The Development Of Literature During Victorian Era

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Victorian era - the age of industrialization, political liberty, stability, unprecedented power and wealth. Britain reached its superpower by extending its empire across the globe. It seemed that the country was blooming like a flower and nothing bad was going on, except social inequality, rural unemployment and rising population. So what this Industrial Revolution meant for common people? Was it pleasant for all levels of society? I don’t think so at all. In the first half of the nineteenth century the development of industrial production continued to grow rapidly. ‘The empire where the sun never set’ consisted of the colonies, settlements, free trade, by which investors and traders of Britain dominated foreign markets.

Despite the Industrial Revolution, crime, ugliness and dirt broke into everyone’s life. Poor people whom circumstances forced them to move in towns, in search of job on factories or mills. Furthermore, these persistent workers being unfairly treated without redress, lived in the horrendous conditions and still had no choice but just to submit a sad routine lifestyle. All these elements contributed to the development of the Victorian literature. In villages, society was retarded, landlords still governed small agricultural communities, and almost nobody had much rights and authority. The upper-class - the working force had to labour in abominable conditions just to earn for living, to survive. The Victorian era was all about dramatic changes, which made a prospective future for each trade, especially for society and culture. Many things changed in a short period of time and the result was financial crisis and total social unrest. However, people were encouraged, motivated by new genres of literature to get educated and that’s why the number of libraries has increased. As people changed with times, literature did too.

In France in that time only Classicism as literature genre was a measure of a ‘good taste’. However, it wasn’t widespread in England, that’s why classical realism contributed a great part in a development of enlightenment realism. Although it had different effect on poets’ works. In the nineteenth century novel become the main genre of the English literature, but drama was also prevalent in the Victorian era. Authors like Hardy, Dickens and Eliot were the greatest English novelists of that time, who brought realism to England. While Hardy used his imagination and romantic approach towards his writing and avoided those bitter realities, Dickens and Eliot wrote serious novels where they represented society problems of that time. Charles Dickens was more than just author or teacher, he was a social and emotional philosopher. His works were fulfilled with drama, endless depiction of delightfully colorful characters and very complicated plot. But nevertheless there was nothing surplus in the image of urban life, that’s why his novels were suitable for all segments of society.

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In addition, he wasn’t only a simple writer of Victorian age, but its victim too. In childhood, as his father went to prison, he had to leave education to work in a shoe polish factory. In "David Copperfield" he shared this experience of abandonment and humiliation. It was common for children to work six days, eight or twelve hours per day. They had to work in manufactories to satisfy needs of their poor families, and struggle with difficult employment conditions. This harsh experience was the main reason Dickens create not only memorable literature works but even agitation based on social justice issues. Usually he wrote about the hardship and poverty that he faced in London of Victorian age. "The Adventures of Oliver Twist" wrote by Charles Dickens is the greatest example of the Victorian Newgate novel, based on criminal story that can tickle the reader’s nerves. The Dickens determines the realistic task of his work - to show the "naked truth" that mercilessly expose the disadvantages of his contemporary society. The author tries to resolve social contradictions through reconciliation of different social groups. As it’s a Newgate novel, there is a classic whodunit, where paths of the lower classes, the inhabitants of London’s bottom passes with the very tops - aristocrats with an impeccable reputation who actually turn out to be the investigators of the most monstrous crimes.

Furthermore, the main character, Oliver Twist, will always remind us that in this new age of division between poor and rich people we need to stay kind, caring and self-aware of social responsibility. Another Dickens’ notable work that touches theme of social justice is "Hard Times". The author for the first time turns to the problems that really bothered the contemporary society: the struggle of the working class for its rights and the relationships between entrepreneurs and workers. The relevance of the work is emphasized by the subtitle "For our time".

Moreover, here we can see simple but still bright characters, the lack of collateral storylines and humorous scenes, and the most important - the morality. The writer directly points to the main object of his satire - exposure and ridicule against the inhuman bourgeois ideology, which drives a person, his work, activity, requests to a simple fact, to the sum of figures. Even the city of coal - Coketown is the symbol of the cruelty and soullessness of the all English capitalism system. Furthermore, Dickens illustrates workers with warm and empathy, contrasting them with heartless manufacturers who have lost their human appearance. Such characteristics as genuine human feelings, huge self-giving love, fellowship, mutual solidarity characterize workers at labour, struggle and in their personal lives. Through the mouth of the ordinary employee, Steven Blackpool, the author reveals wider social disparity, bourgeois legislation, leads the reader to the idea that in England laws are different for those who are "haves" and for those who are "have nots". In addition, even success in industry doesn’t change the hard life of workers. Factories thrive, but it brings the workforce closer to anything but death. In the words of Stephen Blackpool in Chapter 13, we can see this fear and tragedy. "Of all the casualties of this existence upon earth, not one was dealt out with so unequal a hand as Death. The inequality of Birth was nothing to it.

For, say that the child of a King and the child of a Weaver were born to-night in the same moment, what was that disparity, to the death of any human creature who was serviceable to, or beloved by, another, while this abandoned woman lived on!"Charles Dickens by his novels tries to show us the Truth of that harsh time, the realities that upper-class people faced and struggled each day of their lives, and the most important, he helps us to understand that everyone deserves to be treated equally no matter what his or her social status is. However, not only men wrote novels concerning social issues, but women did too, for example writers such as Jane Austen and Brontë sisters, who defended female rights and equality between man and woman.

Jane Austen occupies a special place in the literature of England XIX century, she continues the traditions of realistic literature. Her works were fulfilled with social characters’ satire and scenes of adventures. Moreover, in Austen’s novels happiness, hard work, love used to win the harsh life, and injustice is always punished. Nevertheless, she is not seeing this kind of sharp poverty and society inequality that was described in Dickens’ novels. Jane Austen was the second after Walter Scott, who described the practices of provincial England, skillfully depicted the everyday lives and relationships of men and women, and their barely noticeable shades of sentiment characters.

In the novels of the sisters of Brontë, the themes of women's emancipation are definitely heard. Defending a sense of self-esteem, awareness of its emotional and moral significance, the Brontë’s heroine is able to make independent decisions, to achieve goals, and to bear responsibility for her mistakes, without blaming others. Charlotte Brontë was the first to show the suffering of a woman for whom all the ways of life were closed. The writer urged the society to look at the unattractive fate of women, the lack of opportunities for their development as full members of society. In the novel "Jane Eyre" Charlotte Brontë strongly criticized the government institutions, showed a true picture of the education system and the situation of vulnerable levels of society. Moreover, she advocate for the independence and equality of women’s rights as same as men’s. The life of a lady is not limited to raise children and serve her husband. The writer proved her assertions with her own life experience. She honestly earned a living, by passing the humiliating fate of the spouse of convenience.

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