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The Victorian Age - Charles Dickens, Emily Brontė



The Victorian Age

  • Charles Dickens
  • Emily Brontė
  • Robert Stevenson

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, near London in 1812. His childhood was no happy, because his father war arrested and he was sent to work in a factory. He though it was a punishment and didn't forgive his parents. In his works he tried to vindicate his childhood. He began to write for newspaper and his success grew more and more. Then he wrote his best-known works, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Hard Times..Every character is the symbol of an exploited childhood, related to the grim realit 939g67j y of slums and factories.

He died in 1870 and was burier in Westminster Abbey.

Dickens can be considered the proper Victorian writer; he believes in Victorian values (work, retribution, good and evil.) and for this reason he embodies the Victorian writer. He faces the major problems of his age and believes in progress that could solve these problems. His style is also very related to the Victorian style, in fact he is both an educator (moralist) and an entertainer (comic), two aspect oh the style of this period.

--The novels are the metaphors of the reality. The reality is seen as a nightmare. London is the setting of his novels and Dickens describes its road, its slums, its smells perfectly showing a great knowledge about it. In the first works he describes the middle classes, but then his point of view becomes more radical and the critic towards his society stronger. He shows a popular attention to public abuses, evils and London misery.

--Dickens is interested in describing the characters habits and language of the middle and lower class. He is always on the side of the poor, of the outcast. 

Many of his character are children because he believes that a child is a perfect character. An adult, seen by the eyes of a child, is a caricature, both a monster and a comical character. Children are the moral teachers, they are the examples, not the imitators.

--He has a didactic aim and it was very effective, because the more educated acquired a knowledge of the conditions of poor people in London. But his task was not to introduce a rebellion, or to encourage discontent but to get open the mind of people.

Bleak House

It's the story of a girl, Esther Summerson, who discovers the truth about his birth. She is an orphan brought up by her aunt. Mr Jarndyce is the hero of the story, becoming the guardian and educator of the girl. There is also a love story. The novel is a sort of redemption in which a bleak house is transformed by human love.

--double narrative (Eshter and the third person), but Esther speaks of the past in a conversional and confident style, while the third person in used to speak of the present in a rhetorical and emphatic style.

--Bleak House is the anatomy of the Victorian society; it's an indictment of the "whole dark muddle of organized society", with legal injustice not accidental but "organically related to the very structure of that society".

Emily Brontė was born in 1816 in a Anglican family of Irish origin. She spent with her sisters most of her life in isolation at Haworth (Yorkshire). She didn't receive a formal education but was self-educated and began to write some chronicles of imaginary country. Then she wrote Wuthering Heights, her best-known work.

Wuthering Heights

It's the story of two houses, Wuthering Heights (Earnshaws) and Thrushcross Grange (Lintons). It's a complex tale with two narrator, Mr Lockwood, who writes down what Nelly Dean, the second narrator, tells him. There isn't a chronological time, there is only a date, at the beginning.

--It's a Romantic Novel for some aspects:

Importance of nature;

The setting (gothic house);

Heathcliff is a Romantic character (Byronic hero, symbolism of fire.)

It's a Victorian Novel for other aspects:

Values (respectability)

Opposition between the two houses (Wuthering Heights is as Heathcliff, severe, gloomy, brutal atmosphere, instead Thrushcross Grange is as Lintons, stability, kindness and respectability) they are complementary.

--Love. It's an incredible love, "I am Heathcliff" says Catherine, "we are what we love".

--Death. It's an important theme. Death is not the end, as in Victorian novels, but  the last image of the novel, the graveyard where Catherine and Heathcliff are buried, is not the end: the author says that they are sleeping, not dead.

Robert Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in 1850. He spent his childhood in bed for a his poor health. During the adolescence he travelled a lot to search a right climate. He tried to follow the example of the father in study, but was not enthusiastic about it. From that moment he became the first bohemian in England, rejecting his family religion (Calvinism) and the love for respectability. He married an American woman and went to Australia where died in 1894.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

It's the story of a respectable man, Jekyll, and an evil genius, Hyde. They are two aspect of the same person. On the hand he can choose a life made of perversity and crime, on the other hand he can live as a respectable doctor. But the solution is only one: killing himself. The suicide is the only choice.

--The novel has its origin in a dream. Stevenson was in bed for TB and he dreamt of a genius in a laboratory who could became a monster swallowing a drug.

--The most important theme is the theme of double, the duality of the man's nature.

  • The good and the evil;
  • The Victorian values and its sexual repression;
  • The capitals, London with the respectable West End and the slums; Edinburgh with New Town and Old Town;
  • The two faēade of the house, one used by the Doctor and the other one by Hyde;
  • The Doctor is a well-shaped and proportioned, while Hyde is rude, dark and deformed.

--An other theme is that of the Faustus, the man who wants overcome the limits imposed by society. Here the Doctor lives a life devoted to the virtue and to control and from that developed the monster who finds the freedom and begins to commit crimes.

The Doctor makes a pact with an interior evil that controls him until the end.

--It's important the theme of identity

--Stevenson drew his inspiration for the Hyde's description from Darwinism. Hyde is short because he had not enough time to grow up.

--The setting is a gothic setting, characterized by darkness, fog and smell.

--There are no women.

There are four narrators:

  • Utterson is the detective who follows draws hypotheses and clues.
  • Enfield is a relative of Utterson.
  • Lanyon is a good man and a mirror for Jekyll.
  • Jekyll ho does the final confession.


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