Video appunto: The Victorian Age : Charles Dickens

The Victorian Age

The Victorian Age is named after Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901. Her reign was considered the longest, but the record today has been broken by Queen Elizabeth II. During this period England was on its way to becoming the most powerful country in the world, with a foreign empire for a quarter of the world.
In 1876 Queen Victoria also conquered India. England was one of the few countries not affected by the revolutions.

Victorian society

Society was divided into 3 classes: the upper class, formed by the old aristocracy, which had great political powers. The middle class which was gradually acquiring more and more power and the working class which remained excluded from politics. The middle class was divided into 3 substrates: lower middle class, middle middle class, upper middle class. The lower middle class was made up of shopkeepers, the middle one made up of factory owners, and the high one made up of doctors and lawyers. The working class lived in extreme poverty. This ratification will remain intact until the outbreak of the First World War. Women were seen as the angels of the house, they had to be perfect wives and mothers.

The victorian compromise

The Victorian age was a contradictory and complicated era, because on the one hand there was economy and prosperity, on the other poverty and social problems. The middle class was very optimistic about progress, but that didn't solve their social problems. It was a period of compromise, both between morality and middle-class corruption, and between science and religion, between an exasperated liberalism and the conditions of the working class and between progress and the will to return to nature and the countryside.

Workers’ right and Chartism

The working class began to ask for more rights, including the right to vote. The first Reform Bill of 1832 had excluded them from voting. The men founded a movement known as Chartism, due to the petition they presented, demanding the right to vote. After 3 refusals, in 1884, the vote was extended to male workers as well. Other reforms are important in this period: the Married Women's Property Act which allowed women to own property. the Matrimonial Causes Act, which allowed divorce and the right to vote in borough elections, a territory under British rule. The right to vote in general will be given in 1928.

British colonialism and the making of the empire

In the 19th century, the English colonies expanded into Africa., Thanks to commercial activities and issionaries. These activities mainly spread to Sudan, while southern Africa was very difficult to control. Australia was home to a prison for criminals. New Zealand was colonized in 1840, followed by Hong Kong and Singapore.The colonies were controlled by the India Office and the Colonial Office which were a separate government.

The novel

The novel is the literary genre that best represents the Victorian age. The novels talked about the problems of the time related to industrialization and philanthropy. The Victorian novel has an omniscient narrator, who knows all the details of the story and the feelings and thoughts of the characters, the plot is long and complicated, but linear. The Bildungroman novels were born with Charlotte Bronte, Charlest Dickens and George Eliot.
The novel was used to talk about the conditions of the man of the time, but at the same time it served to entertain middle-class readers who preferred real stories. The success of the novel happened for two reasons: a large number of people knew and wanted to read, moreover, they had an affordable price for almost everyone. The most popular genres were: historical, philosophical, sentimental and social fiction. The writers could be divided into 3 groups: The early victorians like Charles Dickens who dealt with social issues, the mid-victorians, a group of almost all women, like the Bronte sisters and the late victorians like Thomas Hardy and Oscar Wilde.

Charles Dickens

Born in Hampshire, southern England, he moved to England, where he started working on a farm at the age of 12. Due to the economic problems of the father, the family was imprisoned, the situation was resolved when the grandmother died, who bequeathed some money that was used to pay the bail. He began working first in a law firm, then as a journalist. His success allowed him to publish the first novel. He died in America, on tour in 1870.

Main Works

The pickwick papers
oliver twist
a christmas carol
David Copperfield
Hard Times
Great Expectations

His works had a great success, were also broadcast on the radio, recreated in theaters, cinema and television even today. Poverty in childhood greatly influences his works and gives him the opportunity to see the negative side of the Victorian age, which he will also show in his works to criticize the society of that time.

Dickens’s most famous novel

A Christmas Carol is the story of a cold-hearted man, Mr. Scrooge, who after being visited by a ghost who shows him the person he has become, returns to being kind. Oliver twist is the story of an orphaned child who lives in a workhouse and is targeted by a gang of boys. The most important issue is that of the poor conditions in which these children lived in the workhouses. Hard Times talks about an industry in the city of coketown where coke is a form of coal. The novel highlights the hard work these people had to go through every day.

Dickens’s popularity

Dickens' novels became very famous, so much so that novel in instalments (serial novels) were born, families gathered to read a part of the novel and to express what they thought might happen in the novel the following week.

Oliver Twist

It was one of the first novels with a child as a protagonist. The novel is about the living conditions of the workhouses, shelters for the poor, especially children, who were forced to work. Extreme poverty, hunger, murder and blackmail are the central points of this novel, also written in a comic key.

The plot

Oliver twist is an orphan who lives in a workhouse where he is forced to work to be able to eat. In the workhouse Oliver manages to shock everyone by asking for an extra portion of soup, something that no one had ever done. Following this, he is sold for $ 5 and sent to work for a counterfeiter, but decides to flee London. He befriends the Artful Dofger, a pickpocket (contraffattore), who takes him to his home, where he trains the homeless to steal, helped by Bill Sikes and his girlfriend Nancy, a prostitute. Oliver is forced to work as a thief and one night is shot. When the woman of the house, Mrs Maylie realizes that he is just a child, she decides to take care of him. With the help of Nancy and Mr Brownlow, they manage to find out Oliver's identity and he is adopted. Nancy is killed by Bill Sikes for helping Oliver, then bill is killed and Fagin Captured, Innocent Oliver is saved while the bad guys are punished.

Text 1

Text number 1 tells the scene in which oliver dares to ask for an extra portion of soup. After returning from work, Oliver and the other boys sit at the table waiting for their dinner. The dish is served and after a long prayer, they can start eating their meager meal. After eating, Oliver and his friends decide to play a game, whoever caught the shortest feather had to ask for an extra portion of soup to share with others. It fell to Oliver, who, once he went before the managers of the workhouse and asked for an extra portion, made everyone stiffen with his request, so much so that Mr Limbkins claims that he should be hanged.
Workhouses were places where the poor, orphans and homeless people could lodge and eat in exchange for hard work.

Dickens’ Characters

Dickens creates caricatures, exaggerates in the description of certain characters, to highlight the defects of the social classes of the time. The female characters are weak.

Dickens’ Themes

Poverty, family and childhood Most of these children begin in negative circumstances and rise to happy endings which resolve the contradictions in their life created
by the adult world.

Dickens’s aim

Dickens’ books try to highlight all the great Victorian controversies:
-Scandals in private schools
-The miseries of prostitution
-The appalling living conditions in slums
-Corruption in government

Dickens’s style is very rich and original.
The main stylistic features of his novels are:
-long list of objects and people;
-adjectives used in pairs or in group of three and four;
-several details, not strictly necessary.