What is the difference between realism and naturalism?

Naturalism and realism are two movements that originated in the 19th century. They are both concerned with the study of reality and are perceived as similar. However, there are some nuances that make the difference between the two terms. To do this, we need to examine their definitions, their areas of implication and their methods of study.

Naturalism, a harmony between literature and science

The supporters of the naturalist movement brought scientific knowledge into literature. As a result, literary works have flourished, with more in-depth explanations of classical literature. Based on Darwin’s theory of evolution, naturalism denounced social abuse and inequality. It also defended the lower class of the population. The naturalist artist adopted a particular style to illustrate his works. They are often dark, pessimistic, but perfectly illustrate the situation at that time. One of the most beautiful French naturalist works is the novel “Les Rougon-Macquart”. It was written by Émile Zola, the founding father of the naturalist movement in France and around the world.

Realism studies life as it is

Realist literary works have one principle, that of studying life as it is, without judgements and without idealisations. They describe the everyday life of the population, focusing mainly on the middle class, and wealthy people. There is no hero or main character in this work, as no one will be put forward, there is only a reality to describe. Romanticism has no place in the realist movement, because it encourages people to dream, and to move away from reality. Realistic works are very detailed illustrating life in a more credible and original way. Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” is one of the most successful realist literatures, with easy-to-understand texts and ordinary characters with whom everyone can identify.

Two different entities with the same objectives

Naturalism and realism have the same objective, which is to describe the many facades of everyday life. Realism does not make judgements, it just describes what it sees, what it feels, without flattering or blaming the events of life. Naturalism analyses and draws credible conclusions from these events. Both are necessary to understand the life of a person according to their social class, status and the events they have endured. To appreciate the beauty of these two literary movements, one should read some examples of works, on both movements.