LiteratureVictorian Age

What are the Characteristics of Victorian Age and its Literature?

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The Victorian Age of British historical past was Queen Victoria’s reign from 20 June 1837 till her death on 22 January 1901. It was an extended period of peace, prosperity, progress, and essential social reforms for Britain; however, it was characterized by poverty, injustice, and social unrest. The era was preceded by the Georgian period and followed by the Edwardian period.

During the early part of the period, the House of Commons was headed by two parties, the Whigs and the Tories. From the late 1850s onwards, the Whigs became the Liberals; the Tories became the Conservatives.

The term “Victorian” continues to be used as a synonym for “prude” today, a term that reflects the intense repression of the

age. But this can be a relatively limited view of the Victorians. An enormous section of society was engaged within the discussion and debate of new ideas and theories. Almost everyone was a voracious reader, and intellectual seriousness and liveliness shaped the view for the more in-depth progress, change, and adjustment through the era.

During the 1800s, the Industrial Revolution unfold throughout Britain, which changes from a rural society to an urban one. In 1837, Britain was a rural nation, with 80% of the inhabitants living within the countryside. Most individuals have been farmers or spun wool and cotton to weave into cloth. Soon new machines were invented that would do these jobs in a fraction of the time. This left many individuals out of work to flocked to the towns looking for jobs in new industries. 

Victoria’s reign (1827-1901) was an age of essential reforms within the political and social fields.

Reforms Act

  • (1832) First Act extended the right to vote to any man owning a household worth £10. For many conservatives, the impact of this act was revolutionary.
  • (1867) Reform Act extended the right to vote to all settled male tenants (the electors were two million in England and Wales).
  • (1884) The Act and the 1885 Redistribution Act tripled the voters once more, giving the right to vote to most agricultural laborers.

The Factory Act

The Factory Act (1833) prevented children from being employed more than 48 hours per week, and no person below eighteen might work more than 69 hours per week. Adult employees, nonetheless, continued to work long hours and remained unprotected by the State till 1847, when the Ten Hours’ Act limited the working hours to 10 a day for all employees.

Social Reforms

  • The Sanitary Act (1866) obliged local authorities to improve native circumstances by offering water and street cleaning.
  • In 1870 the Elementary Education Act acknowledged the necessity for basic primary education.
  • In 1872 the Ballot Act secured secret votes at elections.
  • The Emancipation of Religious Sects (1871) allowed Catholics to hold government jobs and enter Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
  • The Trade Union Act (1882) acknowledged unions as legal bodies with the right to own property and funds and conduct strikes.

Read About: How Capitalism is Criticized in “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde?

Literature of the Victorian Age

While within the preceding Romantic period, poetry had been the dominant genre. During the Victorian Age, novels turned into the most well-liked literature and the main form of entertainment.

They have been first printed in serial form within the pages of periodicals. Victorian novels are typically idealized as portraits of complicated lives. Hard work, perseverance, love, and luck win out ultimately; they managed to be improving with a central moral lesson at heart.

The reclaiming of the past was a significant part of Victorian literature with interest in both classical literature and the medieval literature of England.

The Victorians cherished the heroic, chivalrous tales of knights of old. So they hoped to regain some of that noble, courtly behavior and impress it upon the individuals both at home and on the broader empire.

Victorian age is divided into three groups:

  • The Early-Victorian novel. The primary writer was Charles Dickens. Themes: social and humanitarian;
  • The Mid- Victorian novel. Leading writers: Bronte sisters and Robert Stevenson. Themes: Romantic and Gothic traditions and psychological vein;
  • The Late- Victorian novel. Prominent writers: Thomas Hardy and Oscar Wilde. Themes: a sense of dissatisfaction with values of the age.

General Characteristics of Victorian Age

  1. Literature of this age tends to come closer to everyday life, reflecting its practical issues and pursuits. It turns into a vital instrument for human progress. Socially & economically, Industrialism was on the rise, and various reform actions like emancipation, child labor, women’s rights, and evolution.
  2. Moral Purpose: Victorian literature appears to deviate from “art for art’s sake” and asserts its moral purpose. Tennyson, Browning, Carlyle, Ruskin – all have been the teachers of England with the faith of their moral message to instruct the world.
  3. Idealism: It is usually thought of as an age of doubt and pessimism. The effect of science is felt right here. 
  4. The entire age appears to be caught within the conception of man regarding the universe with the idea of evolution.
  5. Though the age is characterized as sensible and materialistic, most writers exalt a purely ideal life.
  6. It is an idealistic age where poets emphasize great beliefs like truth, justice, love, brotherhood, essayists, and novelists of the period.

Common Features of Victorian Noels

  • A narrator that comment and erect an inflexible barrier between right and wrong;
  • The setting typically was the city, image of industrial civilization, and in the identical time expression of anonymous lives;
  • The plot was lengthy and sophisticated;
  • The evaluation of the characters’ inner lives;
  • In the final chapter, the events are explained and justified.

How is the Victorian Age Different from the Modern Age?

Modernist writers proclaimed a new “subject matter” for literature, and so they felt that their distinctive means of life required a new form, a new means of writing. Writers of this era are inclined to pursue more experimental and usually more highly individualistic types of writing. The sense of a changing world was stimulated by radical new developments, such as:

  • new insights from the rising fields of psychology and sociology
  • anthropological studies of comparative faith
  • modern theories of electromagnetism and quantum physics
  • a rising critique of British imperialism and the ideology of empire
  • the ever-increasing force of doctrines of racial superiority in Germany
  • the escalation of warfare to a world level
  • shifting power structures, notably as women enter the workforce
  • the emergence of a new “city consciousness.”
  • new information technologies such as radio and cinema
  • the arrival of mass democracy and the rise of mass communication

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