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Romanticism and Realism Comparison

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1381 words Published: 12th Jul 2017

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Romanticism and Realism are both different literary movements, but are closely related in time and history. Romanticism is best characterized as a movement of art, literature, and way of thought in the middle of the 18th century. Romanticism was sparked by the Industrial Revolution. Romanticism was in essence a protest of the Enlightenment period. Many people did not approve of the fact that scientific discoveries were being made about nature, many wanted nature to stay as a pure, and work of God, not scientific discovery. The Romanticism era tried to revolt from the Enlightenment and science by focusing time and effort on literature, music, art, natural history, and education (“Romanticism”).  As the middle 19th century approached, many were hesitant to trust this romantic train of thought. People wanted to find peace in knowing why things happened and to separate from supernatural explanations (Earle). Having an explanation in science made many feel more confident and liked that events could be explained scientifically, rather than an idea they could not prove. Many can tell the difference between Romanticism and Realism easiest by the plot and characterization. Throughout these literary movements, many authors made their claim to fame by writing terrific literature that fit their style of writing and the literary movement in which they were a part of.  

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An important author that contributed great work in the era of Romanticism was William Wordsworth. Wordsworth was born in 1770, in what many would call the scenic area of England. William Wordsworth was the second of five children of the John and Ann Wordsworth. Although he produced many famous pieces of poetry, he is most famous for his poem I wonder lonely as a cloud. I wonder lonely as a cloud is a poem of a of society that is moving from the claim liking of nature and imagination towards the harms of reality and away from Gods creation. This poem by Wordsworth is very much characterized as a Romanticism piece of writing. The entire poem is based around love, guilt, and sin. Romanticism literature has more of a psychological feel, appeals more to the inside of someone. The setting and facts of the story is not as important as what the characters or in many cases the given metaphor are going through. Although, the Puritan society background really aids in the full understand of why Wordsworth is going through the digression of the natural world, the main point of the poem is to demonstrate the natural side of the everyday world and the movement or change in society. For example, in the poem I wonder lonely as a cloud William depicts “A poet could not but be gay, in such a jocund company: I gazed–and gazed–but little thought what wealth the show to me had brought” (Wordsworth). This confirms this poem as a piece of romanticism literature not just because of the time period, but the scheme. The poem is talking about the gifts that God had given us in terms of imagination and more importantly the natural world. The main point of this story is change, making it a part of the romantic scheme of poetry, clearly fitting the era in which it was written.

Another famous writer in the Romanticism period was Edgar Allan Poe. Poe is greatly known for his rather dark works. Poe was born in 1809 and died in 1849, amidst this romantic time frame. He was a critic and literary mastermind, practically inventing the mystery type genre (“Poe’s Life”).  Most of his poetry and other writing pieces are dark, almost demented, with a rather negative connotation. His most famous poetry that takes on a romantic feel is “The Raven”. “The Raven” is dark poem depicting a man who has mourning about his lover. A raven visits a man while he is debating himself, to forgive or forget his dead lover. This is considered a romanticism piece of work since he shows his romantic and sensitive side toward he lost love. He clearly explains his thoughts of his love and how it is effecting him emotionally, “And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain/ Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before; /So that now, to still the beating of my heart” (Poe). This really portrays the romanticism of this poem because he talks about his mourning and how he is still sad and lonely without his love. He goes on to explain he is still living, but feels like he is not without her with him. This is surprising to think that Poe had a part in the romanticism era despite his dark work before, yet this time period was so significant to authors and artists that he was still influenced by it.

Although the Romanticism era had a great effect on arts all around the world, with the turn of the 19th century, realism was the craze to write to and about. One of the most famous realism authors in American literature was Mark Twain. Although most of his work was in the 19th century, his lasting realism works have been enjoyed since then. He was born in Florida and as he grew up, became a printmaker’s apprentice. As he was immersed into the world of words, he became a reporter and soon began writing of his own imagination (“Biography”). His most famous works include The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Twain is represented through the realism era because he did not write about magic, mystical, and such a focus on love, he focused on depicting life in a realistic manner. For example, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he explains a story in which a young boy is neglected and abused by his father. Realism was all about the historical time frame and reference, and writing about events and situations that actually happened in real life. Huck explains his life and when his father gets drunk, “Then the old man got to cussing and cussed everything and everybody he could think of, and then cussed them all over again to make sure he hadn’t skipped any” (Twain).  This quote perfectly shows that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn had showed and explained many real life events and things that were happening in society, making it a great impact in the Realism era.

Next to Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson was one of the other most significant contributors to Realism literature. Emily was born in 1830 in Massachusetts to her proud parents. She was very bright at a very young age, but was restricted by her strict religion (Pettinger). Although Emily was influenced by the Romanticism era of nature, she was influenced by her harsh realities of life and society, which is best described as realism. For example, her famous poem “Because I could not stop for Death” explains the harsh reality of dying, but her calm take on it. Dickinson’s explanation that death is a part of life and we should not fear it is greatly characterized by realism, since real life comes with death. Her serine thoughts on death are summed up in the first 2 lines of her poem, “Because I could not stop for Death-/He kindly stopped for me-/” (Dickinson). This clearly can be considered realism since it deals with such a “real” issue, something that goes on in life and society every day.

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Overall, the Romanticism and Realism era has produced some of the greatest works of art, music, literature, and theories. As you inspect both eras, you can easily see how they play off each other. Romanticism was the product of resisting the Enlightenment and taking a stance for the arts. Hawthorne and Poe greatly demonstrate their romanticism attitude by writing about the psychological effects of a person; love, mourning, and guilt. Romanticism is the use of the heart and internal struggles of individuals and how they are relating to each other and nature. As time and science advanced, many took the path of realism, literature they could relate to and explaining society. Twain and Dickinson take Realism to a whole new level, by explaining thoroughly society problems and real life events that everyone deals with. Both eras have extreme importance in literary movements and have showed the transition of history has an influence on the arts.


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