Women In The Realism Era

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The realism era was a style in art that defined everyday life for the common person. It depicted harsh realities and the everyday life of rather ordinary people. The era’s start varies, it could be as early as 1820 to the 1930’s. Realism is a sharp comparison to romanticism. It is broadly defined as “a representation of reality”. It was a clear objection to romanticism. The main category the movement was confined in was the novel. Realism appealed to the masses of people who worked hard every day, and the people who felt a vary of emotions from real world problems. The attention to detail and the replica of what life is really like is the heart of what realism stands for. Many great artists flourished during this time. Key artists include Gustave Courbet, Jean-Francois Millet, James Whistler, Thomas Eakins, and John Singer Sargent. Realism also gave an insight into not only the struggles of people, but their way of thinking, the psyche. Getting into the minds of people and their emotions is one of the pinnacles of the movement. Realism is largely considered the beginning of modern art.

I chose the author Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”. His work depicts the harsh reality of women during the era of realism. Henrik Ibsen was born March 20, 1828 in Skien, Norway. He was once exiled to Italy, where he wrote renowned play Brand. He moved to Germany in 1868. This is where he wrote his most famous work, A Doll’s House. He wrote Hedda Gabler in 1890. By 1891, Ibsen was held a literary hero in his hometown of Norway. He returned home and passed away May 23, 1906. The significance of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House during the era of realism holds much significance. The plot of the story reads a woman whom is married with kids. Nora, the main character, finds herself in a bind. A bind that she herself created; naively may I say. Her husband Torvald was sick. While sick, Nora found herself in a hole financially. She ends up borrowing money from Krogstad. Krogstad’s character is defined as villainous. He blackmails Nora, and even threatens her. Torvald runs a bank at which Krogstad works. Torvald is getting rid of Krogstad, which Krogstad learns beforehand. Knowing this, Krogstad threatens and blackmails Nora into persuading Torvald to not fire him. This does not work, as Torvald does not care to hear Nora out. Krogstad threatens to reveal the money borrowed from him to Torvald, who would certainly not like it. He informs Torvald by mailing him a letter. Torvald performs a tantrum. At this very moment, Nora realizes two things. One, she does not want to be married to Torvald anymore. Secondly, she realizes that she is not free mentally or physically. She refers to Torvald treating her as a “doll”. She then leaves. Nora is determined to find herself and what she really wants out of life.

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Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” also depicts the reality of women during the era. The story starts off with narrator writing in her journal. In her journal, she writes how she is astonished by the beauty of the house and vicinity her husband has taken them to for a vacation. She describes it as a “haunted house”. She is also questioning how they were able to afford it, and why had the house been empty for so long. She has an eerie feeling about the whole situation. The narrator has an illness, more specifically ‘nervous depression”. She is also up in arms about her marriage to John, her husband. John is also her doctor, and he belittles the narrator on her feelings, depression and everything about her in general. Being her doctor, he believes her treatment should involve her doing nothing at all. She has zero activity, and zero expressive creativity. The narrator feels like she should be able to perform creative things to help her “relieve her mind”. To relieve herself, she starts a journal. She starts the journal by describing the house she is in. The description is mostly positive, other than a few visual things such as the “tings and things” on the walls of the bedroom. One thing she is greatly disturbed by the yellow wallpaper in the bedroom. She describes it as “revolting.” She is often disrupted from her writing when John comes around, but she becomes very good at hiding her journal. During her time in the room, she yearns for more stimulating activities. She views John as controlling and possessive, and this is clear by him having her holed up in this one room. She tells John the imaginative things she thinks of. Her mind is stimulated, and John is not too happy about her thinking this way. She starts to become fixated on the yellow wallpaper. She becomes fixated to the point where she does not any anyone else to view it. She becomes obsessed with figuring out the pattern of the wallpaper. In the end, the wallpaper ultimately drives her insane. She became so obsessed with “freeing” the woman in the wallpaper, which she believes is herself. John is your typical male. Dismissive of the progressive woman, pragmatic, and nonchalant. He never took his wife’s illness seriously. The room he has her holed in became her prison day by day. As time went on, her mind tried to become free, but it never prevailed. She hid her only true self-expression, her journal. She rebelled against John and her doctor by doing so.

Both stories were written during the era of realism. Realism is defined as art which represents truth, and the real lives of everyday people. It shows different perspectives of life, while not shying away from being artistic. Realism arrived in France in the 1850’s. It came upon by then end of the Revolution (1848). The stories I chose depict women and their feelings not only throughout the realism period, but throughout time. Women have always been expected to do certain things. We can honestly say that women have never really had a voice. It is only through progressive times that women have stood up and voiced their opinion. Both texts show how women were oppressed by their husbands or society. They were treated as property and expected not to impose their voices or opinions. In both texts, the women realize their oppressive state. It comes as a new revelation to them. Most women will live their entire life being oppressed and not saying anything. The texts differ in how the main characters mental state is. One character is mentally ill but not that far off. The other character is not mentally ill but gets herself into avoidable situations. Both women know they are not free. One manages to leave her husband and find herself. The other character knows she is not free and goes into a frenzy while knowing so.

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Women In The Realism Era. (2022, November 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/women-in-the-realism-era/
“Women In The Realism Era.” Edubirdie, 25 Nov. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/women-in-the-realism-era/
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Women In The Realism Era [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Nov 25 [cited 2024 Apr 18]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/women-in-the-realism-era/

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