Social Realism

Exclusively available on PapersOwl
Updated: Jun 29, 2022
Cite this
Date added
Pages:  7
Order Original Essay

How it works

Social Realism is a term used to describe works of art – notably; literature, paintings, photography, and other works – that try to demonstrate the issues that affect certain groups in the society. Through such arts, the producers may also reveal their criticism of how the different social structures affect the lives of minority groups.

Need a custom essay on the same topic?
Give us your paper requirements, choose a writer and we’ll deliver the highest-quality essay!
Order now

One of the most common works of art is literature, which – over the centuries – has been used by different scholars to elucidate on the plight of minority groups. A majority of social realists have focused on immigrants, slavery, racial discrimination, and exploitation in the American society. Social realists – especially; Edith Warton, Henry James, Booker Washington, W.E.B Du Bois, Abraham Cahan, Sui Sin Far, Theodore Dreiser, Henry Adams, and others analyzed how the American social structure affected minority groups in the society. Studying the 19th and 20th American Literature gave me a new perspective on the issues affecting minority groups, the working class, and the women in the society.

From the video, both social and psychological realist have acknowledged the fact that the traditional values in the society often intimidate women. For instance, Henry James in his book “Daisy Miller” portrays the challenges faced by women in the late 18th century due to social prejudice. At the time, the society was more patriarchal than present times. According to Miller, Daisy is an innocent woman who is portrayed as scandalous and immoral due to her outspoken nature (Baym et al p. 391). Furthermore, the novel’s portrayal of the distinction in social issues between Americans and Europeans is still evident today. In my opinion, however, the discrimination against women has reduced over the years, which can be attributed to feminist movements and cross-cultural relations. I believe that the perceptions of European and Americans about each other have also changed. From Miller’s perspective, the discrimination against women in that period resulted from patriarchy (Baym et al p. 394), which – in my opinion – exhibits similarities to the 21st century.

Furthermore, the traditional social constructions often undermine the efforts of women in their attempts to attain success. In the text “Sister Carrie”, Theodore Dreiser depicts the struggles of a young woman in the city of Chicago. Despite people’s deception suffering, she struggles to become a successful woman in the society (Baym et al p. 947). From my perspective, this literary texts his different from other texts that I have read in the past. The text not only highlights the plight of women in a patriarchal society but also encourages them to work hard despite their circumstances. In this text, Dreiser uses a different approach to “social realism” by providing possible solutions to social problems. On the same note, I also believe that “Sister Carries” exhibits similarities to the women suffrage movement of the early 20th century. Like the suffrage movement, the text portrays women as masters of their own destinies who should focus on achieving success despite the patriarchal nature of the society (Baym et al p. 945). In a social realism perspective, Dreiser literature also exhibits similarities to Booker Washington’s “Up from Slavery” as they both suggest that minority groups can formulate their own destinies through hard work and persistence.

Despite the challenges women experience in marriage, resilience is an essential strategy that can help them overcome the problems. Similar to Dreiser’s perception that they are masters of their own destinies, Edith Warton in “The Other Two” also suggests that women are resilient and can adapt to the changing society (Baym et al p. 840). In the text, Edith portrays the struggles of women in family life – especially when dealing with divorce. Written in the mid- 20th century, the book suggests that people’s perceptions about marriage and divorce are different than they are currently. The author reveals that the society tends to ridicule divorced women on the basis that they lack moral standings (Baym et al P. 841). However, the text suggests that such women can overcome such challenges through resilience and adaptability. For example, the author’s story also focuses on how the different perceptions of men and women regarding divorce affect relationships. Largely, the negative perception of divorced women tends to affect marriages in the society. Men tend to mistrust divorced women as lacking moral standings, which reduces their chances of getting remarried (Baym et al P. 835). When such women get married again, however, such mistrust may strain the union as a majority of men believe that the women are responsible for the failure of their prior marriages. From the text, I believe that women can still withstand such struggles through flexibility and perseverance.

However, the challenges that face women could be ascribed to other women in the society. In the “Roman fever”, Edith Warton narrates the plight of two widows who supposedly had affairs with the same person in their youths. The women’s argument, even after many years, was based on their romantic connection to the same man which reveals a sense of jealousy (Baym et al p. 845). In this narrative, Edith analyzes the struggles of women, which can be attributed to their own choices. Like in the text, I believe that to some extent, the struggles of women can be attributed to their fellow women. Jealousy and competition among womenfolk also result in problems that women face in the society – especially in marital problems and divorces. The “Roman Fever” is different from a majority of other American Literary texts in that it places more emphasis on women as responsible for their own struggles than on social patriarchy.

Another issue depicted in social realism is the discrimination of African Americans during and after the abolition of slavery. In a majority of cases, African Americans use “the vernacular” to express themselves and to relate with people of the same racial affiliations. Even though vernacular materials are used less in current times than in the past, blacks still feel attached to such forms of traditional compositions. Vernacular compositions encompass sermons, stories, hip-hop songs, church songs, and blues (Gates, Henry, Valerie, & Kimberly p. 3). Such compositions have reduced over the years, which; in my opinion, can be attributed to the decline in racial discrimination in the society. Currently, the social status for blacks has increased considerably. The use of vernacular gave African – Americans a sense of belonging in a society that was dominated by Whites. In addition to racial discrimination, slavery was also pervasive in that period (Baym et al p. 673). All these issues pose a challenge to the development of the minority group in terms of living standards and investments. In such a case, I believe that Africa – Americans lagged behind in terms of development due to exploitation by the white supremacists rather than their lack of hard work.

In the late 18th and early 19th century, the economic gap between the blacks and other minority groups was higher than in modern times. Washington Booker, in his book “Up from Slavery” suggests that African Americans lagged behind whites in economic prowess because they’re lazy and less persistent. In the book, Washington narrates how he worked hard to acquire education and later establish an institution that provides education to the minority group (Baym et al p. 665). He believed that – unlike a majority of blacks – he succeeded because he was determined and resilient despite the challenges in his childhood. However, the lack of determination among the majority of blacks is primarily attributed to the social institutions that promoted racial inequality. For instance, a majority of the schools in the U.S. largely allowed the admittance of white students (Baym et al p. 680). Even though Washington Booker was widely accepted by Whites, I believe that his popularity was based on his ideology that African- Americans were responsible for their own economic problems. Therefore, the economic issues experienced by the Blacks in the U.S. can be ascribed to numerous factors – especially exploitation by whites, their lack of persistent and hard work, and discriminatory social institutions.

Apparently, my perspective on the contribution of racial discrimination on the economic status of Blacks resonates with Du Bois’ African American Literature, “The Souls of Black Folk”, which elucidates that the problems facing African-Americans emanate from racism. Dubois suggests that the nation neglected the reconstruction efforts established for Blacks after the Civil War which caused them to fail. Furthermore, he believes that mismanagements and biased court system inhibited the reconstruction efforts (Baym et al p. 894). From Du Bois analysis, the integration of the Blacks into the American economy would have achieved more success had the society eliminated discrimination against minority groups. On the same note, he acknowledges the contribution of Booker T. Washington to the reconstruction efforts but faults the assertion that African-American and other minority groups lagged behind in economic terms because of their lack of commitment (Baym et al p. 902). I concur with Du Bois Criticism of Washington’s text on the basis that it ignores other factors – especially the biased social institutions – that largely contributed to the poor economic status of minority groups. Without such factors, I believe that the economic conditions for the minority groups would have been better than they were at the time.

American literature not only focuses on the plight of Blacks but also those of other minority groups in the society. “In the land of the Free” for instance, Edith Eaton narrates the problems faced by a Chinese family at the immigration regarding their newborn child. As the text reveals, the Chinese couple is separated from their child for months which affects their relationship (Baym et al p. 883). Eaton’s story represents the challenges American immigrants face in the country. Cases of separation affect family ties and – in some cases – destroys relationships. Such scenarios affect a majority of immigrant populations in the U.S. Like other minority groups in the U.S, Chinese-Americans also experienced cases of discrimination due to a biased social institution. In my opinion, it is unacceptable to separate an infant from the mother for months. Such actions by the authorities can negatively affect certain aspects of people’s family life (Baym et al p. 885). Although such cases have been reported in the recent past, they are less prevalent as numerous social reforms against discrimination have been adopted.

In some cases, people believe systems also attribute to their struggles in the society. Religious, cultural, and economic expectations often define people’s perceptions about certain issues which affect their lives. In the text “Imported Bridegroom”, Abraham Cahan describes how people’s religious perceptions affect their choices. Fearful that his sins would deny him an opportunity to go to heaven, a widowed landlord tries to marry off his daughter to a student (Baym et al p. 766). The landlord believes that such an act would increase his chances of being accepted in paradise. In “The Education of Henry Adams” autobiography, the author was concerned that his education – which was rooted in the 18th century – would be less valuable in his pursuit for success. He, therefore, ignored formal education and concentrated on acquiring personal experience, which he believed was more valuable (Baym et al p. 349). As compared to formal education, he believes that personal experience holds more value to the attainment of one’s goals. In my opinion, however, both formal training and experience are essential to personal goals. People who deny one of the requirements limits their chances of succeeding.

The American Literature of the 19th and 20th century gave me a new perspective on the issues that affect minority groups, women, and the working class in the society. A majority of the literature is based on social realism and seeks to address the social challenges and – to some extent – provide solutions to such issues. For instance, numerous social realists have addressed how the exploitation, discrimination, and negative perceptions in the society affect certain groups. Over the years, such scholars have focused on slavery, White supremacy, gender discrimination, and national equality in the U.S. and European countries. The authors have also addressed the strategies formulated to reduce such challenges – especially black power movement and women suffrage – in the 20th century.

The deadline is too short to read someone else's essay
Hire a verified expert to write you a 100% Plagiarism-Free paper

Cite this page

Social Realism. (2022, Jun 28). Retrieved from