The Victorian Age



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The Victorian Age
The Victorian Age comprises a period of 64 years, between 1837-1901. Before the coming of Queen Victoria there were two political parties: the conservative and the liberals. The conservative were the old Tories or the old aristocratic which supported the principals to maintain all the institutions which were important for the nobles. On the contrary the liberals, which were the old Whig party, believed into the importance of progress and individual energy, so they supported the manufacturing classes and above all the free trade. There were important ministries who supported these political parties: the most famous were: Peel and Disraeli for the conservative, and W.E.Gladstone for the liberals. They both brought some reforms in favour of social classes and they didn’t consider their personal political interest, one reforms had a particular interest for the free trade: the abolition of the corn laws (tassa sul grano). There was also the poor law amendment act. Which abolished parishes and promoved the building of workhouses. Apparently it seems to be a changing which improved the standard of living of the workers, but really it offered very hard condition for them, besides women and children lived in different buildings. Working-class problems could be solved only with their own representative in parliament, but being disappointed, they issued the people’s charter (1838), in which they asked for the extention of the right to vote to the working class. In 1867, with the second reform Bill all male house holders in towns had a right to vote. Later, with the 3rd and 4th reform Bill. The right to vote was extended to all male and women too. Moreover, the Trade Union Act of 1781 made unions legal and brought to the foundation of the Labour Party ( 1906), the representation of the working class in the parliament. Another important reform was the policy of laissex-faire. The free exchange of good without the payment of any taxes. However many reforms were issued and kept Britain safe from the several revolution in Europe in 1848. Among these reforms mostly advocated by philanthropists. There were:
-The Ten-Hours Act, which limited the working hours to ten a day;
-Several Mines Acts, that regulated the employment of children and women;
-Factory Act, which forbad to assume anyone under 14, for a full-time job;
-Education Act provided a system of state primary schools;
-The Emancipation of All Religion sects, by which Catholics were allowed to enter university and work in government jobs.
Moreover, as England got importance all over the world. The queen Victoria made open an exhibition, The Great Exhibition, in Hyde park, where all scientific invention were shown.

Cultural and Social context
The revolutionary socialism in Europe didn’t involve Britain, because of its politic based on a gradual reform movement. The condition of British working class influenced the revolutionary theories of Karl Marx, who, together with Friedrich Engel, wrote The Communist Manifesto. A derivation of Marx’s doctrine was the Fabians Society, founded by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. It was an intellectual’s group that based their activity on conferences and pamphleteering, and believed in gradual reforms, as well as the emperor Fabius, from who they took the name.

In England there was the diffusion of a new religion movement the Evangelicalism. People belonged to this movement were strict puritans and were really concerned with human problems. They had a strict code of behaviour: Sunday was a day of absolute rest. The evangelicals contributed to social reforms and to the abolition of some public entertainments.

Victorian religion was shaken by the publication of Charles Darwin’s “ on the origin of the species”. According to Darwin the main is a result of gradual evolution of a particular specie of animals, the apes. This theory challenged the Christian belief in the creation of man by god told by bible.

-The Victorian compromise
The “Victorian compromise” indicated the particular situation of prosperity and industrial and scientific development on one hand, and at the same time the presence of poverty, ugliness and injustice in English society. Many reforms, supported by the parliament, tried to improve living condition of poor people, by building hospitals, schools and prisons.

-The values
“Respectability” was the key word of Victorianism: manners and language became very sober, and words convicted with sex were considered taboo. There was, so, a sort of return to the puritans manners.

-The Victorian family and house
Into family the father was very authoritarian and the mother considered just to generate children. In fact queen families were very large and the queen herself had 9 children. Women had to respect a strict code of behaviour, being innocent and pure, and confining into domestic jobs. Men were forbidden to drink or swear. The houses were simple outside, while, inside, there was a mix of different ornamental style.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was born at Landport in 1812 into a lower middle class family, and thanks to his mother and his nursemaid, he was fascinated by reading and knowledge since he was a child. Even though he started working in a blanking factory in order to help his family, his father was imprisoned for debt. His bad experience in the factory deeply signed him and influenced his novels. When his father was released thanks to an income, Dickens could attend the school. At the age of 15, he became a legal clerk and learnt shorthand, later working for the house of common. His first work was “ Sketches by Boz”, a collection of sketchers of London life, later included into “ The Pickwick paper”, his first and successful novel. In the same year he married Catherine Hogarth, but he also fall in love with her sister Mary, who lived with them, but died in 1837. his relationship with women, starting from his mother, were always conflictual, and this condition influenced female character, that appeared unattractive and dull. Then he published in serial instalments “Oliver Twist”, a story about a foundling who passed through different adventures. Oppressed by financial problem, he wrote different novels. In the 1843 Dickens started writing Christmas books, such as “A Christmas carol”. He wrote “Bombay and son”, about the hypocrisy of Victorian age. In 1849 he published one of his masterpiece “ David Copperfield”, full of autobiographical elements. As a severe denunciation of industrialization, he published “ Bleak House” and “Hard Time”. In 1857, he fall in love with an eighteen-years old girl and moved to a country with her, even though his Victorian conscience couldn’t accept this condition. In 1860-61 he published “Great Expectation” considered his best work. Dickens died of a stroke in 1870.

Dickens-Critical notes
Dickens in his works, considered negative and positive aspects inside people, during the Victorian age. He denounced the evil of the society, but he wasn’t able to resolve it, also because he was involved in the strict moral code of his age. He denounced the society from moral view point: he thought that rich people had to help poor one. Other authors of his time. Instead believed that poor people had to help themselves alone. He identified the origin of social evil in man’s hypocrisy. Lack of love, greed of money and want of charity: he was convinced that the only solution was a moral change. All Dickens’s novel were published in serial from and he became popular in a start time. In order to sell more episodes he extended the plot introducing sentimentalism, sensationalism, melodrama and after also exaggeration: he didn’t point reality as it was, but as the reader wanted it to be, making a form of escape for the reader. In the end of the novel good always triumph. Dickens consider all the social classes excited aristocracy. He was interested about children and their exploitation in factory. The narrator is in 3rd person, is omniscient, intrusive and involved the reader with his point of view. The reader is passive. Dickens’s style is consider realistic because he wrote is a journalistic way without elegance, but with creative.
1. During is life, Dickens had to face some important problems typical of his time, like to work in factory. In fact in his work he talked about children’s problems in the factory(Oliver Twist, David Copperfield).
2. Dickens was an inimitable author: he had a clear style, like a journalist, but also creativity and humanity. He was a self-thought man and he was able to involve the readers like no one.
3. His characters belong to all the classes excited aristocracy; the narration is in 3rd person, is omniscient and intrusive and involved the reader with his point of view; the plot is long and full of sentimentalism, sensationalism end exaggeration.
-Oliver Twist
This part of Oliver Twist described the hard condition in the work house at meal time. At the refectory there was a thought boy, that obliged some others children to play with him: he had some peace of straw and who took the smaller piece had it give him his meal. Oliver was the unlovely boy. So he gave his food to him and asked if he could have some other. Everyone was upset, and Oliver was punished by the master: he was sold.

The text is the description of a fictitious town, typical ok Dickens’s time that is Coketown. This town is typical of the industrial revolution and it’s characterized by black, red ,purple and a sense of sadness, melancholy. The description started by the pollution that is everywhere. In fact ho wrote: “it was a town of red brick, or brick that would have been red if the smoke had allowed it”. The most important elements
to the pollution are the tall chimneys, the word machinery, the black canal, the piston of the steam engine. In the second part the author attacked some institution that are: schools, hospital and prison that have in common the utilitarian features. In the end compeer a character that is M’Cokenchild. He is a character with particular name composed by “coke” that means suffocate and “child” , his school “kill” spontaneity and the creativity of children, like pollution suffocate people in the industrial town. In all the text we can’t find any positive term, because Dickens denounced the industrial revolution, real reason of the problems of the working class and the pollution.