Difference Between Realism and Naturalism

Main Difference

The main difference between realism and naturalism is that realism aims at representing real life and naturalism aims at representing life more scientifically and clinically.

Realism vs. Naturalism

Realism is a literary movement that is characterized by the representation of real life. Naturalism is an outgrowth of realism that is influenced by scientific theories. Realism portrays the everyday life of common or ordinary people. Naturalism portrayed how heredity, environment, and social conditions control human beings. Realism depicted the realities of middle-class characters. Naturalism depicted the lower class characters. Realistic novels deal with themes like society, social class, mobility, etc. Naturalistic novels deal with the themes of violence, corruption, poverty, prostitution, etc. Realism sought to be an honest and faithful representation of life. Naturalism proceeded from realism and can be seen as an exaggerated form of realism. It shows human being as being determined by their environment, heredity, and social conditions which are beyond their control. Thus, human beings are helpless to escape their circumstances. In realism, the main focus is on the middle class and its problems. Naturalism deals with things like poorly educated or lower-class characters. In realism, the main focus is on the faithful representation of reality including the details of nature. In naturalism, nature itself is a powerful force having an indifferent mechanism. Realism was all about real life and the presentation of familiar subjects as they were. Naturalism was a literary movement that added a scientific aspect to the literary aspects. Realism dealt with an account of the everyday goings-on of the middle and lower classes of society. Naturalism focused on the darker topics that involved the lives of the common man, including the topics prostitution, violence, corruption, and vice.

Comparison Chart

RealismNaturalism
a literary movement that is characterized by the representation of a real lifean outgrowth of realism influenced by the scientific theories
Portrays
the everyday life of ordinary peopleenvironment, heredity, and social conditions controlling human beings
Class
Depicted middle-class characters.depicted lower class characters
Themes
society, social class, mobility, etcviolence, poverty, corruption, prostitution, etc
Tone
Ordinary and commonRealistic and logical

What is Realism?

Realism is a literary movement which began in the middle of the nineteenth century in France and spread across Europe. This movement is defined as a reaction against Romanticism. Realism depicts ordinary people in everyday situations. It depicted realistic events that could happen to anyone in real life. Realism portrays realistic life without any fakeness, idealizing, flattering or romanticizing. Realism movement broke the convention by portraying characters that belong to working classes. Realism movement introduced a writing style where there were no great heroes. The protagonist was ordinary characters with whom the audience can identify and relate. Realism paid great attention to detail as it was necessary to create a realistic effect and feel. The language used in literature during the realistic period was ordinary and common to render the texts more believable and realistic. Realism was an attempt to describe situations as they might occur. Realism is a response to romanticism, which had previously been the dominant literary aesthetic. Literary realism coincided with big cultural changes in Europe and America, like industrialization and the emergence of the middle-class.

Examples:

  • Flaubert’s Madame Bovary
  • Ibsen’s Doll’s House
  • Tolstoy’s War and Peace
  • Dickens’s Great Expectations
  • Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure

What is Naturalism?

Naturalism is a logical outgrowth of realism and can be considered as an exaggerated form of realism. Naturalism used detailed realism to propose that social conditions, heredity, and environment were the three main forces in shaping human character. Naturalism was largely influenced by the theories of Charles Darwin and naturalistic authors that attempted to apply scientific theories to literature. Therefore, they took a detached and clinical tone. Naturalism often portrayed middle class or lower-class characters. The main themes of naturalism involved violence and taboo activities. Naturalistic novels are particularly pessimistic. The literal work of the French novelist Emile Zola is considered to be the origins of the Naturalistic movement. Naturalism focused on determinism, or the inability of human beings to resist the biological, social, and economic forces that control their behavior and their fate. Naturalism is usually considered to be an outgrowth of realism in its pursuit of realistic depictions, but naturalist fiction was more.

Examples:

  • Les Rougon-Macquart Stephen Crane’s Maggie
  • A Girl of the Streets
  • Jack London’s “To Build A Fire”
  • John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”

Key Difference

  1. Realism is a literary movement that is characterized by the representation of a real-life whereas naturalism is an outgrowth of realism that is influenced by scientific theories.
  2. Realism depicted the realities of middle-class characters on conversely naturalism depicted the lower class characters.
  3. Realism portrays the everyday life of common or ordinary people on the flip side naturalism portrayed how heredity, environment, and social conditions control human beings.
  4. Realistic novels deals with themes like society, social class, mobility, etc. while naturalistic novels deal with the themes of violence, corruption, poverty, prostitution, etc.
  5. Realism offered objective descriptions of real conditions with the hope of improving society on the other hand naturalism often focused on determinism, the inability of human beings to resist the biological, social, and economic forces that dictated their behavior.

Conclusion

Realism and Naturalism are two separate literary movements that are closely linked. With a significant difference between them, both movements portray life as it is.

Author:

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson

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