Site Loader

As Victorian age overflows
with the contradiction between moral values and materialistic views, it brings
an adverse effect on Victorian people Victorian literature. It can be easily
avowed  that the most of the upper class
character of the Victorian novels judge the of other people around them with
the thread of wealth, money and property and familial or social status instead
of social or moral values and the lower or middle class characters are found
good until they are pushed materialistic thought into their blood of how to
make money, how to learn artificial dress and manner codes of ostensible
gentility and how to grasp higher social status, love and happiness as  Matthew Arnold said in his essay “The
incompatibles” “We are a commercial people…” 10 As a matter of fact, when the
Victorian people become materialistic in thought and actions on the member of
self-named upper clans, the society finds them as immoral snobbish, revengeful
and of course rootless. In the novels, Charles Dickens, Makepeace Thackeray,
and Trollope explicate the conflict between materialistic ideas and moral
values exposing the materialistic Victorian idea of a gentleman. In Charles
Dickens novel Great Expectation, the protagonist Pip, a member of the lower
Victorian class, lives with his sister Mrs. Joe and brother-in-law Mr. Joe, a
blacksmith in the profession, is innocent and morally good until starts keeping
in touch with Mrs. Havisham and Estella, a woman of materialistic thoughts and
actions. At the very outset of the novel we observe that Mrs. Havisham and
Estella start instigating Pip to be a gentleman by earning much money and
wealth learning artificial manners and dress codes to get love of Estella
because these characters like Victorian people believe that ‘wealth, money,
property, respectable family’11 and learning Victorian aristocrat society’s
self-made dress and manner codes are the ways of establishing a person as a
gentleman. Modesty, good manners, morality, and humanity are not in the matter
of consideration in respect of this very issue. This is because, even though
Compassion is proved to be corrupt, Magwitch regards him as a gentleman.12
Again, Estella who possesses gentility in her thoughts and behaviors according
to Victorian social norms denies the fact that she is the daughter of
Magwitch.13 Even a materialist Pip is, at lost, able to establish himself as
a so-called Victorian gentleman without moral or human values. For, pip states
his condition when Magwitch goes to meet him:

 

    “For an hour or more, I remained too
stunned to think; and it was not until began to

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

    think that I began fully to know how
wrecked I was and how the ship in which I had

    sailed was gone to pieces….” 

                                                                                      
(Chapter 39, Great Expectations)

Again,

 

       “Miss Havisham’s intentions towards me,
all mere dream; Estella not designed for me… but sharpest and deepest pain of
all- it was for the convict, guilty of I knew not what crimes and liable to be
taken out of those rooms where I sat thinking, and hanged at the Old Bailey
door that I had deserted Joe.” 14

 

 

In a similar manner, when
Magwitch comes back, he acknowledges Pip’s contradicted expensive habits as the
symptom of a Victorian gentleman. In the truest sense of the term, losing
control over oneself in respect of spending money lavishly can’t be the
characteristic of a true gentleman. This very Habit, in fact, can destroy the
moral values of a man and when moral values will not develop in a person, he or
she  will be  the product of materialistic  ideologies and so the people around him must
suffer from the materialistic  cruelties
as we observe Estella ,a lady of aristocratic Victorian society, misbehaves
with pip and uses many harsh and insulting worlds like ”thick boots” and
“coarse hands”. and Pip after becoming a materialist did the same with his
brother-in-law Mr. Joe who brought him up when he comes to meet Pip. As pip
says :

 

       “Not with pleasure though I was bound to
him by so many ties; no; with considerable disturbance, some mortification, and
a keen sense of incongruity. If I could have kept him away by passing money, I
certainly would have paid money. I certainly would have paid money. My greatest
reassurance was that he was coming to Barnyard’s Inn, not to Hammersmith, and
consequently would not fall in Bentley Drummule’s way.” 15

 

 In these lines, the very word ‘mortification’
is making clear that Pip feels embarrassed about Mr.  Joe’s coming. Truly, Pip, a gentleman
according to the Victorian notions of gentility denies his low origin or root.
Likewise, pip’s snobbish attitude clearly appears when he travels to Miss
Havisham’s  home named Satis house for
celebrating her birthday. Pip suffers from a superiority complex and so feels a
deep sense of revulsion at sharing a coach with two lower class people. As pip
exposes his snobbery saying:

 

 “There are two convicts going down with me…….
Their coarse mangy ungainly outer surface as if they were lower animals.” 16

 

 To judge two convict’s to be ‘lower animals’
is a matter of irony because his adviser Magwitch is a criminal and his beloved
Estella’s parents Molly and Magwitch are two criminals too. Moreover, Pip
becomes so materialistic that he is reluctant to visit home in which he has
been reared up by his mother and father like Mr. and Mrs. Joe. As a
materialist, he sends some material products only like ‘cold fish’ and a
‘barrel of oysters’ to home. In truth, if he had not been a so-called
materialist  Victorian gentleman, he
would have visited home and kept in touch with his family. It can be said that
Victorian gentleman without moral or social values or humanity is like the
dodder  “leafless twining, parasitic
plants in the morning glory family”* 7 without roots. As a matter of
fact, Charles Dickens establishes an idea of a true gentleman through the
character Mr. Joe, the brother-in-law of Pip. Mr. Joe is a true gentleman though he is a blacksmith and so neither he
possessed lots of money nor does he know the artificial dress and manners code.
He never forgets his root and so he continues his family trade and maintains
his family well with his lowest income. In a similar manner, he even brings an
orphan brother-in-law Pip up as a father. He loves him more than his own
sister. As Pip praises Mr. Joe as a

 

 ”good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going
foolish, dear fellow – a sort of Hercules in strength”

 

        Again when Mr. Joe marries biddy after
the death of Mr. Joe.  Pip says to Biddy:

 

       ” Dear biddy, you have the best husband
in the world.”

 So it can be noted easily that man according
to the Charles Dickens can’t be a gentleman with money or respectable familial
students or artificial manners and dress codes but he can be a gentleman only
at heart or through practicing moral values. As Matthew Pocket states:

 

        ” No varnish can hide the grain of wood; and that more varnish you put on the more
grain       will express itself.” 

 

Comparably
the conflictual ideologies are crystal clear in another Victorian novel ”
Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte. In this novel Catherine Earnshaw, a female
protagonist and a lady of materialistic Victorian society, suffers from a superiority complex and therefore she is
deeply antipathetic to the people around her. In her view, a man without much
money and social status can’t  expect
good treatments from the upper class materialistic Victorian people. This is why, Cathy starts disdaining Hereton as he
doesn’t come of an upper-class family.
Cathy does maltreatment with heretic saying :

 

          ” I can’t endure…

              I despise you”17

 

         On the other hand, she has a deep
sense of sympathy with her cousins Edgar Linton a man of aristocrat society.
This is why, since Linton asks Cathy :

 

“You
don’t despise me, do you? In reply she says despise you? No…… …… I love you
better than anyone living”. 18

 

        Likewise, Heathcliff “considered to be
a Byronic hero”19 has to be disdained in every step of his life by most of
the family members of the aristocratic Earnshaw family as he is an orphan boy
without any social status. He is so unwelcome in this family that he is
addressed as a ”thing or it”. He has no freedom of entering into the rooms of
Catherine and Handley. Edgar Linton, the cousin of Catherine, degrades him time
and again.

 

 “He wants that authority should hang him at
once .”(Bronte ,1999.p.55). Isabella, another
character without moral values, judges Heathcliff  to be a “frightful thing” and also instructs
to “put him in the cellar” (Bronte  p.56)

 

Likewise
when Hindley appears as the master of the Wuthering Heights the condition of
Heathcliff becomes worse. As the novel explicates the immoral actions of the
Victorian aristocrat people or the conflict between moral values and vengeful
action:

 

“Hindley
becomes tyrannical …….. …. He drove him (Heathcliff) from their company to
the servant, deprived him of the instruction of the curate, and instead that he
should labor out of the door…… (Bronte 1999.p.52)

 

        Again, the conflicts between
materialism and humanity become more clear when Catherine wants to marry Edgar
Linton leaving Heathcliff she loves him though. As she narrates her
materialistic thought regarding marriage:

 

  ”………. It would degrade me to marry
Heathcliff …… (Linton) will be rich and I shall like to be the greatest woman
of the  neighborhood and  I shall be proud of having  such a husband.”

 

 So this kind of materialistic attitude dampens
the love affair between Heathcliff and Catherine.

  In a like manner when Heathcliff becomes
wealthy Victorian people acknowledge him as a gentleman though he loses his
moral values.  In the truest sense of the
term, Victorian mate- realistic social norms metamorphose him from a man of
good heart to a revengeful and immoral man. When  Heathcliff becomes the owner of the Heights,
he gets vengeful on the members of the Earnshaws family who degraded him. Even
Edgar Linton’s son Hareton has to “live in-house as a servant deprived of the
advantage of wages as punishment though he is innocent.  So Heathcliff, at least, becomes abrupt
vengeful and immoral because of having no morality.

 

Post Author: admin

x

Hi!
I'm Katherine!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out