Literature Review

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Is the most realistic novel a novel without a plot? Discuss with reference to one or more text. Literature Review.


The realism element in an art form like literature, painting, theatre, etc adds a rawness to a subject. The realism can be described as the conveyance of any message in a truthful and objective manner so that it shows the real contemporary life. This specific approach rejects any form of imagination so that the true picture can be presented to the audience. Various works have been introduced that focus on realism.

Realism has been consciously introduced in the French novels and paintings so that the truthful and faultless depiction of the different models that the natural setting and life offers to the artist can be most effectively captured (Hubbell, 2013). The fundamental objective of realism in different art forms is to make a sincere attempt to portray the lives, challenges, values, and appearances of the subject in the most authentic manner.

The main focus of this essay is on the realistic elements that have been portrayed in the Princess of Cleves novel. The intention is to understand realism from the point of view of the writer Madame de La Fayette (Hubbell, 2013).

Realism in Novels

A large number of novels with different genres have been introduced by writers such as fiction, mystery, fantasy, realistic, graphic novel, prose, etc. The novels that follow a realism approach have been able to capture the attention of the readers because they are said to be the replica of real-life (Taghizadeh, 2014). The realistic novels mimic life with sufficient realism so that the readers can suspend their disbelief and at the same time invest their time to understand the plot scenarios and the genuine characters (Taghizadeh, 2014).

The unique features of realistic novels include the absence of great people and their unique and heroic deeds, the reality of human experience in the social setting, etc. The authors make sure not to add unreal elements in the story so that the real-life experience of ordinary men and women with the usual ups and downs can be portrayed in the most realistic manner (Grabauskas, 2017).

The novel titled “Princesse de Cleves” is a genuine attempt to be a sincere account of the reality that portrays the human experience in the most objective fashion. The story is set in the middle of the 16th century but the depiction of the human characters including Madame de Cleves, Monsieur de Cleves and Monsieur de Nemours and their behaviour is genuine. The story received critical acclaim because of its realistic painting of the characters and their decisions. The main feature of the novel that captures the attention of the readers is that the story is simple without any specific kind of plot or twist (Gradesaver, 2017).

Various authors have made their contribution to strengthen the realism in the literary field. Literature has been used as a powerful weapon by any artists so that they can share relevant content with the readers that convey an honest and real message to them (Grabauskas, 2017).

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An element of reality in “Princess of Cleves”

The Princesse de Cleves novel is mostly referred to as the “first modern novel” of France that has unique oppositional and radical features incorporated into the story. The work is set as a benchmark that predicts the creation and development of realism and strips the work of its very own distinctive elements. The work is clearly distinguished from the other traditional writings since it takes an oppositional stand on the politics and philosophy that governs the narrative production. The unique feature of the novel that makes the realism more real is the simple fact a new and modern narrative model has been adopted by the author (Readings & Schaber, 1993).

The realism subject has a vast magnitude in French literature and Princesse de Cleves depicts one of the many instances that are a basic reality in the society. The story that has been depicted in the novel shows that human emotions do not consider social and they have a mind of their own. This fact was relevant previously and it also holds relevance today since the humans and their feelings have not changed. Due to the presence of the realistic elements in the novel, it is highly popular among the readers till today. The author has made a genuine attempt while showing social reality (Boyd, 2017). The readers do not have to possess the key to interpret the story of Madame de Cleves. It destabilizes the traditional form of narrative and thus presents the unique problematic positions relating to knowledge. It provides an honest depiction of French society (Boyd, 2017).

The story that has been presented in the novel is a modern take on society and the various values and principles that govern human behaviour. The attempts by various readers to label “realism” to the novel “Princesse de Cleves” has been successful since the plot that keeps the readers intrigued is very basic and real (Taylor & Francis, 2017).

Realistic elements

It is mostly believed that stories are one thing and the reality is a totally different thing. The author of Princesse de Cleves makes a remarkable attempt to combine the story and the reality together so that a realistic novel can be presented to the readers (Grabauskas, 2017). The realistic elements that have been imbibed into the novel have succeeded to make the story a reality. The various events that take place on the life of Madame de Cleves seem very genuine that can be experienced by almost any individual in the contemporary setting.

The real-life narrative style adds to the realism aspect of the novel and engrosses the readers in it. The story and its events capture the attention of the readers in a unique fashion. The simple and subtle plot that has been used to showcase the life and the happenings of the central characters show the fundamental realities of the social life in France. Various research works have been conducted to study the realism element of the novel. The public shows tremendous interest in the particular French novel since it has unique elements that are an actual part of the social setting (Gradesaver, 2017). The confession by Madame de Cleves about her real feeling to her husband basically highlights the changes that the society is going through.  Due to the real story and the lack of a major plot, Princesse de Cleves is considered to be a key turning point in the history of French novels. The latent elements of the novel add to the uniqueness of the novel and thus portray the story in the most realistic manner.

The highly realistic storyline and thoughtful language play a major role to explore the emotions and underlying thoughts of the main characters of the story. The subplots that have been incorporated into the main story show that human emotions play a major part to govern the decisions that are taken at the individual level.

Significance of the plot

The plot of the Princesse de Cleves novel is quite simple since it basically focuses on the life of Madame de Cleves. It shows her life, her feelings, her emotions and her decisions. All these components help the readers to understand the circumstances that she is going through in the story (Hubbell, 2013). The presence of the prominent members of the French society makes the real setting even stronger. Different elements relating to human emotions have been portrayed in the novel in the most original and realistic manner. The important question that has been highlighted in the novel relates to the relationship of the princess with her husband and her would-be lover.

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A sensible and pragmatic setting has been created by the author while portraying the central characters. This element helps the readers to feel a connection with the story and the subjects even though the plot is very basic in nature. It highlights the fact that the realistic approach that has been used by the author acts as the strength of the novel and thus encourages the readers to continue reading the story (Hubbell, 2013).


In the current times, the audiences prefer to read various kinds of novels that portray different kinds of situations and circumstances. One of the most popular categories that have not lost its magic is realistic novels. The French novel that has been highlighted in the essay – Princess of Cleves was an extremely popular novel that was highly appreciated by the critics and loved by the readers. Since the author was able to combine the story and reality into a common platform the readers were fascinated by it.

Even today the realism elements in a novel and other literary works attract the audience because they are able to form a strong association with the story and the characters. The realism in the form of the environment, setting, circumstances, and portrayal of characters makes the novel genre a highly popular reading among the audience. The focus is on Princess of Cleves since the work was a revolutionary form of art that brought about a major change in the French literature. It shows that a realistic and original plot can do wonders for the writer and the audience.


Boyd, E. (2017). From the Stacks: “Realism in France”. [online] New Republic. Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017].

Grabauskas, L. (2017). The Question of Realism in Hard Times. [ebook] pp.41 – 44. Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017]. (2017). The Princesse de Cleves Summary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017].

Hubbell, J.C., (2013). La Princesse de Cleves and the modern reader (Doctoral dissertation).

Taghizadeh, A., (2014). A theory of literary realism. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 4(8), p.1628.

Taylor & Francis. (2017). The ‘Realism’ of La Princesse de Clèves. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017].

Readings, B. and Schaber, B. eds., (1993). Postmodernism across the ages: essays for a postmodernity that wasn’t born yesterday. Syracuse University Press.

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