Essay Sample on Periods of Literature: Realism Vs. Romanticism

Published: 2023-03-03
Essay Sample on Periods of Literature: Realism Vs. Romanticism
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  History Literature Case study
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1018 words
9 min read

In the field of art, literature has stood out as one of the most significant means through which a people's culture is expressed, learned and propagated. Throughout the periods of literature, several genres have evolved with each offering us a new way of looking at the world and expressing our interests. Talk of romanticism, realism, Victorianism, modernism, and post-modernism; each of which depicts the same subject in a unique style. Some of these genres have outlived criticism and thus exist even today, while others became extinct, probably due to the technological changes and advancements.

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In the Victorian age, social norms and cultural values were highly thought of. Men and women were expected to adhere to certain specific rules and regulations. Women tried to fight for suffrage but were met with a lot of opposition. Later on, the ideas of progression and individualism came along, now social and cultural norms were not highly considered. It is during this shift that modernists came into play. Post-modernism, (this is now the most recent form of literature), came into existence in the 20th century. It deviates from realism by embracing scepticism and sensitivity to ideologies.

We all have a culture we cherish. How else would we have known how to dress, socialize and worship if not through the things taught to us while we grow? This shows us how literature is vital. Two of these genres; romanticism and realism, exist even today. While they both feature the same subject, the portrayal of the same is quite different for each genre (Washington, C. (2015). These differences vary from period of their development, theme, and setting. In order to fully understand how these two genres, differ from each other, we need to first look at the cultural factors and effects that inspired each type of work.

Realism vs. Romanticism

Looking at these two genres we realize that both have one common feature: they are works of literature that seek tom express situations to us, whether real or imagined. In terms of historical background, these two genres developed nearly the same time in the 18th century with realism following suit after romanticism. Having witnessed the somewhat normal cultural themes perpetuated by Victorians and modernists, Romanticists felt that adding humor, imagination and adventure would be a great development in the field of literature.

One of the key differences between romanticism and realism is the nature of their characters. Realism, as the name suggests, is characterized by real characters and situations. A realist picks their personalities from what is natural and real. The characters they present are therefore, ordinary people with ordinary abilities and challenges. In realism, the characters eat, and talk like ordinary men.

In contrast, romanticism is about idealistic and unusual events (Jutersonke, O. (n.d.). The characters possess abilities beyond that of which ordinary men. In other words, it is about pure fiction. The language used in realism, is ordinary and easily understood. As it is about what is true to the eye and capable to men, there is no use of metaphorical sayings. The writer might even use the local dialect to pass his information. The aim here is to appeal to the common man by pointing out the things common to them. On the other hand, romanticism uses literary and formal language. Here, the writer uses metaphors and sayings which have a deeper meaning and that not every ordinary man can decipher.

Many are times we relate to works of art by looking at the place where the situations occur. In other words, setting is one of the features of literature that determine how the audience responds to it. In realism, the setting is ordinary and real. The writer sets their work in real places which can be accessed. In contrast, in romanticism, situations occur in imaginary places. More often than not, the writer will refer to a place that seems adventurous, exotic and one that makes every reader wish to reach. Romanticists make you feel like you are living in an ideal world where everything happens as you wish. This perhaps is what makes this genre of art so popular.

When we begin reading any literature material, we form in our minds an opinion about the ending of the story. We sometimes hope for a happy ending for the good guys and punishment for the bad guys. In realism, the ending can be either way. In romanticism, however, the ending is always happy. It ends with the characters enjoying life and getting all they like in their imaginary world. Romanticism is about fun, enjoyable, and beautiful things. This, to many, is what gives it its popularity.

Every writer has something that inspires them to write. In romanticism, the writer is inspired to write about a legend, a hero or one of those historical figures. These legends are given the ability to do mighty things and history tells a mysterious way of how these figures came into being and how they eventually exited the world. On the other hand, realism is inspired by the contemporary world (Kvas, K. (2019). The things we see every day is what the writer is inspired to write about. Here, the writer does not need to imagine of how things could go but just looking at the present world gives them an idea from which they develop their story. Could this be the reason some people consider it boring? Perhaps yes.

In summing up, we can say that these two genres are as similar as they are different. They will both give us a story, use people and places but while one is directing us to what we can feel and see, the other is completely imaginable. With the growing popularity of social media and technology, we can say that romanticism has definitely taken the lead in works of literature compared to other forms. The fun and thrilling events set it apart.


Jutersonke, O. (n.d.). Legalism, romanticism, and irresponsible statecraft. Morgenthau, Law and Realism, 146-174. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511780011.007

Kvas, K. (2019). The Boundaries of Realism in World Literature.

Washington, C. (2015). Romanticism and Speculative Realism. Literature Compass, 12(9), 448-460. doi:10.1111/lic3.12254

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