Is this writer associated with the term realism or naturalism?

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William Dean Howells is, most certainly, a realist writer. Realist writers, or writers of Realism , focus upon the realities of life in the lives of the Everyman. (The Everyman, on a side note, tends to be the typical character; this is the character created with the intent that the...

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William Dean Howells is, most certainly, a realist writer. Realist writers, or writers of Realism, focus upon the realities of life in the lives of the Everyman. (The Everyman, on a side note, tends to be the typical character; this is the character created with the intent that the reader can identify with him or her. The Everyman is representative of the ordinary individual—neither a character too saintlike nor wicked. The Everyman is concretely average and representative of the universal individual.)

Realist writers tend to focus upon events which are probable and relatable to the typical reader. The settings are readily recognizable, and the descriptions provided contain elements of local color (true to life and region in regards to dress, cuisine, diction, etc.).

The observations of the author take place as if he or she were a removed observer—much like a scientist observing an experiment. The author wants to present the action as objectively as possible, so as not to push the reader in any one direction. The reader must come to terms with what is happening based upon his or her knowledge of both the action and stereotypical characterizations.

Naturalistic writers, on the other hand, focus upon Nature's (nature personified) importance in what happens in the world. Naturalism exists as a part of realism, yet the naturalistic writer focuses far more upon the idea that nature itself dictates a character's actions and not the character's response to the situation (as the realist does).

Howells's Editha is a realistic novel. The events detailed in the novel are described as realistically and truthfully as possible. Readers will, or should, be able to relate to the typical divergence brought about by war. The main character, Editha, is depicted in such a way that most readers will be able to identify the type of character she is, even if they do not agree with her ideologies. The action is driven by Editha's own actions and beliefs, which is realistic, not by nature's lack of concern for the individual (which would be naturalistic).

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William Dean Howells is considered to be one of the premier realist writers. Like Mark Twain, Howells wrote stories that focused onverisimilitude -- that is, stories that worked to present truth/a feeling of truth, rather than paint a sentimental or sensational view of the world. Howells' work met his own famous definition of realism, which encouraged writers to force themselves to give a subject an objective treatment in order to create the most lifelike, realistic stories possible. Naturalism is closely related to realism (some have trouble distinguishing between the two), and in fact grew out of the realist movement. Naturalists tended to have somewhat different goals, though, and their works most often presented a more pessimistic view of the world than those of realists like Twain or Howells. Naturalists like Emile Zola were influenced by Darwin, natural selection, etc., and thus were interested in highlighting the futility of human struggle in the face of an uncaring natural world.

 

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