Define ‘Realism’ As A Nineteenth Century Aesthetic Movement And Discuss To What Extent ‘Un Cœur Simple’ Can Be Described As A Realist Text

1385 words - 6 pages

Realism was seen as an avant-garde challenge to the artificial artistic modes of expression that preceded it, for instance Romanticism and 18th century Classicism. It became prominent in French Literature in the late 19th century and Faubert was one of the artists art the forefront of the movement. Realist novels are based on the simple and mundane every day routines. Realist writers did not believe in writing about the extraordinary, instead they look to portray life in a truthful way, mainly by using an objective narrative point of view and by amassing accurate details. ‘Un Coeur Simple’ is a realistic piece of writing, that’s for sure, but many people argue that it has elements of the ...view middle of the document...

They authors in scrupulous observation and when events are relayed they are told exactly as they happened. Flaubert in particular was a strong believer that the novelist shouldn’t impose his own attitudes on the readers through his literature and that he should only tell the story. For instance, in ‘Un Cœur Simple’, the narrator tells Félicité's life story without observations or criticisms, and in turn the readers must draw their own conclusions.

The main reason that we can tell this novel is a realistic piece of work is because, as per usual, Faubert took inspiration from characters in real life and based people in the novel on these characters. René Dumesnil is quoted as saying that Félicité has certain qualities similar to a fille-mère called Léonie who served in Trouville and also from ‘mademoiselle Julie,’ a member of staff who worked for the Flaubert family for many years. Dumesnil also claims it’s a possibility that the two children Paul and Virginie were based on Flaubert himself as a child and his sister Caroline. Like Virginie in ‘Un Coeur Simple,’ Caroline died quite young.

It is clear just by looking at the protagonist in this book that it is a realist text. Throughout, Félicité is described and treated by other characters as simple, almost stupid. It would be rare to find the main protagonist to be anything other than perfect in another genre of writing, but Flaubert clearly makes his protagonist quite normal and with certain flaws, again to give the book the sense of realism that he desires. The level of description in certain points is another clear sign that this is a realist text. Especially when it comes to illness and death, we as the reader receive quite heavy details of all the ailments and symptoms, which any realist writer would include, for example, at Virginie’s deathbed, Madame Aubain says ‘poussait des hoquets d'agonie’. Also Faubert is particularly graphic with the description of Virginie when she is dead: ‘elle remarqua que la figure avait jauni, les lèvres bleuirent, le nez se pinçait, les yeux s'enfoncaient’. Faubert even goes far enough to describe the particular illness’ that the parrot has ‘Il devint malade, ne pouvait plus parler ni manger. C'était sous sa langue une épaisseur, comme en ont les poules quelquefois. Elle le guérit, en arrachant cette pellicule avec ses ongles’.
The lack of sentimentality throughout all the tragedy in the book is quite astounding. When describing the deaths, although he is at times almost overly descriptive he is very factual and there is no emotion involved whatsoever. The most touching part of the play to me was when Félicité is knocked down by the coach and whipped by the driver, she breaks down moments later and she realizes all the injustices or her life and all of the things that have gone wrong, the passage of thought ‘Alors une faiblesse l'arrêta; et la misère de son enfance, la déception du premier amour, le départ de son neveu, la mort de Virginie, comme les...

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