Realism vs. Romanticism

What's the Difference?

Realism and Romanticism are two distinct artistic movements that emerged in the 19th century. Realism focused on depicting everyday life and ordinary people in a straightforward and objective manner, often highlighting social issues and political realities. In contrast, Romanticism emphasized emotion, imagination, and the beauty of nature, often portraying fantastical or idealized scenes. While Realism sought to capture the truth of the world as it is, Romanticism aimed to evoke powerful emotions and inspire a sense of wonder and awe. Despite their differences, both movements played a significant role in shaping the artistic landscape of their time and continue to influence artists today.


Time Period19th century18th-19th century
FocusEveryday life, ordinary peopleEmotion, imagination, nature
StyleObjective, detailed, preciseSubjective, expressive, dramatic
ThemesReality, social issues, class strugglesNature, individualism, emotion
CharacterizationComplex, flawed, ordinaryHeroic, idealized, larger than life

Further Detail


Realism and Romanticism are two major literary movements that emerged in the 19th century. Realism is characterized by a focus on depicting everyday life and society as it truly is, without idealization or romanticizing. On the other hand, Romanticism is marked by an emphasis on emotion, imagination, and the individual experience, often glorifying nature and the supernatural.


Realism tends to explore themes such as social class, morality, and the impact of industrialization on society. Realist writers often depict the struggles of ordinary people and the harsh realities of life. In contrast, Romanticism often focuses on themes of nature, love, and the supernatural. Romantic writers are more interested in exploring the inner world of emotions and the power of the imagination.


Realist literature is characterized by its objective and detailed portrayal of everyday life. Realist writers strive for accuracy and authenticity in their descriptions, often using precise language and detailed observations. In contrast, Romantic literature is known for its lyrical and emotional style. Romantic writers use vivid imagery, symbolism, and metaphor to evoke powerful emotions and create a sense of wonder.


In Realism, characters are often depicted as ordinary people facing the challenges of everyday life. Realist writers focus on the complexities of human nature and behavior, portraying characters in a nuanced and realistic way. On the other hand, Romanticism often features larger-than-life characters who are driven by passion, imagination, and a sense of adventure. Romantic writers tend to idealize their characters and emphasize their heroic qualities.


Realist literature is typically set in urban or industrial environments, reflecting the rapid changes brought about by modernization. Realist writers often explore the impact of these changes on society and individuals. In contrast, Romantic literature often takes place in natural or rural settings, emphasizing the beauty and power of nature. Romantic writers use the natural world as a backdrop to explore themes of freedom, spirituality, and the sublime.


Realism is rooted in the belief that literature should reflect the realities of everyday life and provide a truthful representation of society. Realist writers seek to expose social injustices and challenge conventional beliefs. In contrast, Romanticism is driven by a belief in the power of the individual imagination and the importance of emotion and intuition. Romantic writers value creativity, spontaneity, and the pursuit of personal freedom.


Both Realism and Romanticism have had a lasting impact on literature and art. Realism paved the way for modern literature by emphasizing the importance of objective observation and social critique. Realist writers such as Charles Dickens and Gustave Flaubert are still widely read and studied today. On the other hand, Romanticism has influenced a wide range of artistic movements, from Symbolism to Surrealism. Romantic writers such as William Wordsworth and Edgar Allan Poe continue to inspire readers with their imaginative and emotional works.

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