Naturalism vs. realism

A.  Later 19th century writers turned from realism as too subjective to naturalism in their literary approaches.

B. Naturalism (literature), in literature, the theory that literary composition should be based on an objective, empirical presentation of human beings.

1.  Naturalistic writers regard human behavior as controlled by instinct, emotion, or social and economic conditions.

2.  They reject free will, adopting instead the biological determinism of Charles Darwin and the economic determinism of Karl Marx.

3.  Notable American writers of naturalistic fiction are John London, Frank Norris, Sherwood Anderson, John Dos Passos, and Theodore Dreiser

C.  Naturalism is based on the presumption that humans are like animals in the natural world.

1.  As a result, humans respond to environmental forces and internal stresses and drives, over none of which they have either control or full knowledge.

2.  In Freudian terms, it’s literature written to demonstrate how the id dominates the ego and superego.

D.  Naturalism differs from realism in what it concludes.

1.  Realism concludes that people’s decisions determine how they respond to a situation.

2. Naturalism concludes that people’s decisions are predetermined by the scientific or natural forces that predispose people to act a certain way.

3.  Romanticism—and we will get back to it—concludes that there are unknown forces that predispose people to make the decisions that they do.

E.  This distinction may be illustrated in this way.

1.  Given a block of wood and a force pushing upon it, producing in it a certain acceleration:

a.  Realism will tend to concentrate its attention on the accurate description of that particular block, that special force, and that definite acceleration to explain how the specific factors lead to the reaction.

b.  Romanticism will tend to see in the entire operation an illustration or symbol or suggestion of a philosophical truth and will so represent the block, the force, and the acceleration as representatives of that truth.

c.  Naturalism will tend to see in the operation a clue or a key to the scientific law which undergirds it and to be interested in the relationship between the force, the block, and the produced acceleration, and will so represent the operation that Newton’s first law of motion is demonstrated or proved by this representative instance of its universal occurrence in nature.

2.  In short, the realists will say the block moves because the real factors that make up the block and force determine its movement; the romanticists will say the movement represents some unknown truth or force that moves all blocks of wood; and the naturalists will say that the block moves because of specific scientific laws which govern nature.