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Victorian Novel as a social document

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The social image of the era is characterized by a strict moral code (gentlemanship), which consolidated conservative values ​​and class differences. Values ​​professed by the middle class and supported by both the Anglican Church and the opinion of the bourgeois elite began to prevail in society. The values ​​and energy of the middle class formed the basis of all the achievements of the Victorian era.

Sobriety, punctuality, diligence, frugality and thrift were valued even before the reign of Victoria, but it was in her era that these qualities became the dominant norm. The queen herself set an example: her life, completely subordinated to duty and family, was strikingly different from the lives of her two predecessors. Much of the aristocracy followed suit, abandoning the flashy lifestyle of the previous generation. So did the skilled part of the working class. The middle class believed that prosperity was the reward for virtue, and therefore the unfortunate did not deserve a better fate. Carried to the extreme, the puritanism of family life gave rise to feelings of guilt and hypocrisy.

Victorian novel. The realistic novel in England is represented by the work of two of the greatest prose writers, Charles Dickens and William Thackeray. These are Victorian writers who embodied in their works the characteristic features of Victorian literature. The ideological basis of Victorianism was a fusion of utilitarianism and evangelism. Utilitarianism puts the principle of utility above all, identifies happiness with material wealth, profit; the god of utilitarianism is statistics, facts, and “useless” art is ignored by utilitarianism, treated with suspicion as an item of spiritual luxury. Here the utilitarians merge with the evangelicals, the popular branch of the Church of England.

Evangelism is distinguished by a distrust of the sensual side of life and human nature, a call for the suppression of all natural principles, a fear of any pleasures, including art. The strictly aesthetic function of art in the eyes of the Victorians could not justify its existence; art and literature could be acceptable only insofar as they were useful for the improvement of society, that is, the educational, or already the edifying function of literature, came to the fore. A society based on one-sided and embellished ideas about human nature, turning a blind eye to the real complexity, ambiguity of personality, has turned into a sanctimonious, hypocritical, false society.

In the Victorian era, double morality flourished: religiosity, sentimentality and good intentions coexisted perfectly with manifestations of blatant social inequality and cruelty in personal relationships. The notions of "good manners" held by the limited middle class, i.e. the majority of the reading public, influenced notions of literary propriety, and in the 19th century the free spirit of eighteenth century English literature seemed "indecent" to the English, a ban was placed on any mention of the body and sexuality. Decency is a sine qua non of Victorian literature.

The genre variety of the career novel is less common in Victorian literature compared to contemporary French literature, because the hero of the English novel is a more average, ordinary person, not burned by internal passions, not challenging society, but wanting to fit into the existing social order as painlessly as possible. Therefore, when describing the processes of growing up and changing personality, Victorian novelists more often resorted to genre samples of the novel of education - this genre is optimistic in nature, showing the growth of a person, gaining life experience and a place in life. In general, children and adolescents for the first time become heroes of literary works, starting from the romantic era, but in the literature of realism, attention to childhood as a special formative era of human life is increasing. The realistic novel did not immediately find ways and means to depict the sharpness of children's experiences, the differences in children's worldview.

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