Documents of Modern Literary Realism

Declaration of the Rights of Woman – 1791 by Olympe De Gouges

The reading chosen as per the requirements of this assignment is the Declaration of the Rights of Woman – 1791 by Olympe De Gouges. The writer was initially known as a playwright but got involved with politics due to the high political tensions in France at the time. Her involvement with politics also drove her to become an activist for women’s rights, urging the government to see both men and women as equals.

De Gouges (1791) wrote the piece of literature as a revision of the famous Declaration of the Rights of Man – 1789 by the National Assembly of France. The article chosen discusses several key issues that women faced. For example, she notes that “all citizenesses and citizens, being equal in its eyes, should be equally admissible to all public dignities, offices and employments, according to their ability, and with no other distinction than that of their virtues and talents” (De Gouges, 1791, p.1). Using such examples from the text, it can be stated that the author’s key aim for the reading audience is the acceptance of women as equal to men within the society.

The writer’s strategy is effective in communicating to her target audience, which is the government. One reason why the article communicates the plight of women effectively is the fact that many of the people who would read the literature would easily relate to it. Women would agree with the plight described while men would also note the differences between being female and male as reflected in their rights. The writing style, whereas complex, is not technical and the target audience would be able to understand the message.

The reading impacted me in several ways. First, it allowed me to understand the struggles of women in that era. More importantly, it allowed me to appreciate the efforts of women such as De Gouges in ensuring gender equality. The reading can be linked to the Me-Too movement that happened recently which also sought to highlight different types of gender biases especially in work settings (Perkins, 2017).

One of the key things I learnt after reading the article is that little has changed for the last few decades regarding gender equality. More deliberate strides still have to be taken to ensure that communities all over the world see men and women as equals. This would allow women to advance in their careers in as fast a pace as men do. On the same note, one of the key things I learnt from reading the article that could help in both my personal and professional life is the ability to fully express oneself. This should be done to not only pass information but also to give solutions and recommendations.

Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

The Old Curiosity Shop is the chosen reading by Charles Dickens. Dickens narrates the story of Nell Trent, a 14-year-old orphan living with her grandfather. Nell’s grandfather believes that he can gamble and win a fortune so that his granddaughter lives well. Unfortunately, he gambles all his money and falls into debt. He borrows money from a shylock and, upon defaulting payment, his shop, where he lives with Nell, is repossessed (Dickens, 1840). They live as beggars for a while before Nell is forced to take a torturous journey that leads to her death.

The first important detail is the gambling problem Nell’s grandfather has and its impact on the family. The second is the shylock’s decision to repossess the shop and throw Nell and her grandfather out to live as beggars. The third important detail is Nell’s brother’s efforts in attempt to get the money he thinks his grandfather has saved for Nell. Fourthly, Nell and her grandfather’s journey in search for safety and security is important as it then leads to Nell’s death. Another important detail is her brother’s realization that Nell had died and his grandfather had no money.

The author attempts to incorporate the right culture in the story. For instance, the fact that one character was sentenced to transportation is an important reference to history. In 1825, transportation was a form of punishment in London that referred to the relocation of offenders to faraway places such that they could not return home. Additionally, the use of shylocks at the time was very rampant indicating the changing economy of the nation.

It can be noted that Dickens uses literary realism in the selected reading. Becker (2015) defines the concept as the use of art in a familiar and realistic way to express reasonable and relatable situations. One way in which Dickens (1840) uses literary realism is through the different experiences his characters enjoy. These experiences were very common in England at the time. Thus, readers could easily understand and relate to the characters. It is possible that Dickens was using the text to prompt change for the struggling poor. He depicts that poor people not only suffer on day-to-day basis, but they also suffer mental, social and cultural oppressions.

There are several lessons one can pick from this reading. One such lesson is that today’s economic challenges can be addressed through strategic and tactical approaches. Gambling was not the best option for Nell’s grandfather and it can be used to represent fast-earned money. Secondly, the fact that Nell’s brother felt entitled to any wealth Nell’s grandfather left his granddaughter teaches that there will always be other parties interested in taking advantage and sharing the profits of any given adventure. Regarding skills, one learns that learning is participatory in nature. This refers to how Nell taught their neighbor’s son how to read and write and how to run a business. Additionally, the boy felt responsible for Nell’s well-being and went out of his way to look for her.


Becker, J. G. (2015). Documents of modern literary realism. Princeton. NJ: Princeton University Press.

De Gouges, O. (1791). The declaration of the rights of woman. Web.

Dickens, C. (1840). Old curiosity shop. London: David Campbell Publishers.

Perkins, L. (Ed.) (2017). #MeToo: Essays about how and why this happened, what it means and how to make sure it never happens again. Bronx, NY: Riverdale Avenue Books LLC.

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