The Social Protest of Critical Realists against Victorian Decadence

The Victorian Age was the period of the structural socio-economic changes that affected consistently the life of the entire society and naturally stimulated prominent writers of the epoch to respond to the metamorphosis of Great Britain and English society. Basically, during the Victorian epoch the colonial policy of Great Britain reached its apogee. The country was the dominant world power and national economy was booming due to the process of industrialization. However, the profound socio-economic changes that took place in Great Britain were accompanied by political stagnation and, what was more important, by the rapid pauperization of large masses of people. The polarization of society became evident and, naturally, the growing antagonism between prosperity and wealth of the ruling economic and political elite, on the one hand, and huge masses of lower classes deprived of economic benefits and having little access to the national wealth, on the other, could not fail to affect creative work of leading writers of the epoch. In response to the approaching profound social crisis, many writers, such as Charles Dickens, Makepeace Thackeray, Charlotte Bronte, and others focused their attention on the depiction of the surrounding reality, instead of the romantic admiration of the Victorian Age typical for the traditional literature of the epoch.

To put it more precisely, Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” raises the problem of the working people and poverty, which has stricken urbanized areas of Great Britain. The author depicts the severe reality, desperate position of lower classes and the moral degradation of English society. The main character reveals the extent of the moral decadence of the Victorian Age and the author protests against the devaluation of basic humanistic values.

Moreover, writers’ social protests may be traced not only in regard to the opposition between rich and poor, but also in regard to position of other oppressed groups. For instance, Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” represents the struggle of women for their rights and independence from men. The novel proves the ability of women to be equal to men.

In such a way, realist literature of the Victorian Age was the literature of a social protest against moral degradation, social injustice and oppression. In fact, it was the literary response of writers, which was fundamental for the emergence of civil rights movements in Great Britain.

At the same time, the socio-economic tension provoked a profound moral crisis. As a result, the Victorian Age became the epoch of decadence when traditional moral values were out-of-date and new ones were to be formed. In such a situation, it was the new generation of writers, who developed the new movement in literature known as Critical Realism, came on the literary stage of Great Britain to create new set of values and new ideology.

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