How to represent Victorian
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din 10 Martie 2010
The Victorian (19th century) English novel deals with the most important aesthetic aspects of a historical segment that gathers an incredible number of outstanding prose – writers and epic masterpieces. Among the authors directly or indirectly identifiable as Victorian creators mention should be made of: Charles Dickens, W.M. Thackeray, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontё, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, George Meredith, H. James, Joseph Conrad and others. As regards the narrative masterpieces written in this period one could refer to such works as: Great Expectations, Vanity Fair, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Middlemarch, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, The Ambassadors, Lord Jim and so on. We may ask ourselves why this unprecedented flourishing of the novel? Probably, the answer engages two directions. On the one hand, it is the Victorian society itself that confronts us – for the first time in the European history - with an industrialized system. It is well known that industrialization brought about the development of the novel (a literary genre closely related to the transformations of societies) everywhere in the world. On the other hand, we can see in the flourishing of the epic a cultural reaction to the remarkable development of poetry during the romantic age. Unconsciously, English writers experimented – avant la lettre, of course – Harold Bloom's anxiety of influence (a concept that may be translated critically – according to Bloom himself in his famous book The Anxiety of Influence – as the fear of not imitating critically the achievements of the previous generation of writers ), feeling somehow that poetry was worn out by the genius of the Romantics. Anyway, it is a fact that the Victorian novel develops exceptionally, marking one of the most productive moments in the history of British literature.
The Victorian age as such unveils particularities in comparison to other previous moments in the evolution of the English society. It is now, in the 19th century, that we witness the manifestation of industrialization, England being the first industrialized country in the world. Basically, industrialization refers to the substitution of man by the machine in the economic process and the mass production of consumption goods. Yet, from a more complex perspective, industrialization represents the engine of the capitalist society and the premise of a long series of social, cultural, economic and psychological transformations of the human community. We shall take these transformations step by step:
I. The historical effect of industrialization. The traditional English society can be imagined in the form of a pyramid which concentrates its absolute power at the top in the symbolic persona of the king or the queen. The dominant class within this pyramid is aristocracy. At this upper level of the system authority is inherited and not conquered by personal merits. The king represents God on earth (from the teaching of the Old Testament where we learn that God approves at one point on the suggestion that people should be led by kings and no longer by judges and priests) and his unnatural, violent elimination from the top may push the whole pyramid into chaos (examples of such situations appear in different Shakesperean tragedies, where kings are killed and substituted by impostors; this happens in Hamlet and Macbeth, where Claudius and Macbeth replace violently their monarchs and eventually bring disaster into the social and political order of their countries.) Obviously, England offers, during these traditional centuries (and especially during the Elizabethan period), the image of the classical Europe. Once industrialization begins, however, the above described image alters. The explanation is one only. Industrialization brings competition among the rules of socio – economic organization of the system. Authority is no more inherited by birth, but conquered through personal merits. It is in this way that traditionally lower classes develop by means of their work and their development brings about the reshaping of the classical pyramid. The pyramid is transformed into a circle where margins can have access to the center, provided they are good enough to get there (the center is no longer denied to them). This may be considered a historical revolution.
II. The political effect of industrialization. Politically, this huge transformation in his life of the English society should be linked to the beginnings of the modern democracy in Europe. The Parliament becomes more democratic because of industrialization and opens its door to other social categories. The monarchy is no longer absolute and authoritarian, but liberal and subject to the Parliament. The...