Realism, as the word implies, deals with reality as its subject, that is, putting emphasis on what is happening in the real world, rather than stressing emotions as a source of aesthetic experience. In literature, it often focuses on moral or ethical choices such that it gives emphasis on the actions by the characters rather than the actual plot of the story. Characters are also portrayed with motive, more often than not, in relation to the view of their social class.
In realism, sensational and dramatic elements that are often found in naturalism and romances are avoided.
The short stories “The Bet” and “How Much Land Does a Man Need? ” are examples of literature in the style of realism which focuses on the ethical choices of the characters in relation to their social class. “The Bet” focuses on the materiality of the world. It gave contrasts to the materialistic world view of the banker, and the simplicity of the young man in the story.
Although the question at the beginning is whether or not the death penalty is worse than life imprisonment, the story has not given an answer to it (it was not its intention to answer this anyway), but rather, it presented views of morality.
It altogether despises materiality. The young man at the end of the story proclaimed: “It is all worthless, fleeting, illusory, and deceptive, like a mirage… I marvel at you who exchange heaven for earth. I don’t want to understand you” (Chekrov). Like “The Bet,” “How Much Land Does a Man Need? ” criticizes the human sense of materiality.
The story, however, shifts its focus on greed. It differs with “The Bet” in the sense that while “How Much Land Does a Man Need?
” Does not necessarily condemn acquiring material possession in this world, it presented a question of how much of this material possession does man really need. Pahom, the main character in the story, was given the opportunity to acquire land of his own, but was overcome by greed many times throughout the story. In the end, this greed was the cause of his death. The moral of the story is that man should only take what is necessary for living, nothing in excess. The story also implies that man cannot take in death what man possess in life.
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