Main Purpose: To portray daily life with unadulterated and somewhat scientific objectivity, specifically depicting (at at times instructing people about) the challenges of ordinary people amid the rise of the middle-class, industrialism and social conflict.

Landmark Texts:

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – The Communist Manifesto (1848)

Apart from the Bible, it is difficult to think of any text that has had the same impact as the manifesto on modern society. The inspiration for dozens of political uprisings and countless political groups, its criticism of wage labor mobilized the masses the world over. Its impact on fiction, however, was slightly different. While it is true that many novels have argued that there is no better choice but to revolt against the alleged horrors of capitalism, Marx inspired authors to portray characters helplessly subsumed by larger conceptual systems that determined their lives. It also inspired some authors to forgo depicting the lives of nobility and focus more on the struggling working classes, and Marx asserted their cause to be more pressing.

Gustave Flaubert – Madame Bovary (1856)

Considered still to be one of the greatest novels of all time, Bovary’s appeal is in its attention to detail. Gustave Flaubert effectively dives right into French country life, including in meticulous detail the many steps Emma takes to realize her fantasy of Romance in any way possible. It is perhaps the best example of how realism can be highly-artistic, too; the breadth of his descriptions leave little out, providing unprecedented lucidity to the reader.

George Eliot – Middlemarch (1869)

There are few novels that better encapsulate a certain era without elevating nor deflating its importance better than Middlemarch, Eliot’s lengthy novel about Dorothea, a woman trying to find love and happiness in English Provincial life. Eliot seeks not to capture the Zeitgeist of the 1830’s, but rather seeks to describe the challenges and issues people faced daily back then, which included electoral conflicts and the rapid rise of Industrialism. Taking in mind many early-century works, too, Eliot avoids the predictable use of a happy ending to better reflect the uncertainty of real life.

Upton Sinclair – The Jungle (1906)

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The federal government in the United States made many reforms in food production and factory safety after this novel showed the darker side of Chicago’s meatpacking district. As one of the finest examples of American Realism, Sinclair’s novel challenged and even disproved many of the ideals people espoused regarding the American Dream and the whole rags-to-riches mentality. The processes that were supposed to bring prosperity to the Baltic immigrants in question simply brought them ruin.


  1. “To assess the damage caused European colonial rule in nations all around the world while also reinvigorating these regions with a sense of linguistic and artistic identity”

    Then why are 3 out of the 5 books written by white Europeans?

  2. Second full day of my second visit to Cape Breton. I know being a vitosir gives one a perspective different from a full-time resident, but even so I trust (hope?) that Capers realize the great beauty you all have around you. This is an amazing place. Just sayin’.

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