American realism was a late nineteenth-century literary movement that began as a reaction against romanticism and the sentimental tradition associated primarily with women writers. Realism and naturalism are two closely related, but still very different styles of writing. The realism movement tried to portray the world as it really was. "Realism is the art of depicting nature as it is seen by toads. The charm suffusing a landscape painted by a mole, or a story written by a measuring-worm" (Kinsella 484). Realists focused on the present moment, on the here and now. Although the realist aesthetic influenced European as well as American literature, the American tradition emerged somewhat later in the century and employed slightly different conventions than its continental counterpart. The realism movement climaxed during the Civil War, a time of harsh realities and cynical views. American realism was most commonly a feature of narrative fiction such as in the works of Stephen Crane, although authors occasionally applied its themes and literary techniques to poetry and drama as Stephen Foster did. .
Stephen Crane was America's first realistic writer who exposed the realities of war and other unfavorable conditions to a very naive American audience. A hundred years ago, people did not see the world in quite an open manner, as they do today. Those who lived in poverty, abuse, and other harsh conditions were finally exposed to America in 1893 by a 22-year old college freelance writer, Crane. He simply wished to show things as they appeared to him: bitterly real. Crane is a well noted realist author, short story writer, and poet. He wrote many short stories devoted to the Civil War, as he identified with the "sorrowful tones of the soldiers and their families" (Kinsella 485). His realism expressed the cruel realities of the world. He wrote often of fallen humanity, the unforgiving consequences of war, and emotional and intellectual responses of people under extreme pressure.