The Aesthetic movement

During the Victorian age, we have a literary current Anti-Victorian called “aestheticism”. It was against the ideals of Victorian England and, with the slogan “art for art’s sake”, assert that there wasn’t connection between art and morality. The artist should care about form and technique and not be a slave to fixed moral and ethical conventions. The forerunner of this movement was John Keats. The Aesthetic movement was also a reaction against the ugliness of industrialization and urbanization and against the middle-class that excluded the sake of art for the sake of wealth and progress. The movement focusing the importance of beauty in a period of misery and depression. The father of this movement was Walter Pater who developed the theory “art for art’s sake” in fact, for him, the form must be was more important than the substance and he stated that the pleasure was to be found in beauty, in particular in the art of Middle Ages.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He attending the Trinity College in Dublin and, after this, he was sent to Oxford. He became a disciple of Walter Pater and accepted the theory “art for art’s sake”. In 1881, he made his first work, “Poems”, and thanks to this was engaged for a tour in the United State. When he return in Europe, married Constance Lloyd. In 1880 wrote short stories, for example “The Canterville Ghost”, the novel “the picture of Dorian Gray” and his masterpiece “The importance of being Earnest”. In 1891, he met Lord Douglas and with him started a homosexual story. The boy’s father forced a public trial and Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labor. During this period he wrote “De Profundis”, published after his death; it was a long letter about his life and a condemnation for Lord Douglas for abandoning him. After his realising, he lived to France where he died in 1900.
The name of Wilde is closely connected with Aestheticism and even more with Decadentism. Yet he stood apart from the other “decadent”, since he didn’t isolate himself from the world, but did his best to be publically popular and successful. Up to 1895, his life was marked by a hedonism that dried up his poetic qualities. Deeply influence by Pater and impressed by Huysmans’s novel, he wrote “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, whose “Preface”, embody his view of art and the artist, can also be read as a sort of poem. Dorian Gray: an omniscient third narrator tells the story. The characters revel themselves through what they say and other people say of them. The story is allegorical and we can considered a myth of Faust in the version of 19th century. In the novel, under the mask of Dorian timeless beauty there is a picture that became old and ugly. The picture represent his dark side and, at the end of the novel, Dorian kill the picture but, when he do this, the picture come back at its original beauty but Dorian died. The picture represent the corruption of the Victorian Middle class and the beauty of Dorian the hypocrisies of this class. The morale is that the art, against man, is immortal.

Victorian age

Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901 but the Victorian Age start in 1832 with the first Reform Bill. During this period, we have industrial development, technological progress; in fact Britain became the first industrial power in the world and political and social changes. Although, poverty in towns were increased; for this, Robert Owen set up the Nation Association for the Protection of Labor and the Great National Consolidate Trades Union. Thanks to him, some reform acts extended the right to vote to sector of working class, limited the use of children in factories, established a system of primary education compulsory and free and abolished slavery and slave trade. Railways were built all over the country and they connected the Industrial town with ports, for this reason, British good were shipped to all ports of the world. When Queen Victoria come to throne, British colonies extended to India, Africa, Australia, forming the so-called “British Empire”. Colonies provided row material, foodstuffs and cheap workforce.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth and he was a son of a Navy clerk. When he was 12, his father was imprisoned, this experience left a scar and the suffering of his family, became a frequency subject for his novels. Soon became reporter and he start to write his social novels like a series of sketches to periodical like Oliver Twist, David Copperfield or Bleak House, one of his longest and most complex novels, and immediately he became a famous writer. Dickens wrote also a fiction, A Christmas Carol, and about his travel to America and Italy. Before Dickens, novels were two or three volumes long and so expensive; with Dickens and his idea of publishing novels in installments in magazines and newspaper, more people can read it, and readers were more attention and interested thanks to the technique of suspense that increased the curiosity. The philanthropic social novel of Dickens, not only denounced social wrongs but also the conditions and people that gave rise to them. For example, in Oliver Twist, he denounced the plight of pauper children and the harshness of their lives in workhouses; in David Copperfield, he illustrated the cruelty of educations in school. However, he cannot always be classified as a realist, in fact his humor often tended towards caricature with exaggerated evil or excessive generosity. In his earliest novel, the force of his message of social accusation is lost through sentiment, melodrama; in many of his later novel, the author express his message through complex symbolism, exploring the role-played by society in general. Dickens’s moral vision of society led him to divide characters into good and bad types. “Bad” ones are presented as black-hearted, grotesque, “good” ones are sincere, pure and courageous. His characters seem more like caricatures than real people but they have a vitality that makes them alive. Dickens characters are unique in fact, critics call them “Dickensian characters”. The novel always have a strong story line with improbable events and he concentrates much more on what his characters do than what they think.

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