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Literary Background – VICTORIAN NOVEL
During the Victorian Age for the first time there was a
communion of interests and opinions between
writers and readers
enormous growth of the
middle classes who were avid consumers of literature,
they borrowed books from circulating libraries and read
various periodicals.
A great deal of Victorian Literature was first published
in instalments in the pages of periodicals, which allowed
the writer to feel he was in constant contact with his
Literary Background – VICTORIAN NOVEL
The NOVEL became the most popular form of literature
and also the main form of entertainment since books
were read aloud within the family.
NOVELISTS felt they had a moral and social
responsibility to fulfil:
 they depicted society as they saw it (realism) and
denounced its evils (criticism)
 they aimed at making readers realise social injustices
Literary Background – VICTORIAN NOVEL
a great number of novels were written by women.
This is surprising if we consider the state of subjection of
Victorian women, but at the same time they were the
majority of novel-buyers and of readers.
However, it was not easy to publish books, so some
women writers decided to use male pseudonyms in order
to see their novels in print.
VICTORIAN NOVEL – main features
The narrator is obtrusive and omniscient:
he provides his comments on the plot and he establishes
a rigid barrier between what is right or wrong (judge);
retribution and punishment usually appear in the final
chapter where all the events, adventures, incidents are
explained and justified.
Didactic aim
Linearity (stories have a beginning, a middle, an end)
VICTORIAN NOVEL – main features
Long complicated plots and sub-plots
Urban setting: the city was the most common setting, the
main symbol of industrial civilisation as well the expression
of anonymous lives and lost identities
Precise creation of characters and deep analysis of
characters’ inner lives (psychology)
Most popular genre = “Bildungsroman” (novel of formation)
Main themes: money, wealth, realistic portrait of society
denouncing its injustices and iniquities
From a structural point of view we can divide Victorian
Novels mainly into three groups:
1) EARLY-VICTORIAN NOVEL (or social-problem novel)
dealing with social and humanitarian themes
realism, criticism of social evils, but faith in progress,
general optimism
The main representative writer was CHARLES DICKENS
2) MID-VICTORIAN NOVEL (novel of purpose)
showing Romantic and Gothic elements and a
psychological interest.
The main representative writers were
the BRONTË sisters and R.L. STEVENSON
3) LATE- VICTORIAN NOVEL (naturalistic novel near to
European Naturalism) showing a scientific look at human
life, objectivity of observation, dissatisfaction with
Victorian values.
The main representative writers were
Other minor forms of novel developed in this period:
4) Novel of Manners
focusing on economic problems of a particular class
5) Colonialist Fiction
presenting an exaltation of British imperialistic power
6) Nonsense literature
dealing with fantastic adventures (L.Carroll)