• Victorian Age
the Victorian age takes its name from Queen Victoria and goes from 1837 to 1901. For Britain is a period of rapid expansion, both economically and territoriality, it is characterized by a great progress and a great industrialization. So, in this period, people leave the countryside and moved to the cities. Britain becomes the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world. But there are bad aspects too; in fact the industrialization leads to hard living conditions: workers are forced to work in the factories and even children are exploited .
The Victorian age can be considered the golden age of the novel. It is able to reflect the complexity of the of the modern world. The novels portray the society in a realistic way denouncing its injustices and iniquities.
The narrator of the Victorian novel is typically omniscient and this is a instrument for analyzing the psychology of the characters. Individuals are portrayed as alienated from the world in which they live and powerless to alter their destiny.
Charles Dickens (1812-70)
- Hard times
- Great expectations
Is the most representative literary figure of the Victorian age. he himself has experienced the hardships of this age: in fact, when he was a child he was forced to work in a factory. This was an experience that marked his life and influenced his work.
During his career, Dickens protested the abuse of children and the corruption of individual feelings. His portrayal of the destructiveness of society's institutions and values becomes more insistent and savage in his later novels. In his early, the problems of his protagonists, who are often orphaned or abandoned , are solved by the benevolence of good men. But Dickens lost faith in the ability of individuals to remedy the unjust treatment of individuals; he perceived that injustice, indifference, and cruelty were incorporated into society's institutions. he denounces a society that thinks only gain, without values. he denounces, for example, women that marry rich men just for the money and that then are forced to abandon because they fall in love with other men.
Hard times: is a powerful critique of the dehumanizing effects of industrial society, a society which has as its purpose the gain at the expense of human qualities. the protagonist is Thomas Gradgrin, a teacher who believes that education should be practical and factual and that we should leave space for imagination or emotion. he has two children, Louisa and Tom and he does grow their crushing all the impulses they may have. But in the end Gradgrin understands that his world of facts and figures is nonsense and that his teachings are not served. In fact, Tom robs his employer and Louisa, unhappy about her marriage with a rich man, owner of a factory, is seduced by another man.
Great expectations: the protagonist is Pip, an orphan who is brought up by his sister and her husband. He falls in love with Estella, ward of Miss Havisham, she is crazy because she was abandoned before the wedding. In revenge of this, she teaches Estella to use her beautiful as a means to torture men. In fact, she refuses Pip and marries a wealthy man. Pip receives from Magwitch, a convict that he had helped, a large sum of money. After spending all the money, Pip decides to return to work as a blacksmith. Meanwhile, Estella, abused by her husband, decides to leave him. he denounces a society that thinks only to gain complaint with women who marry rich men just for the money, then forced to abandon him because they are in love with other men
Emily Bronte (1818-48)
She wrote only one novel:
- Wuthering Heights: in this novel tells the story of love between Cathy and Heathcliff. the story is told by Nelly, a old servant of Cathy. She said that Heathcliff was brought up in the house of Wuthering Heights where he met Cathy and he is deeply in love with her. but Cathy, although bound to Heathcliff, decides to marry another man: the rich Linton, and after the death of Cathy, who died in childbirth, he marries the sister of Linton. (Even the Cathy’s daughter is forced to marry Linton, Heathcliff's son even though she loves another man.)
Robert Louis Stevenson(1850-94)
- The strange case of dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
The protagonist of his novel is Dr Jekyll, a physician that, conscious of a duality in human nature, a mixture of good and evil, discovers a drug that can divide these sides, isolating but also liberating his evil instincts in a separate physical form that he calls Mr Hyde. Gradually mr Hyde take over Jekyll’s life and the drug loses the power to restore the doctor’s civilized character. Jekyll realizes that the only solution is to kill Mr hyde and this means killing himself.
The theme of the double dominates this story. According to Stevenson everyone has a double personality. In fact, as he says, Jekyll appears a respectable man but he has always contained within himself a profound wickedness. the two identities are separated both in looks and in psychic dynamics.( Dr. Jekyll is tall, educated.. ; Mr. Hyde is bad, small, younger, hunchback.
The poem Ulysses is a perfect example of a dramatic monologue. A Dramatic monologue is a form of poem characterized by a silent listener. The speaker is the king of Ithaca and he is supposed to be speaking and expressing his thoughts and feelings to the silent listeners. The monologue begins with his cynical remarks towards life.
He is talking about the triumphs of his past. In fact he is back to Ithaca but he doesn’t like his present situation, he is dissatisfied with the tedium of life staying in his kingdom. He thinks that life should be lived to the end, for this, thinks that the old age can to possess a heroic splendor and. So he continues to enjoy the life travelling. He wants to travel and explore the unknown truths and knowledge of this world.
Ulysses’ predicament is a metaphor for the Victorian age, an age in which the romanticism is almost been extinguished. The poem also explores the possibility of cultural renewal in a mechanized age.
• The Aesthetic movement
It is a literary and artistic European movement in the second half of the 19th century. The slogan of the aesthetic movement was "Art for Art's sake". Art is viewed as the supreme human achievement and it should not be subjected to moral, political purposes. Its exclusive purpose is to exist for the sake of its own beauty .
-The picture of Dorian Gray
Is considered a manifesto of Aesthetic movement .
The story describes how a painter fascinated by the beauty of Dorian, paints his portrait. Dorian express the wish that all his the signs of age, experience and vice are absorbed by the portrait. All desires of Dorian are satisfied, first of all his desires to remain young, while all signs of life (pleasure, vice, fear) appear on his portrait.
but Dorian is insensible. He dedicates to crimes of all kinds end, when Basil (the painter) sees the deformed image of the portrait, Dorian kills him. When finally Dorian decides free himself of the image of his spiritual corruption he stabs the portrait, but the blow kills Dorian himself.