The crisis of the ego

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We can find the crisis of the ego also in the Victorian Age. This period runs from the 1837 to the 1901. In fact, the reign of Queen Victoria was characterized by appearance and hypocrisy. There was a conventional morality which founded its best expression in the family, the father had an authoritarian role and the mother was to be submitted and fruitful. The women had a strict code of behaviour, they should be frail, innocent and pure, devoted to “respectable” jobs like teaching, for example. Also men couldn’t gamble, swear or drink. It means that appearance was essential. The house represented the lives of people; there were pompous houses of rich persons and poor houses of the middle-class who try to imitate the other houses with furniture, ornaments and decorations.
Respectability and appearance were the purpose of people.
In the Victorian novels, the voice of the narrator, who whose omniscient, provided a comment on the plot and distinguished clearly the “right” from the “wrong”. The final chapter is important because all the events are explained and justified.
The setting of most of the novels was the city because it was the main symbol of the industrial civilisation but also it was the expression of anonymous lives and lost identities.
The writers tried to analyse the characters of inner life and personal and interior feelings.
In the end of the nineteen century, a new movement developed: the Decadence and the Aestheticism Movement. This movement was characterized by the excessive attention to the self, the ostentation and the artificial behavior and also the pursuit of beauty and the disappointment with the contemporary society.
Oscar Wilde represented this movement, especially in his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. This text represents the crisis of the ego and the widespread unrest and dissatisfaction. It is the story of an handsome young man who is the symbol of the perfect esthete. Dorian Gray remained young and handsome while the signs of the passing years appeared on his portrait. He arrived to hate the image of the portrait and decided to destroy it with a knife but himself died. At the moment of death, the painting returned to its original purity, the face of Dorian became wrinkled and he had also a knife in his heart.
We can found the crisis of the ego both in the escape of the protagonist to a life of beauty and pleasure, that in his immoral behavior who brought him to the suicide. The portrait represented his conscience and Dorian tries to destroy it but it is impossible without die.
The person who built his life in the aestheticism, following the value of “Art for Art’s Sake”, escapes from the real life and rejects the alienation especially the moral values of the society.
In the twentieth century the crisis of the ego became one of the most important theme especially with Italo Svevo in Italy and James Joyce in England. The protagonist of the novels became an anti-hero, an incompetent, a person on the fringes of society. In the novels we cannot find the omniscient narrator like in the Victorian novels because it is replaced with the stream of consciousness, it means there were uninterrupted flow of thoughts, sensations, memories, ideas and images. In the modern age the role of the novelists is to mediate the solid values of the past and the confuse present. The alienation and isolation of modern man became the main theme of the literature, this is the period of Symbolism, the experimentation was a way to create a new system of references (Ex. Picasso), New methods were created, apart from the stream of consciousness, like the Joyce’s epiphany or the interior monologue. The epiphany is an unexpected revelation while the interior monologue have the purpose to represent the unspoken activity of the mind.
Joyce was born in Dublin in 1882. During his life he travels and knows important intellectuals like Svevo, Eliot and Hemingway. The most important texts of Joyce are: Dubliners, Ulysse and Finnegan’s Wake.
Dubliners written in 1914 includes 15 novels in which Joyce shown, with a route between the childhood, the maturity and the public life, the interior character of the individual, using also epiphany.
Ulisse (1922) is a very famous text of Joyce, it analyzes the modern person who lives in a confused society.
Finnegan’s Wake (1939) shown the continuity of the story. It is the latest text and it isn’t very important.