The human and artistic concerns of both the Romantic and Victorian Ages are similar to our own concerns; the response to those concerns- given by poets, novelists, dramatists and artists- can help us live fuller, more meaningful and creative lives in our own times.
Concerns surrounding how society has become so “machine-like” and materialistic has not only been expressed in modern day society but since the Romantic and Victorian Ages. Many artists, poets and authors have been warning their audience of the results of these issues by expressing their ideas of the purpose and meaning of life. For the audience, they can gain a deeper understanding of why having meaningful and creative life ensures that an individual has lived their life as fulfilling as possible. Though Romantic and Victorian novels and works are based off differencing motions and ideals, they both look into the issues that are at hand within their societies such as materialism and ignorance.
In the Romantic era, authors and artists drew their main focus onto their surrounding environments and how they have neglected their sense of nature and how individuals have become selfish. Poets such as William Wordsworth and William Blake delve into the ideals of nature and how we should stay connected with our heritage rather than become absorbed by society’s new morals and structure. Particularly, Wordsworth’s poem “Resolution and Independence” written in 1800, explores how society’s illusions and expectations society have had an impact on the way that an individual views the world from their own perspective. With the word choices of “fears” and “fancies” in the fifth stanza of the poem, Wordsworth intends to show the audience the distress that can be caused by an individual’s imagination as well as the joy. He continues to discuss the struggle of surviving in this environment.
“Far from the world I walk, and from all care; But there may come another day to me – Solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty”
This poem also relates to the artwork John Seymour Lucas’ “The Gordon Riots 1780” as Lucas portrays the issues of the 19th century, depicting the fight for peace and a meaningful life style for all social classes. This shows that the issues that the authors were expressing were the same as the artists as they both want their audiences to live more meaningful and creative lives regardless of the time period.
With the despair of the writers of the 19th century, Charles Dicken’s Hard Times and George Eliot’s Silas Marner both focus the social structure of society and how materialism is controlling their ideologies. Dicken’s main protagonist Sissy comes from an outcast sub-group within her society, the gyspies and is portrayed as different throughout the whole novel; but she has the ability to grow and develop her own spiritual wisdom unlike those who have confronted to society. The juxtaposition between Sissy and Gradgrind emphasises the concerns that Dickens does have for the obsession of materialism. Dickens does express his concerns for society through the use of his character as he portrays his ideas of the purpose and meaning of life; this allowing the audience to gain an understanding of what Dickens wanted to convey. Similarly, Eliot expresses the same issues through the comparison of characters such as Godfrey, Silas Marner and Eppie as they had all under gone different upbringings but how their outlook of life was completely different to one another. Eliot and Dickens both use the symbolic image of a child in their works to show the innocence of the human essence before it becomes consumed by the beliefs and morals of their society.
Therefore, authors and artists from the 19th century wish to express their concerns for humanity through their works and hope that their intended audience can live more meaningful and creative lives and not be consumed by materialistic ideals.