What exactly is Realism? Is it a movement or a technique?

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Realism is a technique of writing, wherein the author tries to give an objective third-person account of the world. Note: Realism as a movement began in France, with notable writers such as Gustave Flaubert and Emile Zola. Later, it spread to Russia and other countries. In India, it started with Premchand and was continued by many others after him. Note: As a movement, realism is connected to socialist ideologies; its focus on the realities of life makes it popular among socialists and communists. However, one must not assume that all realist authors have shared this ideology. Many have been staunch conservatives; for example, Leo Tolstoy was opposed to socialist ideas.

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Realism is both a movement and a technique. As a movement, it signifies the rise of writers adhering to the 'realist' technique of writing, wherein (often via the use of the third-person narrative) the author attempts to give a realistic depiction of the world. This means that the writer is...

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trying to give an objective, third-person account of the world.

This can best be understood when seen in contrast to non-realist writing. In non-realist writing, for instance, like in To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, there is no attempt to objectively describe the world. The narrative changes from one person to another, and the author constantly focuses on the consciousness of the narrator. In contrast to this is the work of Premchand, for example, who is a notable Indian realist writer. Like the work of his predecessors from France and Russia, where realism originated, Premchand's work focuses on describing reality not as it is seen by a particular individual, but as it is objectively, from a third-person point of view.

Realist writing is notably politically motivated because of its attempt to describe reality as it is. In this attempt, it seeks to show how the socio-political reality of the world affects different people in it. Since it does not have to stick to the consciousness of one particular protagonist, it has more freedom to move around, describing the world more objectively. That is why realist writers often describe mundane lives and activities, and the differences between the lives of people with different statuses in a society.

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Realism can be considered both a movement and a technique. The Realist movement first developed in France around the middle of the nineteenth century. Realism was popularized by authors such as Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Émile Zola, and Guy de Maupassant. Part of the Realist movement, though, was called Naturalism (as seen in Zola's writing--Germinal).

The Realists wanted to show life from an objective point-of-view. What this means is that they would "stand back" from their texts and offer unbiased descriptions of life as it was, without intervening on behalf of the protagonist. (Instead, they would "allow" the choices of the characters to fall without help.) One popular characteristic of the movement was the impact of nature on the people depicted in the works (seen through the personification of nature).

Outside of that, one could easily call it a technique based upon the fact that the authors used specific characteristics in their work. (I bring this up because an author could easily duplicate the Realist's way of writing by adhering to specific characteristics found in Realist texts.)

While modern texts could not be considered Realist, based upon the fact that the "movement" has "passed," one could very easily duplicate the power of nature, the use of the third-person omniscient narrator, the everyday settings, and the common working class protagonists and antagonists.

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