XIX century French realism passes two phases is in its development. The first stage – formation and adoption of realism as a major trend in literature (late 20’s – 40’s) — is presented by works of Beranger, Merimee, Stendhal, Balzac. The second (50-70s) is associated with the name of Flaubert – successor of Balzac-Stendhal realism and precursor of “naturalistic realism” school of Zola.
Formation of realism, as a method, occurs in the second half of the 20’s that is at a time when the leading role in the literary process is played by romance. Next to them, in line with the romantic writers Merimee, Stendhal, Balzac begin their path. All of them, are close to romantic, and creative associations are actively involved in their fight against the classicists. Those classicists first decades of the XIX century, being warden by Bourbon monarchical government, in these years are the main opponents of the emerging realist art (Boborykin).
Their main task the great realists see in the artistic reproduction of reality as it is; in the knowledge of the internal laws of this reality, determining its dialectics and a variety of forms. “Himself was to be a historian of French society, I just had to be his secretary”, – says Balzac, in the preface to The Human Comedy, citing the principle of objectivity in the approach to the depiction of reality as the most important principle of realist art.
The realism of the second half of XIX century, presented by creativity of Flaubert, differs from realism of the first stage. It is a definitive break with the romantic tradition, officially declared already in the novel Madame Bovary (1856). Although the main object of representation in art remains a bourgeois life, the scope and principles of its image are changing. In place of bright individualities of characters of the realistic novel of 30-40s come ordinary, little remarkable people. Multicolored world of truly Shakespearean passions, violent fights, heartbreaking dramas, embodied in The Human Comedy of Balzac, Stendhal and Merimee works, gives way to the “world of color mold”, the most notable event of which is unfaithfulness, vulgar adultery (History of French literature).
Fundamental changes are noted, as compared with the realism of the first stage, and the relationship of the artist to the world in which he lives and, which is the object of his image. If Balzac, Stendhal, Merimee showed hot interest in the fate of the world, that is felt by artists being deeply involved in the life of the present, then Flaubert declares fundamental detachment from unacceptable to him bourgeois reality. However, being obsessive by a dream to break all the threads linking it with the “world-colored mold”, and hidden in the ”ivory tower”, to devote himself to the service of high art, Flaubert almost fatally shackled to his present, remaining during all his life its strict analyst and objective judge. Also, anti-bourgeois orientation of his creativity brings him closer to the realists of the first half of XIX century (Nochlin).
Flaubert is known as the creator of the objective novel. He was born in Rouen, in northern France. The writer’s mother was the daughter of a doctor, and his father – a talented surgeon. Choosing a different path, Flaubert, however, was always faithful to the ideal of exact knowledge.
Flaubert repelled every manifestation of inert, standard thinking. Synonymous with stupidity and vulgarity of it was the word “bourgeois”. “I call the name of bourgeois anyone who thinks lowlands”, – he said (Stromberg). From his youth, Flaubert drew up “Lexicon of truths”. Here, he included all of the most common judgment that was supposed to have to respectable bourgeois. Flaubert sought to have exhausted the bourgeois thinking that much more to say there was nothing.
Flaubert attached exceptional importance to style. He believed that good prose should have an internal rhythm, thoroughly revised, with all its mobility. Rhythmic precision, harmonious sound of the word in a series of other words creates the desired effect, match up meaning. Flaubert could not spend much time looking the right word because he was convinced that there is only one “real” word, one phrase, one composite solution, which corresponds to a given value, everyone thought.
For his main novel, he chooses a story in banality of which the spirit of the triumphant bourgeoisie is based. In the novel, Madame Bovary, he tells about a provincial doctor’s wife, which is unfaithful to her boring and clumsy husband.
The principle of objectivity novelistic narrative was borrowed from Flaubert by naturalists. The writer did not like “Mr. Zola School”, though he was very friendly with Zola. On his differences with naturalists, he said: “I put above all the beauty, while my brother it cares very moderate”. However, it was Flaubert, unlike Balzac and Stendhal, who began to motivate emotions of his characters by physiological states (Weisberg).
One of the first naturalistic scenes in the history of French literature was the scene of the death of Madame Bovary. Emma dies of arsenic, stolen from a pharmacist. Agony is described by him very accurately, with all the clinical details, “And immediately her chest breathed unusually often. Language all popped out of her mouth, and her eyes rolled back and dimmed as lampshades on fading lamps … “.
By the second half of the XIX century, fascination with science and the scientific method captures all aspects of spiritual life. In the preface to the novel Therese Raquin (1867), a young writer Emile Zola (1840-1902) spoke of his characters: “I simply investigated two living bodies, like the surgeon examines the two bodies”. Inspiration he found in a novel of brothers Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, “Germaine Laserte” (1865) by presenting to the reader after their “clinical analysis of love” “clinical analysis of conscience”.
Even Balzac replaced, according to Zola, “the poet’s imagination by observation of a scientist”. Though, Balzac saw himself as a historian of society. Links to scientists Cuvier, St. Hilaire, Buffon, in the preface to The Human Comedy indicated a desire to explore the society as an organism, to understand the laws of its functioning.
Goncourt, and then Zola see in physiology source of all mental reactions. The fate of a servant Germaine was determined by neurosis. Natural temperament of Creole Teresa inherited by her from African ancestors is the driving force of the plot of the novel by Zola. In the literature of naturalism man returns to nature, again is perceived as an organic part of it.
The term “naturalism” was proposed by Emile Zola. It is formed from the Latin word “natura” – nature. Zola defines the essence of a new aesthetic, “A work of art – it is a piece of nature, refracted through the temperament of the artist” (Gauss).
In naturalism the term of “environment” changes its meaning. In the Balzac’s novels characters were a product of the social environment, the circle of the society to which they belonged. In the works of naturalists, social environment acquires the features of a biological environment. It affects the characters not only through education, social conventions, financial position, but also, determines their “species”, physiological traits. In Zola’s novel “Germinal” (series “Rougon-Macquart”, 1885), the medium affects the appearance of the characters. Work in the mines makes them pale, stunted, anemic, with whitish hair, and with coal dust ingrained into the skin.
Naturalistic concept of environment was formulated by French critic Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893). He was a follower of the philosophy of O. Kont, who believed in the truth of “positive” that is definitely established, facts. They can explain all aspects of human life. According to I.Tena, “vices and virtues – such as a product of social processes, such as copper sulfate and sugar – are products of chemical processes”. In the introduction to his book “History of English Literature” (1863-1865) Tan identified three key factors that define human life: race, environment and time.
Race – “hereditary predisposition that a person brings into the world”. Environment – external circumstances, “the physical or social conditions” that “alter or supplement the natural character”. Environment is superimposed on heredity and interacts with it. The current moment is pointing to the historical period, at a certain stage in the history of human life and society.
Zola leads to the interaction of environment and heredity, analyzes “both the will of each and the total head the whole”. In the preface to the novel “Career Rougon” (1871), he presents Rougon-Macquart as a “group of people”, “at first glance, profoundly different, but, as seen from the analysis, closely related” by laws of heredity. Heredity Zola compares with the force of gravity, the most obvious of all the laws of nature.
An important role in this experiment is played by the time, the moment. Portraying as his heroes “are scattered throughout modern society”, the writer explores the historical period in its entirety. Family history of Rougon-Macquart – it is also the story of the Second Empire (1851-1870), during the reign of Napoleon III. He was known as the “little Napoleon” in comparison with his great ancestor. Second Empire went down in history as the era of the French political corruption, the triumph of vulgarity, “the era of extraordinary folly and shame” (Zola). It started to ruin with the republic coup and ended with the defeat of the country in the war with Prussia and the occupation of France. Intrigues that led to the establishment of the Second Empire are described in the first novel – “Career Rougon” collapse of Napoleon III – in one of the latest novels, “The defeat” (1892) (Brown).
Zola gives the entire cycle the subtitle “The natural and social history of one family during the Second Empire”. Writings on natural history were called at the time books on biology. Calling his series of “natural history”, the writer takes the position of naturalist and scientist. He ceases to be just an observer and becomes the experimenter (Mitterand).
Detailed descriptions are combined in the novels of Zola with tremendous symbolic generalizations. For the eyes of hungry Florent in the novel “The womb of Paris” central market appears as a giant belly of Paris, digest countless stocks eatables, the source of life-fed, self-satisfied, as the bourgeois city.
Zola considered it his duty to promote the new aesthetics. He wrote articles about naturalism, gathered young writers around him. In a country house in Medan and Thursdays at Paris, he was visited by Joris Karl Huysmans, Paul Alexis, Henry Ceara, Leon Ennik, Octave Mirbeau, and Guy de Maupassant.
Set of ideas and aesthetic ideals covered by the concept of “naturalism”, occurs in that era, when gradually increasingly making itself felt exhaustion of artistic principles of romanticism and realism, the effect of public life to literature becomes more insistent, although it is not direct, but indirect.
Naturalism was a real literary school. The influence of the new direction was very wide and extends far beyond this age.