There is a sliding scale with regard to the use of the terms "naturalism" and "realism ." Most critics and commentators would probably regard naturalism as a kind of subset of realism. More often than not, the first term is applied to literature that not only portrays life "realistically,"...
There is a sliding scale with regard to the use of the terms "naturalism" and "realism." Most critics and commentators would probably regard naturalism as a kind of subset of realism. More often than not, the first term is applied to literature that not only portrays life "realistically," but shows the darker, more sordid side of the world. Typical examples would be fiction such as Emile Zola's La Bête humaine and Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. Naturalistic fiction and drama of the late nineteenth century tend to focus on working-class people and to deal with relatively explicit sexual situations and violence, including rape and murder.
Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, like most of his work, is an example of realism because its situations, characters and dialogue are "true to life." Ibsen deals with ordinary middle- or upper-middle-class people, and they speak in language that is not inflated or poetic. The action of his plays doesn't violate the audience's conception of what is believable, of what is possible or even probable in real life.
In Hedda Gabler the main plot elements also involve some rather seamy goings-on, given that Hedda and Ejlert are former lovers and that the Judge's obvious intention is to blackmail Hedda into having an affair with him. But the overall atmosphere of the play has something refined and elegant about it. Tesman and Ejlert are academics, scholars, and Hedda herself comes from a wealthy family. Usually a work falling into the category of naturalism would deal with rougher, more average sorts of people and would show some degree of poverty or deprivation in the setting. So, in keeping with the way the terms naturalism and realism have most often been used, I would tend to employ the latter to describe Hedda Gabler, while not totally disagreeing with one who would consider the play naturalistic as well.