Charles Baudelaire, Leo Tolstoy, and Anton Chekhov: Change during Romanticism, Realism, and Naturalism

Topics: Anton Chekhov, Short story, Leo Tolstoy Pages: 3 (989 words) Published: March 7, 2014
One of the most prolific writers and biochemists of all time, Isaac Asimovlt once said, “It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today.” Indeed, change is inevitable, but it is the way humans embrace the change or react to the circumstances of the changing event that ultimately determines our destinies. To that end, writers have explored change as a literary theme for centuries. Charles Baudelaire, Leo Tolstoy, and Anton Chekhov give readers a glimpse into how change affects man in terms of the philosophies of their respective ages of Romanticism, Realism, and Naturalism.

During the age of Romanticism, authors explored the ideology that people can learn, change, grow, and improve themselves—even hardened criminals. People of the Romantic era were in tune with their feelings; everything revolved around emotion. Known for this period, Charles Baudelaire, who is best known for his work The Flowers of Evil, explores the dual nature of man. He suggests that spirit trapped in matter creates a moral dilemma. In his poems, therefore, he likes to look at multiple sides of human experience, the harsh and the beautiful. He shows this with a quote from his poem, Hymn to Beauty, “O Beauty! Dost thou generate from Heaven or from Hell? Within thy glance, so diabolic and divine, confusedly both wickedness and goodness dwell, and hence one might compare thee unto sparkling wine.” There is a challenging visual puzzle with any form of beauty and we are drawn to its mystery and are mixed between the positive and negative feelings.

Following Romanticism came the age of Realism, which returned the focus of the arts and literature to more concrete matters. During this period, change is studied through the transition from emotions and passion to actuality. In other words, these authors tried to show events and social conditions as they actually exist. Leo Tolstoy was a master of Realism, and his own life was a reflection of the...
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