Samples Literature Victorian Literature: Final Essay

Victorian Literature: Final Essay

694 words 3 page(s)

Victorian literature often supports the basic reality of Victorian life. It tends to focus characters and stories on the powerful force of class status in this world. Class is so important to the Victorians, it becomes the way people are defined as people. George Eliot’s Silas Marner is an example of this. He is a poor weaver wrongly accused of stealing. Marner is then forced to make a new home in Raveloe. He is victimized here by the upper class Dunstan Cass. Cass steals the gold Silas has carefully earned and saved. In this time and place, a poor man like Silas could not fight the son of the squire. His lower class status then makes him a victim of upper class evil behaviour. Wealth and power are one and the same so there is nothing Silas can do. Eliot also suggests that the lower class poor were noble in their own way. They have standards of what is right that the upper class lacks. For example, Godfrey Cass keeps his wife Molly a secret because she is lower class. Years later, his daughter Eppie rejects the offer to become a gentleman’s daughter because social status is not important to her. The only life she knows is being Silas’s child. What she cares about is the man who raised and loved her all her life. Silas Marner is a kind of fable. However, it still supports how the Victorian upper and lower classes lived completely different lives.

In Hard Times, Charles Dickens also creates lower class characters who are far more noble than the upper classes. For example, there is more than one strong contrast between Bounderby and Blackpool. Bounderby is rich but he is a liar. He is also set on marrying Louisa, even though it is clear that the girl does not love him. Blackpool is a poor laborer married to an alcoholic woman. His life is miserable but he does his duty. The characters of Sissy Jupe, Mr. Sleary, and Sissy’s father also present that the lower classes act based on what is right. Sissy’s father runs away because he believes this will help his daughter find a new and better life. Mr. Sleary has a kind heart, and Sissy herself is the moral center of the novel. A lower class girl from the circus, she still becomes the one the upper classes turn to because they need her goodness and common sense. Gradgrind insists on harsh education but it is Sissy’s good character that helps members of Gradgrind’s own family. The upper class has the power but it also is lost without the decency within the lower classes. The difference between the classes is also reinforced when Blackpool asks Bounderby how he can properly end his marriage. Bounderby makes it clear that such a divorce is beyond the means of a poor man. The lower class is then trapped in ways the upper class is not.

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Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest deals with class in different ways. The most important one is that there are no real lower class characters at all in the play. Algernon and Jack have money issues but they are still gentlemen. They live and behave in ways expecting the best treatment, even when they cannot pay for it. In fact, both young men have double identities in order to serve their own interests. The idea is that young, upper class men of the society would do whatever was necessary to keep their advantages and status. This is also supported because of Lady Bracknell. She is wealthy and powerful, and she decides that Jack can never see her daughter Gwendolyn again. Lady Bracknell has learned that he was an orphan left in a railway station. He then has no right to a romance with an upper class girl. Wilde’s play does finally reveal that love and honesty work to make things right. However, the happy ending also relies on the discovery that Jack is actually of high birth after all. Like Silas Marner and Hard Times, Wilde’s comedy supports the great power of the Victorian upper class and how class defines what a person is.