critics have found several problems concerning Realism. To understand most reservations about realism one has to go first to the idea that any representation is a selection, and therefore implicit or explicit set of inclusions and arrangements. Also critics feel it brings about a problem with the word reality. They feel it is too inclusive to be very useful. It refers to objects, feelings, and perceptions to various beings, so realism may in fact restrict the very idea of what reality actually is. Critics also point at that Realism forms and enforces a world without a genuine spiritual dimension. They see it as a world of place and time; therefore realism possesses inherent limitation as a form and is limited in its capacity to represent the spiritual being of man (Lye 3).
According to Richard Chase’s The American Novel and Its Tradition, realism has specific social, political, and artistic characteristics that set it apart from other genres. Realism is a durable and attractive form that has consistently been put to use in literature, history, and journalism with its intense commitment to the truth. Several things can be more accurately represented than in any other form, because realism is the manner in which