Realism and Naturalism

REALISM (1865-1915)

Historical context


  • Realism: a reaction against romanticism
  • Focus on lives of ordinary people; rejected heroic and adventurous
  • Anti-materialism rejected the new "class" system
  • View of nature as a powerful and indifferent force beyond man's control
  • Naturalism (sub-genre of Realism)
    Like Realism but a darker view of the world
    The universe is unpredictable; fate is determined by chance; free will is an illusion
    Characters' lives are shaped by forces they can't understand or control
    Novels, short stories
    Often aims to change a specific social problem
    Dominant themes: survival, fate, violence, nature as an indifferent force

Major Writers

The Civil War (1855-1865)

The Frontier (1865-1915)

The Local Colorists (1865-1930)
Regional writers tried to capture the essence of a particular area, or its "local color," by accurately depicting the distinctive qualities of its people and including vivid, realistic descriptions of the physical appearance of the environment. As America grew and became more diversified, the public became curious about the people and the style of life in different parts of the country. Regional literature satisfied their curiosity.

New Poetic Forms