When people think of what is real, that often think of what is natural. When people think of what is natural, they often think of something real. However, these statements do not apply to literature. Although Realism and Naturalism seem as if they should be the same exact concepts, they have completely different meanings in the literary world. The movement towards Realism began after the Romanticism period when people became more interested in stories that could relate to their everyday lives. From there, Naturalism was invented. Realism is writing about something that is real, or possible. It has everyday people, ordinary scenarios, and familiar language to that culture. Although Naturalism captures some of the same ideas, it is often much darker and filled with a more Gothic feel of literary devices. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a great example of a literary work from the Realism era. A work that describes the later movement to Naturalism is The Lost Phoebe. By contrasting these two examples, I believe you can identify the differences between Realism and Naturalism.
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The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the story of a man who has worked his way into a high social standing, married a good wife, and started what seems to be the perfect family. When a fatal illness takes over, Ivan starts to see himself change not only physically, but mentally as well. This story is a piece from the Realism movement. All the characters are living normal, ordinary lives. What seems to be the perfect family to outsiders is not so perfect on the inside. Everything that revolves around this piece could be true, or real, for other families. It was created to make a social change, often a principle of Realism. The idea was to use their own methods to reveal the cruelty of the society that many people, like Ivan Ilyich, take such pride in. In the beginning of the story, Mr. Ilyich’s coworkers are all discussing his death and the effects that his death could cause. “He had been ill for some weeks with an illness said to be incurable. His post had been kept open for him, but there had been conjectures that in case of his death Alexeev might receive his appointment, and that either Vinnikov or Shtabel would succeed Alexeev.” The people that he spent most of his time with in a single day did not care about the fact he was ill or hurting in pain. The only thing that came to mind is how they could better themselves. This is a problem that we see in society from the past and now; it is a real idea yet told in a fiction setting. Another sad but true, realistic idea that is discussed in the story is marriage and love. Ivan Ilyich did not marry his wife for love. Several people tend to not marry for this reason and find other comfort areas like finance and success. “To say that Ivan Ilyich married because he fell in love with Praskovya Fedorovna and found that she sympathized with his views of life would be as incorrect as to say that he married because his social circle approved of the match.” Another point of view this story steps on is selfishness. Ivan had tried to give his only daughter the best possible life, even if it meant not being home most of the nights. When he becomes ill, she has no way to show love for her father because of the other things that are more important in her life. “Their daughter came in in full evening dress, her fresh young flesh exposed, strong, healthy, evidently in love, and impatient with illness, suffering, and death, because they interfered with her happiness.” It’s hard to think from my own point of view how someone could act in such a way towards their own family; the Realism of this story is that scenarios like this happen everyday. Someone can pinpoint how the struggles in this man’s life could be similar to what someone else is going through and how it could also correct us in the way that we live our own. The major point of view revolves around his life and the decisions he made on how to live. It was his choice and when death came upon him, he could decide if he made the right ones.
In the story of The Lost Phoebe, an elderly man and his wife live together with the little money they have and they little food they can put on the table. Even though circumstances are not the best, happiness seems to come from just them being together. In the period of Naturalism, many of the ideas were focused around characters of a lower rank in life. It believed that life is deterministic; man is not a free agent, but he is an animal motivated by his chemistry, heredity, and environment of circumstances. Henry, the old man, seemed to find motivation in the love for his wife Phoebe. The ideas of this literary work still speculate around realism including original language of ordinary characters, but in this work, it seems to be a darker story with a semi-twisted happy ending. Henry had been married to the love of his life for 48 years. “Old Henry and his wife Phoebe were as fond of each other as it is possible for two old people to be who have nothing else in this life to be fond of.” Henry always accused his dear wife of misplacing his belongings even though they most likely had no importance at all; other than that, their lives together were peaceful and sympathetic. “Phoebe, Where’s my corn-knife? You ain’t never minded to let my things alone no more.” “Now you hush, Henry. If you don’t, I’ll leave yuh. I’ll git up and walk out of here someday, and then where would y’ be? Y’ ain’t got anybody but me to look after yuh, so yuh just behave yourself.” His wife always knew how to calm him and take control of the situation. Not long afterwards, Henry’s wife passed away. I’m sure he felt almost as if the whole world around him had fallen apart. He had not order to his life and the only thing that kept him motivated was Phoebe. Up into this part of the story, everything can relate to Realism. On the night that Henry spots the bright light of the moon, he takes a turn toward the unknown and becomes eager to fins his long lost Phoebe. Henry somehow took a illness that destroyed the memory of his wife’s death. He finally makes the decision to set out and search for her. He remembered her threat had always been, “Yuh’ll not find me it I ever leave yuh. I guess I kin git some place where yuh can’t find me.” Henry’s desperate attempt to find Phoebe lasted for seven long years going door to door and looking under every rock and in every hole until it eventually came to an end. “Of a sudden there came to him now for the first time in many years the full charm of her girlish figure as he had known it in boyhood, the pleasing, sympathetic smile, the brown hair, the blue sash she had once worn about her waist at a picnic, her gay, graceful movements. He walked around the base of the tree, straining with his eyes, forgetting for once his cane and utensils, and following eagerly after.” He thought he had finally found his one true love, Phoebe. In desperation to follow her and finally get her to come back home, Henry jumps to his death and to his Phoebe. You could think of this story with a tragic ending; a man who jumped off a cliff chasing after nothing but a dark shadow in the middle of the night. I think of this story as a love story; a man who had searched for his long lost love for seven straight years and he finally found her, through death. This work includes several of the same ideas of that of Realism; however, the main theories behind both of them differ completely. The Lost Phoebe includes many Romantic, Gothic ideations with a sense of Realism; the idea that creates Naturalism.
In The Death of Ivan Ilyich, the author is reaching out through a real life scenario to make a change within a community and within people’s lives, a principle of Realism. It includes ordinary characters, familiar language, and a realistic point of view. In The Lost Phoebe, the meaning is much deeper. A man in search for his true love, but in all actuality, he never finds her. They learned to live in peace with the lesser things in life. Naturalism incorporated the same ideas as Realism just in a deeper and darker way.
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