Realism Themes

Themes

Class Conflict
One of the major themes addressed by realist writers is socioeconomic class conflict. Many realist writers, in their efforts to depict characters from all levels of society, highlighted differences between the rich and the poor.

In David Copperfield, by Dickens, the main protagonist experiences the suffering of impoverished children forced to work in industrial factories. In Germinal, Zola focuses on the conflict between working-class miners and wealthy mine owners, which erupts in a labor strike. In the process, Zola considers various political theories about the conditions of the working class. In A Hazard of New Fortunes, Howells portrays characters from various places on the spectrum of American political thought who come into conflict over their efforts to start a magazine. In the end of A Hazard of New Fortunes, a young man is killed during the violence that erupts in a workers’ strike. In War and Peace, Tolstoy portrays conflicts between the Russian landowners and the serfs who work their land. Many realist authors thus addressed social, economic, and political concerns through their depictions of socioeconomic class conflict.

The City
Many realist novelists sought to depict various aspects of life in the rapidly industrializing nineteenth- century city. Balzac, in the novels of The Human Comedy, is often noted for his extensive and accurate portrayal of society, culture, and commerce in Paris during the mid-nineteenth century. Howells, in A Hazard of New Fortunes, has been praised for his detailed...

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