English Literature in the Victorian Epoch had raised a number of socially burning themes that were acute at those times. The death rate at these times raised and it was probably one of the reasons children were left without parents. Some authors as Charles Dickens felt on this own what it means to live without the support of you parents. He partically described his personal experience in the novel The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery and often regarded to the orphans in his novels. He knew the real story and what could happen to the children, whose parents die. Their future is almost ruined if their trustees decided to leave them without any means. In many cases children were sent to the boarding school and spend their childhood.
The violation of children’s rights was typical practice for those times. But we could also meet some positive example in English literature of Victorian period. The life of Daniel Deronda, the main hero of the same name novel by George Elliot, was quite opposite to the life of David Copperfield. His trustee assisted him in his beginnings and helped in looking for his lost parents. Also he wanted Deronda to become a lawyer to have respectable profession with good income.
Charles Dickens perfectly described the main character David Copperfield. Even being half orphan (his father died before he was born) he had very happy childhood, which ended when his beloved mother married another man. The relations of Davis and his step father were not friendly. The disliked each other from the first look and his step father assisted in sending David to boarding school. David and his classmates were oppressed at school by the teachers, but he found real pleasure in communication with his school friends, James Steerforth, in particular. Being at the boarding school David learns that his mother died. Murdstone took his step son from the boarding school and sent him to London. In London David started to work at one of the factories belonging to Murdstone. He worked long hours and lived in awful poverty. His wages was very small. But in such a difficult situation he was supported by his teacher and friends Mr. Micawber. When Mr. Micawber was put into prison for debts, David decided to escape from London to his aunt, who lived in Diver. He went all the way by foot and fortunately reached his aunt who protected him from cruel Murdstone. His aunt, Betsey Trotwood, was the one who gave David his start in life and assisted him in his beginnings. The theme of orphanhood is not ended by David’s story, which actually ended happily. The subline of the plot describing the life of David’s school friend James Steerforth, who escaped with young orphan Emily in Europe ended with a tragedy. Steerforth got bored with Emily’s company and left her alone in Europe as he wanted to become a sailor.
Fortunately Emily returned to her uncle’s home and decided never to leave it. Steerforth died in the sea storm. In his novel Dickens showed that the life orphans was not a pleasant one. At the Victorian times the support of wealthy relatives meant a lot in order to become successful. Orphan characters in Dickens’ novels got to overcome many difficulties to reach wealth and prosperity. The image of orphan was very important social figure at this period literature, in particular in Charles Dickens’ novels, as the society, in majority, the upper classes, felt sympathetic to the orphans. During the Victorian Epoch in England, it was popular to patronize orphans houses, helping poor children. I think that literature played significant role in this aspect of charity. What is important to notice the major part of this charities were not enjoyed by the patrons themselves. Their charitable actions were just due to the fashion. This shows double standards of so called Victorian morality’.
George Elliot described another situation. The main hero Daniel Deronda was not actually suppressed by his wealthy trustee Mr. Hugo Mallinger. We actually learn that he was trying to bring up a gentleman according to the wishes of Daniel’s mother and actually assisted him.
I think that Daniel’s relationship with his trustee is more like David Copperfield’s relationship with his aunt, his actually second trustee.
David finally chanced to find his mother and his mission. His story as an orphan is not the single orphan line’ in this novel. Gwendolen Harleth was half orphan. She actually destroyed her life marrying a wealthy Grandcourt, whom she did not love just moved by the wish to save her family from financial downturn. She did not live happy family life and was suppressed by her husband, who treated her like a beautiful toy. Being spoilt child of a widowed mother, she got into the way she would get everything she wanted. Unfortunately Daniel Deronda was not that case. After unhappy marriage she learned that he did not love her and want to marry another lady. This news ruined her life and plans, but she decided to live her own life.
The theme of orphanhood became very popular in Victorian times. Many authors dealt with this theme as such heroes called sympathetic feelings from the reader. People were astonished by the grieves and misfortunes orphans should overcome to reach their dreams finally.
Charles Dickens and George Elliot are not the single authors who devoted their novels to the theme of orphanhood. Charlotte Bronte and her sister Emily in their novels Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights devoted their novels to the themes of orphanhood. Poor and unhappy children are the typical heroes of this period in English literature. But they always have a dream and finally reach it. At this time a huge number of such boys and girls lived in England and many other countries. But in the novels of English writers the theme of orphanhood took a significant part as they often wrote about their personal experience and knew from the first hands, what doest it mean to be poor unhappy orphan, when you are indifferent to the outer world and nobody would like to care of you.