Sample Literature Essays on Romanticism and Realism
The 18th century was largely dominated by the Romantics whose point of focus was nature and emotions. Romanticism is depicted as a theory that is chiefly concerned with human emotions, and bizarre and fantastic aspects of the human experience. It bases its objectives on a melancholic spirit. Additionally, it is viewed as a reaction against rationality. On the other hand, realism is the representation of the historic concrete nature of human life. It is regarded as a movement in art and literature that portrays a realistic point of view based on everyday occurrences. In essence, realism was conceptualized as a reaction against romantic and classical ideologies of life. As a direct response to idealism, it embodied various vital aspects of life which were political, economic, and social factors. Even though there is a myriad of significant distinctions between romanticism and realism, both artistic movements share some similarities, as portrayed in ‘The Black Monk’ and ‘Frankeinstein’ novel.
Romanticism and Realism in ‘The Black Monk’ and “Frankenstein”
Romanticism is known to emphasize a heroic individual achievement by using characters that are extremely accomplished. Most of the characters in a romanticism setting have extraordinary lives, and this is depicted in the first chapter of the novel whereby the author projects a vivid description of the life of a renowned horticulturist in Russia. Pesotsky is said to own a huge house with columns, lions and a footman in swallow-tails at the entrance. Pesotsy lives an overly exaggerated life that does not resemble the majority of people, who lead a common life. Additionally, the writer describes the magnificent, exotic view Pesotsky’s land in the following way. According to the book,
“But near the house itself, in the courtyard and orchard, which together with the nurseries covered ninety acres, it was all life and gaiety even in bad weather. Such marvelous roses, lilies, camellias; such tulips of all possible shades, from glistening white to sooty black- such wealth of flowers, in fact, Kovrin had never seen anywhere as at Pesotsky’s” (Chekhov 2).
Unlike romantic authors, realistic authors use characters that closely resemble the ordinary people. Chekhov uses Tanya one of the characters whose storyline largely resembles that of an ordinary person. On the other hand, Shelley uses Victor as the main character whose behavior reflects that of a normal person. Victor utilizes education as an innovation tool of reanimating dead objects (Joshua 2). Also, romanticism regards nature as an embodiment of all possible kinds of emotions. Nature is regarded as an integral aspect for the romantic writers. Romanticism love for nature is undeniable as a large percentage of the storyline is showcased in an outdoor setting. This is portrayed in the first chapter where the author’s point of focus was in the garden. For instance,
“ But what made the garden most cheerful and gave it a lively air, was the continual coming and going in it, from early morning till evening; people with wheelbarrows, shovels, and watering-cans swarmed around the trees and bushes, in the avenues and the flower-beds, like ant” (Chekhov 2).
In this case, the author brings inanimate things to life by describing the garden’s emotional feeling. A majority of romantic writers are known to use personification as a way of giving human characteristics to non-living things. Contrary to romanticism, realism depicts real-life events in a phenomenal world. Additionally, most of the real-life events are influenced by political, social, and economic factors. Shelley showcases this by using Victor who was driven to study science and perform well in his education by his mother’s death, because of the hope of bringing her back to life. Moreover, romanticism events are described as those who range from impossible to probable. It relies on idealization and the plots are likely to contain unusual and mysterious aspects. In the second chapter of ‘The Black Monk, the author utilizes romanticism when Kovrin confesses to Tanya his thoughts that are shrouded in mystery.
“I have been all day thinking of a legend,” he said. “I don’t remember whether I have read it somewhere or heard it, but it is a strange and almost grotesque legend. To begin with, it is somewhat obscure. A thousand years ago a monk, dressed in black, wandered about the desert, somewhere in Syria or Arabia (Chekhov 3).”
From the above text, it is evident that author utilizes a lot of mysticism. Additionally, they describe Kovrin’s spiritual intuition that is typically beyond ordinary human understanding. According to Kovrin, his constant mind-boggling thoughts serve as a prediction for what would be likely to happen in the future. The romantic author further utilizes a supernatural world setting form of religion. Chekhov utilizes the character of a black monk as the superstitious character in the novel. “A monk, dressed in black, with a grey head and black eyebrows, his arms crossed over his breast, floated by him. . . . His bare feet did not touch the earth” (Chekhov 6). After he had floated twenty feet beyond him, he looked around at Kovrin and nodded to him with a friendly but sly smile. Shelley also employs romanticism to describe a supernatural monster by Victor with the objective of reanimating dead organisms (Joshua 5). However, the supernatural being is characterized by normal human emotions such as jealousy, sadness, hope, and happiness. Shelly sought to incorporate both romanticism and realism setting in her story.
On the other hand, realism supports real ordinary events. The events of a realism plot replicate that of the real world occurrences that lack any supernatural elements. Relationships and marriage are some of the real-life events that are showcased in the novel. This is, however, influenced by Tanya’s father whose main objective is to safeguard his wealth through Tanya’s future husband. Eventually, Semyonitch manages to convince Kovrin to marry Tanya whom he already loved. The conversation between Tanya’s father and Kovrin depicts our day to day living that is largely influenced by economic and social factors.
“You are the only man to whom I should not be afraid to marry my daughter. You are a clever man with a good heart, and would not let my beloved work go to ruin, and the chief reason is that I love you as a son, and I am proud of you. If you and Tanya could get up a romance somehow, then–well! I should be thrilled and even happy. I tell you this plainly, without mincing matters, like an honest man”(Chekhov 7).
The authors also use romanticism to describe the black monk as a legend. The Black Monk is given an unusual, extraordinary characteristic of being omnipresent as well as to be seen and unseen. This occurs when a black monk appears to Kovrin as a beggar or pilgrim.
“Nodding his head graciously, this beggar or pilgrim came noiselessly to the seat and sat down, and Kovrin recognized him as the black monk. For a minute they looked at one another, Kovrin with amazement, and the monk with friendliness, and, just as before, a little slyness, as though he were thinking something to himself” (Chekhov 9).
The romantic author further destroys the reader’s illusion of reality, and this occurs throughout the interaction between the Black monk and Kovrin. The interaction between the two is concluded with an unrealistic promise of eternal life, which opposes the realistic view of death, as the last and final stage of life. This is because a human being is mortal. This interaction depicts romanticism, as the black monk is an exotic persona while the interactions also occur in exotic settings.
“As of all life–enjoyment. True enjoyment lies in knowledge, and eternal life provides innumerable and inexhaustible sources of knowledge, and in that sense, it has been said: ‘In My Father’s house there are many mansions (Chekhov 11)”.
In the Frankenstein novel, there are no cases of the characters being immortal. Shelley employs a realistic setting of view to describe a monster that has the same capabilities as that of man. Just like the humans, the monster’s actions are driven by emotions. Similar to an ordinary human being, the monster has no superpowers as it could also die. Undoubtedly, failed love is a common aspect of romantic this is depicted when Tanya falls out of love with her husband whose persona had grossly changed. Tanya
Regrets the day she chose to marry Kovrin as he could no longer accomplish any of his promises due to his illness and mental instability.
“My father is just dead. I owe that to you, for you have killed him. Our garden is being ruined; strangers are managing it already–that is, the very thing is happening that poor father dreaded. That, too, I owe to you. I hate you with my whole soul, and I hope you may soon perish. Oh, how wretched I am! Insufferable anguish is burning my soul. . . . My curses on you. I took you for an extraordinary man, a genius; I loved you, and you have turned out a madman” (Chekhov 12).
The story ends with sadness when Kovrin dies while calling out his ex-wife’s name. The novel is finalized with death, a broken marriage, and sadness. Undoubtedly, it depicts both romanticism and realism artistic movements although having different ideologies. Realism is portrayed when Kovrin Tanya chooses to divorce Kovrin because of his betrayal and mental instability (Chekhov 17). Concurrently, Kovrin realizes that he had made a foolish decision to marry Tanya. Realism was also showcased in Shelley’s novel when Victor died from exposure to the cold environs of the Arctic Circle where he was in pursuit for revenge after a monster kills his wife (Joshua 39). In essence, both authors managed to show a correlation of both Romanticism and realism in his novel.
Chekhov, Anton. “THE BLACK MONK.”
Joshua, Essaka. Mary Shelley: ‘frankenstein’. Tirril: Humanities-Ebooks, 2008. Internet resource.