Elements of Realism in The Gods Will Have Blood

Written by Anatole France, The Gods Will Have Blood is a novel written about the French Revolution; though published in the 20th century, the novel focuses on events that every French citizen could relate to in 1793. France paints his picture of the revolution using vivid imagery to make the novel feel both visceral and genuine. The Gods Will Have Blood is classifiable as realism because the author utilizes literary elements such as precise detail, quotidian life, and social critique throughout the novel.

Realism writing contains a large amount of detail and The Gods Will Have Blood is no exception. Anatole France uses detail throughout the novel to get the reader more invested in the characters and their surroundings to keep the reader interested. A prime example of detail in the novel is when Gamelin discovers a man climbing down from the attic, “At that moment, climbing down it, was a large man, rather elderly but with a handsome pink and florid face, who was holding with difficulty an enormous package of wears, yet singing to himself, “I have gone and lost my servant!””. (France pg.33). France could so simply describe this scene as, “an elderly man came down from the attic” but instead he paints a picture of what is happening. The added detail makes it possible for the reader to clearly imagine the elderly man and his mannerism. Another excerpt from The Gods Will Have Blood that shows France’s extensive use of detail is Brotteaux’s puppets, “Maurice Brotteaux, enriched by a pot of glue, a ball of string, a box of water-colours and numerous scraps of paper, was constructing puppets which he sold to wholesale toy merchants who resold them to pedlars who hawked them up and down the Champs- Elysees at the end of a pole”. (France pg.34). From this quote, the reader can vision poor Brotteaux trying to pawn off his puppets to wholesales to try to stay alive. This is where the realism detail comes into play to show Brotteaux is desperate just to earn some spare change. The reader starts to form emotions and develops an interest in the character.

In addition to acknowledging the tiny details, The Gods Will Have Blood also is focused on a real-life event; in terms of realism literary terms, this is referred to as the quotidian. The novel uses everyday events to make the story relatable and retaining the attention of the reader. Even in today’s modern times, one can still relate to the political uncertainty in France in 1793. During the French Revolution, it was quite common for your house to get searched for no reason, “She was a suspect herself. A prose of National Guards had searched her house, riffled the drawers of her cabinet, pulled up the floorboards, thrust bayonets into her mattresses. When they had found nothing, they had apologized and drunk her wine.” (France pg.128). The revolution was a very harsh and uncertain time and everyone in France could relate to the National Guard’s brutality, for them it was an ordinary occurrence. At the time living in fear was widespread in France; most people even went into hiding to escape the guillotine. Anatole France realizes the fear in the people of France which is why he writes about the revolution. The effects of the revolution were relatable to the people which makes The Gods Will Have Blood even more realistic which is the ultimate goal of realism.

Anatole France’s novel was written in 1793, situating it at the same time as the controversial French Revolution. France expresses his feelings about the revolution throughout The Gods Will Have Blood. The act of referring to and disagreeing with the situation at hand is called social critique. Social critique is a heavily used literary element in realism. Realism writer’s goal is to make the reader question their society and feel inspired to initiate a change. France first uses social critique with the bread line, “That in their desire to hang the thief, these people were ready to do violence to the good Father here. Their greed and their selfish determination to safeguard their own interests were sufficient motives: by attacking one of them, the thief threatened all of them: self-preservation demanded his punishment”. (France pg.79). The author criticizes how people of France are so scared that they are only looking out for themselves. The people don’t give a second thought to anyone but themselves, their sense of humility is lost because of the revolution.

Another source of Anatole France’s social critique is from the Grand Tribunal. The Grand Tribunal, where Gamelin worked was responsible for mass executions without a trial. “Evariste was consistent in his decision: death. And all the accused, with the exception of an old gardener, were sent to the guillotine. The following week, Evariste and his section mowed off the heads of forty-five men and eighteen women”. (France pg.151). The author makes it apparent that the French Revolution had brainwashed Gamelin to sentence all the innocent people to death. The French government promised so many amazing changes, but in order for the revolution to be effective and for the government to transform a considerable amount of people had to die first.

Anatole France thus uses detail, quotidian, as well as the social critique to make The Gods Will Have Blood a realism novel. France goes into great detail and description to let the reader feel even more engaged in the novel. The Gods Will Have Blood is also a gateway for Anatole France to express his feelings about the revolution and to make the reader question even their own society.