The Realism movement was born in the 19th century and is characterized by its focus on everyday life and realistic depictions. Arising as a response to Romanticism, Realism shines a light on the everyday and mundane, with a specific focus on experiences of people in the middle and lower classes.

Publication year 1899Genre Poem, FictionThemes Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags Lyric Poem, Existentialism, Realism

Publication year 1865Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Natural World: Place, Natural World: Animals, Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags Lyric Poem, Science / Nature, Realism, Romanticism / Romantic Period, Transcendentalism

Publication year 1877Genre Novella, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Realism, Realistic Fiction, French Literature

A Simple Heart is a novella by Gustave Flaubert that appeared in his book Three Tales. The title has also been translated as A Simple Soul. The story follows the kind and loving maidservant Félicité from her youth to her death and details the many loves that she loses along the way, exploring themes of The Power of Social Class, The Value of a Personal Relationship With God, and The Omnipresence of Death. This guide... Read A Simple Heart Summary

Publication year 1890Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Classic Fiction, Realism, Romanticism / Romantic Period

Emily Dickinson holds a special place in the firmament of American writers. Although she lived in the 19th century and seldom left her home region in Massachusetts, her poetry speaks to readers of all ages and backgrounds. Dickinson possessed a singular poetic style, characterized by inventive punctuation, powerful efficiency, and deep inquiry of the human experience. Her poem “Because I could not stop for Death” has become a touchstone for readers encountering Dickinson for the... Read Because I Could Not Stop for Death Summary

Publication year 1936Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Fate, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Poverty, Class, Indian Literature, Realism

Since its publication in 1936, Mulk Raj Anand’s novel Coolie has become a landmark in modern Indian literature. The novel condemned the social, economic, and cultural impact of more than two centuries of British occupation and indicted India’s own rigid caste system, which had long separated its citizens into groups based on their work status and their ethnicity. The novel appeared at the height of a turbulent decade in which India itself, under the moral... Read Coolie Summary

Genre Short Story, FictionTags Classic Fiction, American Literature, Naturalism, Realism

“Désirée’s Baby” is a short story by Kate Chopin, first published under the title “The Father of Désirée's Baby,” in Vogue on January 14, 1893. It later appeared in Chopin’s 1894 short story collection Bayou Folk. The story takes place in Louisiana in the antebellum, or pre-Civil War, period. Its characters are Creole—descendants of colonists who lived in Louisiana during its periods of French and Spanish rule, who typically spoke French and practiced Catholicism. Chopin... Read Desiree's Baby Summary

Publication year 1899Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Marriage, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Life/Time: The PastTags Latin American Literature, Realism, Psychological Fiction

Publication year 1914Genre Poem, FictionTags Lyric Poem, Sociology, Arts / Culture, American Literature, Realism, Food

Publication year 2013Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: The Future, Identity: Mental Health, Relationships: Friendship, Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags Depression / Suicide, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Diversity, Realism

The young adult novel Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock depicts the day 18-year-old Leonard Peacock plans to carry out a murder-suicide. Author Matthew Quick wrote this and other popular titles, including Silver Linings Playbook, adapted into the Oscar-winning film. This guide refers to the 2013 hardback first edition from Little, Brown and Company.Plot SummaryNarrator and protagonist Leonard Peacock sits alone in his home the morning of his birthday. Later that day, he plans to kill himself... Read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock Summary

Publication year 1881Genre Play, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Regret, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Identity: FemininityTags Play: Drama, Psychological Fiction, Scandinavian Literature, Realism, Victorian Period, Drama / Tragedy, Health / Medicine, Religion / Spirituality, Finance / Money / Wealth, Love / Sexuality

The play Ghosts (1881) by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen chronicles the complicated relationship between Helen Alving and her son, Oswald. Ghosts documents a day in the life at the Alving estate as Helen prepares to open an orphanage in honor of her late husband. A three-act play, Ghosts explores the complex social issues of sexually transmitted infections, incest, and euthanasia—topics that made the play highly controversial when it was first produced. Ghosts followed the success... Read Ghosts Summary

Publication year 1924Genre Play, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Society: War, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Play: Drama, Class, Irish Literature, Realism

Irish-born playwright Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock was first produced in 1924 at the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s national theatre, in Dublin. This Realistic play is one of three plays (known as the “Dublin Trilogy”) that O’Casey wrote for the Abbey Theatre. Juno and the Paycock is anthologized in various collections, including Masters of Modern Drama by Haskell Block and Robert Shedd in 1962 (which this guide references).The play is set entirely in a two-room... Read Juno and the Paycock Summary

Publication year 1964Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Sexuality, Identity: Gender, Society: Class, Society: CommunityTags Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, Realism, Poverty, Psychological Fiction

Last Exit to Brooklyn is a 1958 novel by Hubert Selby Jr. Set in the Brooklyn borough of New York City in the 1950s, the novel portrays the interconnected lives of the residents. The loosely connected stories involve crime, violence, and poverty, as well as drug-use, sex work, and sexual assault. The novel was criticized for its graphic portrayal of controversial themes, resulting in several court cases in the United States and the United Kingdom... Read Last Exit to Brooklyn Summary

Publication year 1861Genre Short Story, FictionTags Classic Fiction, Industrial Revolution, Realism

Life in the Iron Mills is a novella written by Rebecca Harding Davis. It was first published anonymously in The Atlantic Monthly in 1861 and was later reprinted as a part of a story collection by The Feminist Press in 1985. At the time of its first publication, audiences assumed the unnamed author was male. This collection is called Life in the Iron Mills and Other Stories and contains notes and a short biography of... Read Life In The Iron Mills Summary

Publication year 1955Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: ArtTags Modern Classic Fiction, Drama / Tragedy, Satire, Realism

Lolita, a novel by Russian-American author Vladimir Nabokov, was published in 1955 in Paris. American publishing companies refused to publish the novel due to its scandalous plot, but the book was considered a classic almost instantly. In 1967, the novel was finally published in America and, since then, Lolita has appeared on several lists of the greatest English-language and American novels of all time. The novel blends genres, offering readers elements of romance, erotica, and... Read Lolita Summary

Publication year 1957Genre Play, FictionTags Realism

“Look Back in Anger” is a play about alienation and identity in 1950s England. The play was considered modern for its time, and upended the theater world with its bleak portrayal of Jimmy Porter as an everyman with nothing going for him but his ideals, ideals packaged in rage and anger. Audiences were devastated by the play, but this devastation and an intimate glimpse of real struggle in the face of a changing world, a... Read Look Back in Anger Summary

Publication year 1993Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: LoveTags Lyric Poem, Love / Sexuality, Realism

Publication year 1856Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Marriage, Society: Class, Emotions/Behavior: ApathyTags Classic Fiction, French Literature, Realism

Madame Bovary is a foundational realist novel. Authored by the esteemed French writer Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), Madame Bovary was first released through serialization in 1856, and then formally published as Flaubert’s debut novel in 1857. Madame Bovary is one of the earliest examples of realism in literature and is credited with helping to develop the importance of psychological realism in literature. It is a love story, a vociferous critique of the ways in which society... Read Madame Bovary Summary

Publication year 1880Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Society: Class, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Fame, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Identity: Femininity, Identity: MasculinityTags Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Love / Sexuality, Realism, Realistic Fiction, Naturalism, Class, History: European, French Literature

Publication year 1991Genre Novella, FictionThemes Natural World: Animals, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Children's Literature, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Realism

Eleven-year-old Marty Preston fights to save an abused beagle from its cruel owner in Shiloh (1991). Marty bonds with the dog, Shiloh, and learns more about himself and others as he struggles to reconcile the letter of the law with what he knows in his heart is right. Acclaimed children’s author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor based Shiloh on a poignant, personal encounter with a mistreated dog. Marty’s character struggles with the same issues that troubled Naylor... Read Shiloh Summary

Publication year 1888Genre Novella, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Identity: Gender, Life/Time: The Past, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Values/Ideas: FameTags Classic Fiction, Mystery / Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Realism

The Aspern Papers by Henry James is a novella first published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1888. The unnamed protagonist and narrator is an editor and obsessive fan of fictional poet Jeffrey Aspern, who is no longer living. Having heard that a former romantic partner of Aspern’s, Juliana Bordereau, and her niece, Tita Bordereau (renamed Tina in later editions), are in possession a collection of papers related to the poet, the narrator rents rooms in... Read The Aspern Papers Summary

Publication year 1941Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Natural World: Animals, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Classic Fiction, Children's Literature, Action / Adventure, Realism, Animals

Walter Farley was only 26 years old when he published The Black Stallion, the fictional adventure story of the friendship between a boy and a majestic, powerful horse. Farley’s book, first available in 1941, was an instant bestseller. The Black Stallion and its 20 sequels have sold more than 12 million copies. The novel won the 1944 Young Reader’s Choice Award and inspired three Black Stallion movies and a TV series. At the heart of... Read The Black Stallion Summary

Publication year 1841Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Narrative / Epic Poem, Historical Fiction, History: European, Politics / Government, Science / Nature, Romanticism / Romantic Period, Realism

The Bronze Horseman: A Saint Petersburg Story is a narrative poem by 19th-century Russian poet, dramatist, and novelist Alexander Pushkin, who is considered Russia’s greatest poet. It was written in 1833, but was not published until 1841, after Pushkin’s death due to censorship of Pushkin’s works by the Russian government.Regarded as one of Pushkin’s most accomplished works, The Bronze Horseman has had a marked influence on Russian literature. The poem tells of the founding of Saint... Read The Bronze Horseman Summary

Publication year 2008Genre Short Story, FictionTags Classic Fiction, American Civil War, Realism

This guide is based on Charles Waddell Chesnutt’s “The Goophered Grapevine,” available at The Atlantic website and originally published in the monthly in August 1887. Chesnutt was the first African-American to publish in the highly-respected monthly. Structured as a story within a story, “The Goophered Grapevine” is the history of a ruined North Carolina plantation as told to an unnamed narrator by Julius McAdoo, a former slave on the plantation.The narrator opens the story by... Read The Goophered Grapevine Summary

Publication year 1886Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Values/Ideas: Fate, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Society: ClassTags Classic Fiction, Victorian Period, British Literature, Industrial Revolution, Realism

The Mayor of Casterbridge: The Life and Death of a Man of Character (1886) is a novel by Thomas Hardy. Taking place in a fictional town in rural England sometime in the 1840s, the story follows young hay trusser Michael Henchard as he traverses English social life and struggles to improve his standing. One of the foremost authors of the Victorian period, Hardy is known for his psychologically and morally complex portrayals of rural English... Read The Mayor of Casterbridge Summary

Publication year 1986Genre Play, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Identity: Sexuality, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Play: Drama, Realism

The Rez Sisters by Tomson Highway is a two-act play that was first performed in 1986 at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. After being translated into French by Jocelyne Beaulieu, “Les Reines de la réserve” premiered by Théâtre Populaire du Québec in 1993. A version of the play in the Cree language was performed in 2010, and Canadian performances with Indigenous actors have been staged in the 2020s. Highway’s play re-envisions the 1965 play... Read The Rez Sisters Summary

Publication year 1867Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: War, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Relationships: MarriageTags Historical Fiction, Classic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Realistic Fiction, History: European, Military / War, Philosophy, Relationships, Realism, Russian Literature

War and Peace is a Russian historical fiction novel written by Leo Tolstoy, published in 1865-1869. The story charts the alliances and wars between Russia and France at the beginning of the 19th century, following the lives of characters swept along by historical events. War and Peace is heralded as one of the most important novels in Russian and world literature and has been adapted into films, television shows, and more.Multiply nominated for both the... Read War and Peace Summary