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Literature of Realism & Naturalism
I think that there are a lot of similarities and differences between realism and naturalism. Realism and naturalism bath say that there are a few simple truths that should be plain for everybody to see. Both tended to be objective, as in: what you see is what you get. Where realism wanted to confront the reader, naturalism just wanted to shock the reader. Realism and Naturalism both used regular, every day characters. But there are many differences as well. Now I hope to tell you a few of them.
In realism they tended to believe in the sciences such as psychology, sociology, and scientism. But they also tended to be very emotional as well. If you have read any of Emily Dickinson's poems, you can tell that even though she may not have had any training in psychology that she had figured out a little bit of it. But most of all you could tell that she tended to be very emotional as well. In poem number 754, she shows life as it is like for a woman of her time. She explains it very plainly if you interpret it right.
The story Hedda Gobler is rife with psychological studies, but it is only about one woman's personal emotions and problems. The way she had the writer kill himself so that another woman couldn't have him, or the way that she was always deliberately mean-spirited to people. There was also the subtle psychological point of the writer shooting himself in the stomach, since Hedda was pregnant, symbolizing him having killed his baby, his book. The way she married George just so that she wouldn't be put on the shelf showed that she was selfish because she didn't love him at all. So Hedda Gobler is actually a very good example of realistic writing.
Realist also believed in the fact that the everyday, normal man could do something to change his world. Most of their characters, like Hedda and George, were everyday, plain, normal folks going through the trials and trouble that regular, normal people go through every day of their life. The characters are written so that if you read about some one you might be able to say that he or she reminded you of someone that you know, from work, from school, or even a family member.
Naturalism, on the other hand, didn't believe in the sciences. They believed that sciences could not tell you anything, that you had to learn about the world through experience. They believed that man was at the mercy of uncontrollable forces both in and out of their selves. These authors believed more in the internal drives of a human, which were considered uncontrollable, such as the needs to eat, sleep, and have sex. Or the external forces such as the weather, habitat, and economy had control over the humans and that they could not be explained through psychology or science in general. Chickamauga, for example, shows war and death as the uncontrollable forces. For the little boy in Chickamauga, he was being controlled or hindered by the fact that he could not hear or speak. In the story he falls asleep in the woods while a battle is being fought around him. He could very well have been killed but luckily he was not. But his mother was, so his life was irrevocably changed by death.
As for Chickamauga, it is also a prime example to the fact that Naturalist tended to avoid emotions in what they wrote or if they did put emotion into what they wrote they controlled what the reader felt by how they wrote their story. Ambrose Bierce, felt that you should hate or abhor the little boy so he tells you how he jumped on the dying soldier to play horse on them. He tells you how he was acting like a general ordering the soldiers onward with his little wooden sword. He also tells you that he sees the burning building and how he danced around the fire and got excited by it. Then at the end of the story he tells you that the boy is deaf and mute, so you end up not liking yourself more than you disliked the boy earlier. He dehumanizes the little boy then he makes him very, very human.
On of the things that a naturalist tried to do was to point out something that was wrong about the world and then they tell you not to ignore the problem but to fix it. They tried shocking the middle class into fixing their problems. By using war, crime, poverty, violence or natural disease they shocked the readers into wanting to do something about it.
But there is also a difference between American naturalism and European naturalism. American naturalism tended to still have a little bit of the romanticism in it. Like in The Last Phoebe by Theodore Dreiser, there is still a lot of compassion felt towards Henry as he spend seven years, after his wife dies, looking for her ghost so that he could be with her. Dreiser also tells you at the end that Henry died with a smile on his face. Even if he did run off the cliff he was happy to be with Phoebe again, so you are happy for him.
European naturalism tended to be a lot darker though. They dealt more with emotions that ran more towards anger and hate instead of compassion and happiness. They thought that American naturalists were to tender-hearted and soft, so they wrote their literature in a different direction, as you can see in Bierce's works. He was obsessed with death and his essays and stories showed that.
Those are what I consider some of the differences and similarities of Naturalism and realism. They both tend to be really alike but they each have subtle differences. What they are trying to give to the reader and how they give it are just a few of the many differences.