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Romanticism, Realism, and Modernism

20 Feb 2017Literature Essays

Romanticism, Realism, and Modernism: The Stories’ Construction and Movement

Romanticism, Realism, and Modernism are some of the literature movements that occurred and developed from one period to the other. Romanticism emerged the first while Realism exists the second and Modernism is the last among the three. However, these three movements overlapped one another. Even if Realism and Modernism emerged to deconstruct the existence of Romanticism, it still exists within the text of Real and Modern construction of the stories. This paper will tackle the stories where Romanticism, Realism, and Modernism exist. It will also discuss how these movements change the theme of these stories through the development of the characters, conflict, and resolution. From these, the theme of the stories presented in this paper is, “Humanity is vain and evil in nature; the world consciously attempts to be good, though it is not.”

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Flaubert’s story entitled “A Simple Heart” was presented during the Romantic period. Its elements and literary images were depicted as symbolization of love and unselfish construction of being. Felicity was portrayed in this characterization. Through her, Flaubert showed his own way of deconstructing the traditional definition of Romanticism. Though it is a story of love, Flaubert illustrated that passion does not only exists between opposite sexes but also within friendship and family. It was seen that a person does not need to be intellectual to perceive the right kind of love because it is within the person’s own acceptance and capability of loving. In the morning, from habit, Felicity went into Virginia’s room and looked at the walls. She missed not having her hair to comb, her boots to lace, to tuck her in her bed—and not seeing continually her pretty face, not having to hold her hand when they went out together (Flaubert). Flaubert also showed in his story how Felicity counterattacks the love of a man towards him. It was seen that men are meant to be liars and egoistic. Flaubert also illustrated how men described women – an object of desire and financial stability. However, through the creation of Felicity’s love towards the people around her, the author portrayed an unconditional love.

Henrik Ibsen’s story entitled “A Doll’s House” and Cynthia Ozick’s story entitled “The Shawl” are portrayals of Social Realism. These two authors showed in their story the definition and essence of woman in the society. The way the authors’ illustration of female characters, they emphasized the worth of women in a deprived and oppresses situation. These stories are issues of social construction that was putted into the women’s head like a crown – a crown of suffering and distress. The theme in these stories showed how the movement of Realism exists within the hands of the society. Because the society dictates that women are always behind men, they should always obey men despite of the odds, infidelities, and deprivations of men towards them. Nora said in Ibsen’s story, “I have waited so patiently for eight years; for, goodness knows, I knew very well that wonderful things don’t happen every day. Then this horrible misfortune came upon me, and then I felt quite certain that the wonderful thing was going to happen at last (Ibsen).”

However, despite of the women’s way of characterizing their beings, Ozick showed resolution in her story as what Ibsen has also shown in his story. Nora recalls, “She looked like a butterfly touching a silver vine, (Ozick)” Even if Nora’s journey is full of misery and suffering because she had her daughter who could not able to eat and drink that made them weaker each day, she needs to be stronger. She needs to save her children from the march of death. The way she saw her daughter in this kind of beauty, she became stronger as what she needs to be. This is a form of realism that we could not take for granted. Women are always willing to sacrifice for their family. They do not need to be threatened or objected because it is already part of their individuality. Both Ibsen and Ozick wanted to convey the realism of women into the hands of the society. The theme of the stories changed and somehow transformed into a new found resolution because of the context of Realism.

Frank Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” and Frederick Douglass’s “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” are depictions of modernistic creation. If we look at the generalized perspective, there is no difference between these stories from the ancient narratives of folklores and magical formation. However, the differences that can be seen in these stories are the attacks and symbolizations of the authors. They also used contemporary occurrences and conflicts to balance the story and be found into a modernism influence.

Kafka’s story is an illustration of family problems and circumstances that exists within because of their own weaknesses and incapability. “He really did want to open the door, really did want to let them see him and to speak with the chief clerk; the others were being so insistent, and he was curious to learn what they would say when they caught sight of him. If they were shocked then it would no longer be Gregor's responsibility and he could rest (Kafka).” It is part of the Modernism period because it was presented as a cultural crisis that exists and developed into the characters and their environment. Kafka showed that family tradition and culture cannot be taken off despite of the circumstances and unwanted situations that emerged in their lives. It deconstructs the tradition point of view towards the issue of romanticism and realism. Even if Kafka described the main character as an insect, he showed internal crisis that can be seen and felt throughout the narrative. It also considers new ideas and rationalization of facts that can be perceived within the environment of the characters.
On the other hand, Douglass showed the importance of magic and power in every issue that may occur in every person. He identified his own identity as a symbolization of natural form of institution. Even if he is only a slave, he makes sure that there is a transformation that will emerge in his character at the end of the story. Douglass stated, “This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning-point in my career as a slave. It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood. It recalled the departed self-confidence, and inspired me again with a determination to be free (Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave). The author has illustrated in his story the crisis in his own personality because of his situation but he made an opposition to the oppressive and divesting situations. Through this, Modernism occurred and influenced the characters and outcome of the stories of Kafka and Douglass.

In conclusion to this, it can be said the three major movements made a significant effect to the creation of the stories that were presented in this paper. The theme of the stories is based on the period and movements that exists during their times. However, there are also ways of constituting different attacks and symbolizations to strengthen or weaken the traditional construction of these movements.

Works Cited

  • Ibsen, Henrik. (2001). “A Doll’s House.” 19 March 2008. 
  • Flaubert, Gustave. (2004). “A Simple Heart.” 19 March 2008. 
  • Kafka, Frank. (2005). “Metamorphosis.” 
  • Douglass, Frederick. (1999). Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. “The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.”  
  • Ozick, Cynthia. (2006). The Shawl. 19 March 2008.  
Learn more:
Readers of Romantic literature: Did they discover themselves? The First Time I Lived In an Apartment: A Personal Rite of Passage Righting Wrongs through Writing

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