Charles Dickens, Victorian Age – Resolved questions

Below we have some question to revise Charles Dickens and the Victorian Age, we made in order to verify our/your knowledge and learn something about this autor and period.

Charles Dickens1. What were the main reforms of the Victorian Age?

The Victorian Age was a period connected with the reign of the queen Victoria. In this period, we can see a material progress, imperial expansion, political developments (especially for the foreign policy) and social reforms. An important reform is the “Ten hours Act” that defined the limit of the labourers ‘work to ten hour a day. Another changement in the social environment was finalized to get better the conditions of the workers, especially of their houses: this Act had a specific goal that consisted to fight the disease epidemics of cholera and tuberculosis. From latest social reform a lot of initiative grew in a bit of time: buildings were constructed, professional medical organization were founded to diffuse medical education, modern hospital were built, many services were introduced( water, gas and lighting), place of entertainment were built as park or stadium. The most important and evident changement of this period is associated to the introduction of the Victorian institutions as prisons, police stations, schools, town halls that can be seen nowadays. In fact it was defined the Metropolitan Police to give an order to the towns that were characterized by the transgression of the laws.

If we consider the general situation, we can notice that a process of industrialization that transformed the rural society to an industrial one characterized England and the reforms that we have listed were a consequence of this state. The period of the industrial development led the nation to an economic and social change. An evidence of this mutation is the global event of the Great Exhibition where many industrial products were exposed.


 2. Talk about the problems related to overcrowded urban environment.

The economic changement of the English nation developed a new social system called Factory system that was based on the work in a factory. In the detail, the owner provided the buildings, row materials and machines and paid people to work for him. This situation created some problems because imposed to the worker to shift from countryside to towns with unhealthy houses, insufficient water and sanitation that allow diseases to diffuse. Another problems connected with situation are problem of crime, epidemic, high mortality rate, high poverty, drunks and prostitutes.

The queen Victoria tried to resolve the issues through social reform that had a gradual effect.

3. Mention some Victorian institutions that can still be found in any British town.

The institutions of the Victorian age consist to prisons, police stations, schools and town halls. These buildings had the aim to help the citizens and to make their life better.

 4. Optimism is the dominant mood of the Mid Victorian Age. Why?

Optimism was connected with the industrial revolution because many people believed in this process and in his power to make the human life better. In addition, we have to consider the Darwin’s discovery about the evolution. After this theories, the industrial and scientific development was identify with the progress in the nature because the latest one was considered as the natural corresponding of human mutation. Besides the middle class saw the industrialisation as an instrument to use to improve their economic estate.

5. What does Victorian Compromise mean?

The Victorian Compromise was the attempt to reduce the gap between the social classes through the approval of social reforms to improve the conditions of the labourers. This measures was necessary because the Victorian age was characterized by a lot of contradictions: in fact was an age of progress, stability, social reforms but also was featured by poverty, injustice and division between bottom classes and upper classes.

 6. What was the attitude of most Victorians towards sex?

The behaviour of the Victorians was based on the respectability, so the theme of sex became a taboo and the words associated to this subject were banned from language. Afterwards all the nude forms in art were denounced.


 7. What are the dominant values of the age?

The values of this age were shared by the most part of Victorians. They promoted a code of values that define a world, as they wanted it to be, not as it really was. This false world was characterised by duty, hard work, respectability and charity. Obviously, the ones that had the economic and political power and created these values were the upper and middle classes. This value was finalized to sort out the society problems but in the real they were a mixture of morality and hypocrisy. They implied to have good manners, a comfortable house with servants and to do charitable activity: Philanthropy was an evident phenomenon that underlined the hypocrisy of this classes. They also believed that the family was based on a patriarchal structure where the man represented the authority and the woman was useful to procreation and to look after the sons.


8. How did Charles Dickens criticise his time?

Charles Dickens viewed his society as a prison in which a poor person was condemned to a life of misery. He criticised his time through the production of novels. This kind of information transmission was so powerful because the middleclass was composed by many lectors that were interested on learning, so they represented the biggest public. He treated issues that were discussed in the place of meeting people. He wanted to influence the lectors about the topic that was developed in his novel. He talked about the problems of London as prostitution, poverty, rubbery, child and women labourers and education of the children. He only wanted to stimulate the opinion of the people so in the majority of the cases he did not give a solution about the problem analysed. A problem that was felt by the writer is the utilitarianism and the rationality of the people’s mentality that coincided with a materialistic and useful point of view (“nothing but facts”). In fact, this attitude leads the education to a form of obligation that negates schoolboy to learnt with tranquillity and efficiency.


9. Dickens published in monthly instalments. How did this affect reading habits and what influence did it have on narrative techniques?

Dickens published his novel monthly because he wanted that many people red his production in order to stimulate the majority of the society. The technique used consisted to publish only few parts of the opera at month. This trick allowed him to create in the lectors some feelings as the curiosity or interest. The story had the aim to capture the attention of the readers, in fact the motto of Dickens was “make ’em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ’em wait”

 10. How is problem of poverty dealt with in Oliver Twist?

He analysed the problem of society through three levels. First, he described the parochial world of the workhouses where the owner were insensible and cruel to the poor. Second, he claimed that poverty obligated the people that had not a work or a type of occupation to entry in the criminal world, so he described the murderers and the pickpockets and also they died with a miserable death. Third, he presented the world of the middle classes and talked about his values that were obscured by the hypocrisy and corruption. Finally, we can see that Dickens was obsessed by the bad condition of the child (because he had a bad childhood) and tried to condemn this estate: he critiqued the oppression of the adult on the innocence of the childhood. Especially he talked about the situation of the orphans like Oliver Twist. He described very well the world associated to the workhouses, in fact we can intend that the workhouse was the worst solution for a poor because he would be exploited and he would meet a bad situation characterised by poor alimentation, division of the components of the family and hard condition of work. The scarce food was an escamotage to negate a potential revolution, to make workhouse less attractive because for the government they costed a lot, to force the poor to abandoned that place and because the poor were considered lazy being that did merit nothing.


11. Dickens as a moral reformer, not a revolutionary.

Dickens was not a revolutionary and animator crowds because he has a precise goal that consisted to make people aware of the issues of Victorian age. We can claim this because we can notice that he often did not try to find a solution to sort out the problems but he only gave voice to this one. He gave voice to who had no voice. He afterwards was not a revolutionary because he felt the grave of the masses.


12. In Hard Times Dickens criticises the excess of utilitarianism and rationalism in the Victorian Age.

Dickens felt the problem of education because he was so bounded to the world of children. Particularly he criticised the use of practical mind and rationality to transmit the knowledge to the students. This method did not allow children to express their experience and it was based only on the passage of facts. This situation repressed the imagination and the feelings. The lessons were not suited to children’s experience. In the text “the definition of a horse” we can notice the different between the material view of the teacher Gradgrind and his little students. Especially the student define the animal through his experience and heart but the teacher uses only fact to describes the horse so his position is objective (number of legs, colour of hair…) and based on fact that are the most important things.

 13. What kind of man is Mr Gradgrind? How does he see children and education?

He is a man that believes only in the fact and in the objective lesson as a best method of education. Grandgrind is a person of only facts who ever has a ruler and a pair of scales to measuring people. He sees student like a number (“girl number twenty”) and a box where he must put facts (useful point of view).


I did not directly write that answers, so if there is any error that i did not saw, please say it in the comments below. Thank you, i hope you will find this usefull.

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