1865 – 1914

Characters may be “larger than life” — e.g. Rip Van Winkle, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, Natty Bumppo, Ralph Hepdurn, Bartleby
Characters resemble ordinary people — e.g. Huck Finn, Editha, Frederick Winterbourne, Daisy Miller, Sylvia, Louisa, Edna Pontellier
Plot contains unusual events, mystery, or high adventure — e.g. Poe’s stories, Melville’s Typee
Plot is developed with ordinary events and circumstances
Ending is often happy
Ending might be unhappy
The language is often “literary” (inflated, formal, etc.)
Writer uses ordinary speech and dialect — common vernacular (the everyday language spoken by a people)
Settings often made up; if actual settings are used, the focus is on the exotic, strange, mysterious — e.g. Melville’s Marquesas islands (S. Pacific), Cooper’s woods and frontier, Poe’s gothic chambers
Settings actually exist or have actual prototypes
Writer is interested in history or legend — e.g. Irving, Poe
Writer is interested in recent or contemporary life

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The field of arts (music, art, literature) has offered us a lot over time. Even today, newer genres are created to keep those interested in the field engaged. Two such genres in these fields that exist even today include romanticism and realism. Both use similar subjects in their work, but the portrayal of these subjects varies greatly. It is therefore, important to understand the context of romanticism vs. realism and vice versa. Realism was a movement followed by the period of romanticism. As the names of these genres suggest, romanticism is marked by the supernatural, by situations and people that were perfect and seemed out of this world.
Realism, on the other hand, is grounded to reality, with characters and settings that are inspired from real life. While the basic difference between romanticism and realism have already been highlighted, there is much more to these movements than just one basic differences. Here, we provide you with an overview of the characteristics of these two genres. Take a look.

In art and literature, realism expresses a message that depicts situations realistically, whereas romanticism illustrates messages by using fiction. Romanticism focuses on plot, hyperbole, metaphor and feeling. In contrast, realism focuses on characters, details, objectivity and separation of author and narrator.
Romanticism rebels against prior forms of writing and art by picking into feeling, belief, imagination and fantasy. It is a style that takes advantage of personal freedom and spontaneity, breaking the fourth wall between the reader and the author so that the author is free to comment on events within the story and play with the reader a little. Unusual, often supernatural, characters and forces act in romantic stories.
Realism is on the opposite end of the spectrum, focusing on details in an attempt to replicate the real world in text form. The author is separate from the world of the story and acts as an objective transcriptionist. The characters are normal, everyday people and the events of the plot are typically normal and have a distinct lack of supernatural or fantastical elements. Realism is a common choice for writers of literary fiction, because it focuses on characters and characterization. In realism, even time and place are meant to enforce the characterization and normalcy of the characters and events.
As the names of these genres suggest, romanticism is marked by the supernatural, by situations and people that were perfect and seemed out of this world.
Realism, on the other hand, is grounded to reality, with characters and settings that are inspired from real life. While the basic difference between romanticism and realism have already been highlighted, there is much more to these movements than just one basic differences. Here, we provide you with an overview of the characteristics of these two genres. Take a look.
Romanticism was a movement that was at its peak in the first half of the 18th century (around 1800 to 1850). It went against all logical and rational approaches and ventured into worlds unknown that were perfect, surreal, and beautiful. There was hardly any room for imperfection, and these characteristics became a part of the romantic movement only in response to the changing nature of the world (such as the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution). This genre focused on the search for truths that do not exist, to which there are no natural answers. Some more characteristics of romanticism are as follows:
Romanticism deals with a very idealistic view of life. Everything is perfect in a romantic world.
All characters in romantic literature are usually extreme; the hero has all positive qualities, while the villain has all negative qualities.
Romantic art and literature deals with a metaphorical approach to its work. Nothing is obvious, but is vague, and one has to delve within its depths to understand its true meaning.
Highlighting the beauty in everything and focusing on the little things that make up life are certain aspects of romanticism that make it stand out so vividly.
Every romantic work, no matter how thrilling, mysterious, or turbulent, has a happy ending.
These characteristics were also evident in various forms of romantic art. Some classic literary romantic works include Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and Moby Dick by Herman Melville. The works of famous poets such as William Blake and William Wordsworth are also important contributions to the romantic movement.

Realism followed the romantic movement and was at its peak in the later half of the 18th (post 1850) and early years of the 19th century. As the name suggests, realism dealt with reality; it presented the real truth of life without adding any color to it. Realism was a direct response to the romantic movement and was exactly the opposite of all that the movement stood for. Some more characteristics of this genre are as follows:
Realism picks up situations from real life to form its basis in any area, be it art or literature.
No events that occurred in this kind of work were out of the ordinary, and the language used was simple, not glorified.
The concept of the work is obvious, and not metaphorical. Everything is evident by its very nature.
Realism highlights the reality of life and does not use any embellishments to cover up what might be perceived as ugly or gory.
Realistic literary work may not always have a happy ending.

Poe and Hawthorne became key figures in the nineteenth-century flourishing of American letters and literature. They are clearly products of their time, which in terms of literature, is called the Romantic Era. These writers wrote in a Romantic vein, with a marked emphasis on subjectivity and an interest in scenes of early American life and pristine American landscapes. Yet, most of these writers in different ways also exhibited the darker tones of Romanticism when dealing with American life.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) is perhaps the best-known American Romantic who worked in the so-called Gothic mode. His poems and stories explore the darker side of the Romantic imagination, dealing with the Grotesque, the supernatural, and the horrifying. Poe also rejected the rational and the intellectual in favour of the intuitive and the emotional, a dominant characteristic of the Romantic Movement. Hence, in his critical theories and through his art, Poe emphasized that didactic and intellectual elements had no place in art. The subject matter of art should rather deal with the emotions, and the greatest art was that which had a direct effect on the emotions.
For Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-64) literature also seemed to depend on the possibility of the Gothic. Hence, of particular interest to Hawthorne was the nature of evil. As his most famous works The Scarlett Letter,“Young Goodman Brown” and “ The Minister’s Black Veil” demonstrate, evil often coincides with his studies of religion, particularly Puritanism. Like his contemporary Poe, Hawthorne also made extensive use of symbols. His scarlet letter ranks alongside Poe’s pit and pendulum, and symbols generally play important roles in all of his major short stories, including the tales to be analyzed: “The Birthmark” and “The Artist of the Beautiful”. What is more, Hawthorne’s works also often hint at the supernatural, the unreal, or the uncommon.
One of Hawthorne’s and Poe’s distinctive concerns is also that of separating head and heart, intellect and soul. In his notebooks, Hawthorne, for instance, wrote that an unpardonable sin is “a want of love and reverence for the Human Soul; in consequence of which, the investigator pried into its dark depths, not with a hope or purpose of making it better, but from a cold philosophical curiosity, – content that it should be wicked in whatever kind or degree, and only desiring to study it out. Would not this, in other words, be the separation of the intellect from the heart.”[3] Hawthorne explored these Romantic ideas and the themes of obsession, loss and the impossibility of perfection extensively in his short stories “The Artist of the Beautiful” and “The Birthmark”.
Romanticism are treated in Poe’ short stories “Ligeia” and “Morella” and in Hawthorne’s “The Artist of the Beautiful” and “The Birthmark”.
Both thinkers can be seen as romantic for acouple of reasons both writers feature a very non-conformist view of the social fact both writers spend much of their thematic development in trying to establish emotional frames of individuals who are apart from this conformist social setting.hawthrone conception of puritan social norms in the scarlet letter as well as his critique of social hypocricy would help to advance the same time poes exploration of the more frightening notions of self in his worksand his poetry do so apart from the traditional concept of society this create a definite theme of romanticism in their work.
One of the themes of romanticism is emotion and can see this quite a bit in both mens work.poes work especially ,is highly emotional eg the tell tale heart or the raven .simillary the sacret letter is very emotional as well.
Romantics are also really into the idea of dreams and visions.again,you can see this qite clearly in poe
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”, and Edga
r Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” are
chosen for this purpose. It is generally observed t
hat Romantic heroes in these writings tend to be
archetypal rather than well-rounded, realistic char
acters, and often meant to embody ideas rather than
represent humanity. Their heavy involvement with nat
ure helps identify them as Romantic heroes. They
also reflect a relation to the past. The setting in
all of them tends to be a blend of imagination and
Hawthorne, like Poe, makes extensive use of symbol
s and sometimes uses metaphors of
everyday objects seen in moonlight to give a sense
of romanticism. In The Custom-House section of the
book, he describes the room with the moonlight fall
ing down onto the carpet. The moonlight filtered
through the window constitutes a combination of rea
lity and imagination, which leads us to the core of
the romanticism. The description of the meteor and t
he red letter A seen in the sky also work to help t
Romantic aspect if they are real or unreal. Like the
other Dark Romantics, Hawthorne, too, uses the
supernatural and the mysterious. His symbols, like
the scarlet letter A, the scaffold, the comet, Hest
house, the forest, the rosebush in the front gate o
f the prison, which is believed that Anne Hutchinso
stepped on and it was grown, and Pearl, are the hin
ts of the supernatural, the unreal or the uncommon.
These symbols are also Hawthorne’s concern, as a dar
k romantic, of the human conflict between heart
and head, soul and intellect, human nature and Puri
tanism, and the past and the present. He writes tha
t an
unpardonable sin is “a want of love and reverence f
or the Human Soul;

ALSEN Eberhard, The New Romanticism: A Collection o
f Critical Essays (ed. Eberhard Alsen), Garland Pub
lishing Inc., New
York 2000.

PENNELL Melissa McFarland,
Masterpieces of American Romantic Literature,
Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut &
London 2006.

SKIPP Francis E.,
American Literature
, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., New York 1992

Pizer, D. Realism and Naturalism in Nineteenth-Century Literature (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1966)
Bercovitch, Sacvan (gen.ed.) The Cambridge History of American Literature, vol.I, II, VIII

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