A good general opinion is that literature mirrors the society the role of literature is more than just to mirror the society. It raises the awareness of both the individual and the society by exposing open or secret truths that people are ignorant of. Literature relates most to the society and in fact, to all aspects of the society and its challenges is through a medium, called realism and naturalism (representation of reality). Realism and naturalism performs the social function of literature which is affecting a change in the societal status quo.
Realism emerged as an aftermath of the Revolution of 1848 that overturned the monarchy of Louis-Philippe and developed during the period of the Second Empire under Napoleon III. As French Society fought for democratic reform, the Realists democratized art by depicting modern subjects drawn from the everyday lives of the working class. Realism is a movement that began in France in the 1850s by Gustave Courbet after
the 1848 Revolution (Civello n.p.). It is the depiction of everyday subjects and situations in contemporary settings; it attempts to depict individuals of all social classes in a similar manner. Realistic fiction is often opposed to romantic fiction. The romance (sic) is said to present life as we would have it be – more picturesque, fantastic, adventurous, or heroic than actuality; realism, on the other hand, is said to represent life as it really is. This distinction is in terms solely of subject matter, while relevant, is clearly inadequate. Casanova, T. E. Lawrence, and Winston Churchill were people in real life, but their biographies demonstrate that truth can be stranger than literary realism.
It is more useful to identify realism in terms of the intended effect on the reader: realistic fiction is written to give the effect that it represents life and the social world as it seems to the common reader, evoking the sense that its, characters might in fact exist, and that such things might as well happen. To achieve such effects, the novelists we identify as realists may or may not be selective in subject matter-although most of them prefer the common place and the everyday, represented in minute detail, over rarer aspects of life-but they must render their materials in ways that make them seem to their readers the very stuff of ordinary experience. (Abrams and Geoffrey 334). Realism was based on direct observation of the modern world. In keeping with Gustave Courbet’s statement in 1861 that ‘painting is an essentially concrete art and can only consist in the representation of real and existing things’. Realists recorded in often gritty, detail the present-day existence of
humble people, paralleling related trends in the naturalist literature of Émile Zola, Honoré de Balzac, and Gustave Flaubert. The elevation of the working class into the realms of high art and literature coincided with Pierre Proudhon’s socialist philosophies and Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, published in 1848 which urged a proletarian uprising. Social realism emphasizes the depiction of the working class and treating them with the same seriousness as other classes in art, but realism avoids artificiality in the treatment of human relations and emotions was also an aim of realism. Treatments of subjects in a heroic of sentimental manner were equally rejected (Finocchio, Ross. ‘Nineteenth-Century French Realism’. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2004 – http”//www.metmuseum.org (August 2018).
Realism revolted against the exotic subject matter and the exaggerated emotionalism and drama of the Romantic Movement. Instead, it sought to portray real and typical contemporary people and situations that arise in ordinary life, and often reflected the changes brought by the industrial and commercial Revolutions. The Realists depicted everyday subjects and situations in contemporary settings, and attempted to depict individuals of all social classes in a similar manner (Finocchio, Ross. ‘Nineteenth-Century French Realism’. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2004 – http”//www.metmuseum.org (August 2018).
Naturalism is a literary genre that started as a movement in late 19th century and early 20th centuries in European drama, theater, literature, film and art. . Naturalism is sometimes claimed to give an even more accurate depiction of life than realism. It refers to theatre that attempts to create an illusion of reality through a range of dramatic and theatrical strategies. Interest in naturalism flourished with the French playwrights of the time, but the most successful example is Strindberg’s play Miss Julie, which was written with the intention to abide by both his own particular version of naturalism, and also the version described by the French novelist and literary theoretician, Émile Zola. (Williams, 217). The term naturalism was coined by Émile Zola, who defines it as a literary movement which emphasizes observation and the scientific method in the fictional portrayal of reality. Zola’s term for naturalism is La nouvelle formule. The three primary principles of naturalism (faire vrai, grand and faire simple) are first that the play should be realistic, and the result of a careful study of human behavior and psychology.
Naturalism is not only like realism, a special selection of subject matter and a special way of rendering those materials; it is a mode of fiction that was developed by a school of writers in accordance with a particular philosophical thesis. This thesis, a product of post-Darwinian biology in the nineteenth century, held that a human being exists entirely in the order of nature and does not have a soul nor any access to a religious or spiritual world beyond the natural world; and therefore that such a being is merely a higher-order
animal whose character and behavior are entirely determined by two kinds of forces; heredity and environment. Each person inherits compulsive instincts-especially hunger, the drive to accumulate possessions, and sexuality-and is then subjected to the social and economic forces in the family, the class, and the milieu into which that person is born.
Zola did much to develop this theory in what he called ‘le roman experimental’ (that is the novel organized in the mode of scientific experiment on the behavior, under given conditions, of the characters it depicts). Zola and later naturalistic writers, such as the Americans Frank Norris, Stephen Crane, and Theodore Dreiser, try to present their subjects with scientific objectivity and with elaborate documentation, sometimes including an almost medical frankness about activities and bodily functions usually unmentioned in earlier literature. They tend to choose characters who exhibit strong animal drives such as greed and sexual desire, and who are helpless victims both of glandular secretions within and of sociological pressures without. The presentation of a naturalistic play, in terms of the setting and performances should be realistic and not flamboyant or theatrical. The end of the naturalistic novel is usually ‘tragic’, but not, as in classical and Elizabethan tragedy, because of a heroic but losing struggle of the individual mind and will against gods, enemies, and circumstances. Instead the protagonist of the naturalistic plot, a pawn to multiple compulsions, usually disintegrates, or is wiped out. (Abrams and Geoffrey 335). Other characteristics of literary naturalism include: detachment, in which the author
maintains an impersonal tone and disinterested point of view; determinism, the opposite of freewill, in which a character’s fate has been decided, even predetermined, by impersonal forces of nature beyond human control; and a sense that the universe itself is indifferent to human life. The novel would be an experiment where the author could discover and analyze the forces, or scientific laws, that influenced behaviour, and these included emotion, heredity, and environment. Naturalism is a type of extreme realism. (Borge, n. p.).
They (naturalist and realist) take their subject matter from ordinary life. As individuals became more important in the “real world, characters became more important in contemporary literature. Since literature reflects human experiences in relations to his society, this becomes a basic subject matter, in the 21st century novels, hence, writers become faced with certain contemporary problems in their individual societies that make life difficult for humanity. The preoccupation of the writer, in this regard, is to investigate the deteriorating values in the physical environment and proffer solutions to them (Roger n.p.).
Onyekachi Onuoha and Eyoh Etim are the 21st century writers who have identified the problems of the contemporary society and the physical environment as emanating from harmful societal practices. In this way, their literary works are used as a means in exposing the dark sides of life such as prejudice, prostitution, poverty, class struggle, filth and disease.
To achieve this, Onyekachi Onuoha’s My Father Lied and Eyoh Etim’s Don’t Marry Angelica are used to show the writer’s projection of the objective reality. However, since literary writers live in a society and are charged with the responsibility of identifying and exposing the many ills that affect the society, the literary works they produce necessarily have to reflect the political and environmental conditions of their societies. It is a response to the understanding of the relationship that readers face realistically as it happens in the world, rather than how it occurs in the make-believe world of fantasy.
Statement of the Problem
The socio-economic problems surrounding African societies are basically rejected in African literature. Over the years, African Literary writers have played a very crucial role in the development of Africa. One of the problems which produces corruption, nepotism, despotism, bribery, prejudice, racism, poverty, prostitution, etc. is the environment (society).
Some African writers have taken the centre stage to correct the wrongs meted out to ordinary citizens through the social conditions, heredity and environment by the filing elite. These writers have used their works to speak against such practices like racism, prostitution, nepotism, poverty, among others, which is most evident in our Nigerian Society.
REALISM AND NATRUALISM: A STUDY OF ONYEKACHI ONUOHA’S MY FATHER LIED AND EYOH ETIM’S DON’T MARRY ANGELICA
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