Realism is a literary form of writing.
faithful representation of reality" or "verisimilitude", which means genuineness or similarity. Realism also means a particular kind of subject matter, especially the portrayal of middle-class life. Studies of documented history and the influence of philosophy have both affected the rising of realism. The period of time in which realism was introduced includes the Civil War to the turn of the century. The term "realism" has been said to be difficult to define because it is used differently in European literature than in American Literature (http://www.gonzaga.edu/Becker/311/realism.htm).
After World War I, American society, culture and economy changed dramatically. Americans wanted literature explaining what happened and what was happening to their society. They turned to realism, in the late 19th century. Authors began to create a general picture of present-day life. They pointed out the aspects that American society had in common with the general realities of life. In the late 1800's, William Dean Howells and Henry James, the two most famous realists of the nineteenth century, concentrated on changing American life. They believed novels "should present life how it is, not how it might be." Howell's literature always brought out more good than evil. James' writings were all about perspective. He contrasted peoples' ideas of America and Europe. The two writers succeeded in representing America as it really was thru their criticism (Carter,119).
The naturalist movement came into play and it was much like realism. Although this is true, naturalists were more extreme explaining cruelty and repelling ideas. They concentrated a lot on the problems of society. Like realism, they indicated change but naturalism was more like propaganda. The literary form of Modernism, developing in the late 19th century, was greatly influenced by realism. It influenced wonderful authors such as William Faulkner and a personal favorite of mine, Ernest Hemingway.