Victorian Age Remains In The World English Literature Essay
The Victorian Age remains in the world’s history, and especially in literature one of the most important period to have surfaced after the fall of Romanticism. England became one of the world’s biggest powers and with the birth of industrialization, mentalities began to change and therefore society undertook a distinct change. Through industrialization, the man of the Victorian society changed his values and conceptions, which were unable to have been replaced until then. Materialism becomes now a strong tool in people’s lives, as it centered the life of every human being.
Victorianism, making a big impact at his debut as period, made even a greater one when it began lighting out and offered an easier way for Modernism to change the world. Although harsh, its status in the world was pretty much known as stable and full of confidence, but it clearly was a period of transition and change.
Being seen as a well-established system, the system of values integrated in the Victorian belief has its flaws and one of the most important one was presented as the "woman question". Through it, marriage was deprived of the sentimental point of view which should have been the core of it. Having to get married because it was as imposed, raising children and taking care of the daily food, with the lack of education and with a constant parallel between man and woman, the women suffered a clear demise, in the favor of the men, who emerged as the ultimate power in the social climate.
Social classes took a new turn as aristocracy was then setting the new tone of the 19th century. There still was the great gap between the poor and the rich and it influenced the course of history, when industrialization and urbanization made living conditions crueler than before.
Victorianism as literary trend developed relatively fast and although not entirely, erased the principles of Romanticism, setting a new concept, Realism as main source of inspiration in the writings of any literary critic or writer. Poetry also became second, as the novel emerged as the new force on the literary market and revived the mentality of the reader, because through the novel and of course its fiction in fiction based on reality, writers made a statement and presented the real face of a society through their way of writing.
Industrialization meant a lot in the developing of the future empire. As we know, England was very influenced by this revolutionary concept called industrialization in many ways. The first railways emerged as a form of transport at the beginning of the 1830s and by the year of 1848 railways became more than useful to the English society, transforming the idea of space and time. On the other hand, the rural zones had to suffer because of the high urbanization, when people left the countryside for the city, leading to a decrease of the much-appreciated "hard work". The cities became overpopulated and thus, it lead to an increasing hunger and poorly life conditions for those who did not cope with the new surrounding conditions. The Napoleonic War and The Reform Bill, as presented even in our novels, presented a large influence on the society as well.
The novel emerged as an opposition to the term of romance. It was conceived as means of entertaining the middle-class and it had high difficulties because of the "revolution" concerning printing and paper costs. However, with the industrial revolution things changed, with a rather slow progress and cheap printing was in favor of the novel. The history of the novel was revolutionized by the novels of Sir Walter Scott and from then on a burst of writers emerged as representative for the Victorian period: Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde or William Thackeray. Realism became now the main concern of the Victorian writers; they wrote things of and about society, man’s morals, human character, religion and relationships between individuals. A large gap was created between real and ideal, reality and fiction, although blended together in a very useful mix for the Victorian novel. Besides realism, Victorian writers had an intense appetite for portraying facts of history, as it was or as they live it.
We thus reach the revolutionary works, that over stood time, of George Eliot and William Makepeace Thackeray. Long before them, Charles Dickens imagined his conception of the novel and began writing. His success was believed to not be overstepped by anyone in the history of Victorian literature. However, our two writers wrote in their own manner and although expectations were low, everything was turned upside down with the publishing of their novels.
William Makepeace Thackeray, as we know, wrote Vanity Fair: A novel without a hero as means of entertainment. Its value however reached a higher status than ever imagined; writing about marriage, social climbing, society, women’s status, aristocracy and the poor, made his writing of no estimated value. The reader is introduced to the cruel side of society, where a young orphan girl, Becky Sharp, has to rise from and settle herself with what she could. Further more, we see the great transformation of this character go through endless changes, all for her good sake and with no whatsoever intention of caring about people’s opinions.
The reader is faced with a society that was good for some and not that good for others, while the other kind of population tried to make a living for them. The aristocracy had life conditions above and beyond one poor’s expectation and this is where the character Becky Sharp, of whom Thackeray chooses to call at times his heroine, begins to unravel her social skills in order to achieve recognition, in a society that pretty much seemed like a vanity fair, which in fact was. We begin knowing the strings the one has to pull on society to live well enough and in my opinion, the revolutionary character of Rebecca Sharp, presents an unprecedented journey made in Victorian England.
Thackeray chose for his novel different key concepts that gave a new face for his novel. Talking in terms of marriage, being that of convenience or a natural one, the reader sees how this fact, which ties on paper two persons, tares them apart in real life. He presents several cases: Amelia Sedley and George Osborne, Rebecca Sharp and Rawdon Crawley, presenting a marriage which came from love but ended in death and the other, a marriage of convenience. Materialism becomes a force to reckon with and love is given a second or not even a second place, because the novel, unlike the film where love is vanity’s conqueror, sets apart these two ultimate forces. The struggle for Becky’s survival becomes even harder when she is faced with another key term in the novel, the battle between sexes, between man and woman. As for Amelia’s case, her story is a linear one and if the narrator would not have had the compassion for her, she would probably end up dead somewhere in the year that had to come.
Social climbing becomes a desire that brings the central character to new levels and her desire does pretty much nothing, as her end equals her beginning, beneath the ranks of a social class she strongly wanted to conquer. Women’s status brings a new face to the novel, developing the side of the story in which female characters want to rise above or at the same level of their fellow companions. However, in a world dominated by men, in which women have to pretend that they are interested in the superficial things of life and not involving in every aspect that life has to offer, the author gives an opportunity for the characters to make their statement and perhaps change a mentality established for so many years.
Reaching George Eliot’s novel, we see a different face of the Victorian writings. Her world and perhaps the world of so many, is presented in the novel Middlemarch through pure realism. Writing under a pseudonym, her real name being Mary Ann Evans, George Eliot gives a presentation of the rural side of England, mixed with autobiographical facts, which for some critics establishes the first steps of Modernism as literary trend.
Eliot uses in her novels, as well as Thackeray does, marriage, battle of sexes, the multi-plot and aside from this, she goes deep into the psychology of the character. Middlemarch brings together many characters and sums up many personalities under the figure of simple men. The variety of character presents the different levels of understanding life and altogether making irreparable errors. Dorothea Brooke marries the old scholar Edward Casaubon thinking she will accomplish her dreams and become wiser; their marriage becomes a destructive one, as he dies and she does not think it is possible for her to live life again. Doctor Tertius Lydgate marries Rosamond Vincy because he probably loves her. She on the other hand, being an idealist person, as probably the most part of Middlemarch people, marries him for the social position and for her dream of marrying an outsider. Besides these characters, Eliot develops other ones, such as the landowner, in the person of Mr. Brooke, the banker represented by the corrupt Mr. Bulstrode, the scientist and doctor, Tertius Lydgate, the clergyman- Mr. Farebrother, the worker- Caleb Garth, the rebellious son- Fred Vincy or the faithful Mary Garth. Thus, the society is created as a web, having interlinked relations, affecting each of them at the same time.
Creating the psychological plot, which is described very well by Dorothea and Lydgate’s inner torments, Eliot presents a different face of the characters. They are beyond entities that just exist and have different feelings and give various meaning to things which normal people see only one way.
Expectations plead a great case even in Middlemarch. Everyone expects the opposite of what is going to happen to them and finds him/herself trapped in unusual situations. Middlemarch is not that surface novel, in which you expect what the ending will be but makes the reader question everything and every character, in the development of which he has a well established role. The multi-plot gives a different view on society, the rural one, and how a confined society chooses to keep tradition attached to them, even if tradition makes no sense, as society in general was developing under everyone’s eyes.
Eliot’s novel is complicating even more than expected the character’s life. A tendency in Eliot’s novel is the one in which the character tends to misjudge and make mistakes. We are faced with a society highly criticizing of those not respecting the established values, as Dorothea is criticized both for marrying Casaubon and Ladislaw and in the case of Lydgate, his way of working without payment and the difficulties in his marriage. Thinking further on, a reader should realize until the second part of the novel that the characters are made this way in order to represent the flaws of life in general.
Concerning the status of women, we see three different types of women, which individually affirm themselves as subjected, influential or powerful. Dorothea Brooke wakes-up confines in a marriage that 6 six weeks later she regrets and she gets used to this way of life, of praising her husband until he dies. We have a much more influential character, Rosamond Vincy who marries Lydgate and sways him to build a world entirely surrounding her, which does no good, at least for him until hi death, for she remarries. Mary Garth resembles a stone in terms of her relation with Fred Vincy and does not take into account any compromises, until he becomes a man and a fully conscious person. Their example is the only side of the story that ends with a happy end. The role of the women, as it was according to tradition, tries to make a move and reach out to a more modern belief, in the idea of equality.
Idealism makes no sense in a context in which the characters knew there way, at least for the moment, no way out. The society and its rules was not that willingly to let characters such as Dorothea, Casaubon or Lydgate, breach their confined setting and reach out for the world awaiting.
Middlemarch presents in an optimistic vision the relations between individuals and their slowly but steady progress. Eliot was at times considered the forerunner of the literary trend called Modernism, which began after Victorianism went down. Signs of the traditional values and the future ones reach the reader’s mind when reading the final part of the novel, mainly in which Dorothea and Lydgate move away from Middlemarch, wanting to destroy the rigorous life until then. Through Eliot’s novel the reader sees the natural course of life, with success and failure, with the help of characters which although began their journey alone, end it together. None of the characters of Eliot are perfect, but each try to complete the other one and bring out the best in them.
As ages may come and go, and as literary trends are replaced by others, literature and its influence in the form of life still remains pleasant to the reader’s eye and part of his life. For those who have an interest in reading and getting to know the depth of any novel written by any writer, literature will live on and although others may write in the near future, the classic writers of the Victorian Age remain the core of world wide literature. George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) and William Makepeace Thackeray proved that a novel can influence society and their novels’ implications became famous due to their method of presenting society as it was, with flaws and important points, with its reality but also with its "fiction", as society was presented only at a surface level and its "beneath" was much more important than it seemed. Reading the book and at the same time seeing the movie comes in hand at the complete understanding of the world presented by the authors.