All throughout the semester we have been reading many different texts from Victorian Literature. In the beginning, for me personally at least, I was not anticipating that there would really be any obvious connections between the texts we were reading. When we first started with the readings I was thinking to myself, how could there possibly be a connection amongst all of these texts, every time. When I looked through the syllabus and saw that we were going to be connecting texts once a week I got nervous. I was not hopeful that this would be a task that would come easy. Although trying to write out your connection and make it make sense to other readers was a challenge, I was surprised to learn that finding a connection between all of these texts was coming very natural. Each time I was reading a text after we had done it a few times, my brain began to make the connections on its own. I think that this meant that I was actually learning many things in regards to these texts as the connections were becoming more than obvious. Aside from learning so much about the time period in which all of this literature was written, (ie: society, woman, children, labor, relationship, social class) what made all of this so interesting to learn was that they were consistent themes across all of the texts we were reading. I think that learning that texts can be placed in a literary category and on the surface seem like they are nothing alike, but when you dive deeper the connections are inevitable. Taking this course and learning about this time period and just how many connections there were has made me more interested in other time periods and literary texts and if they have created a similar sort of cluster of connections. I enjoyed to think about as well as research about why these connections were so prominent and if society at the time held any weight in this explanation. All in all, this course was one that I was not to sure on if I wanted to take or not, I wanted to broaden my repertoire and take a course where I would be reading things I had not read before. This course allowed me to do just that and learn many different skills that will come in handy throughout the remainder of my college career. r
I can now truly see why “Victorian Connections” is such a fitting title when we want to group together all of the things that we are reading this semester. Sometimes when reading and doing research, you almost get a sense of deja-vu in the context that situations and themes are repeating themselves across many texts. We seem to see a strong and very consistent connection between relationships and social status. There is a specific social status that comes with race and other aspects for each character. This is a connection that we see across many of our texts. We are often doing further research to see the specifics of society when these pieces of literature were written. There seems to be a consistency when it comes to romance as well. We have seen multiple times in Reuben Sachs, Wuthering Heights, and Great Expectations, there always seems to be an obstacle in the way of “love”. Every time this obstacle falls in the category of social class. During this time there was not a lot of people that were mixing social classes at all. We can see this depicted throughout all of the novels, how they describe certain kinds of people makes it evident what their position in society was. This was the reason why all of the romantic connections in the novels were classified in this matter. A light was being shed on the separation between all of the social classes. Your position in society played a major role in how you were portrayed in literature and what rights you had. This is why we frequently see the idea of one side of the romance from an upper level of society and the other side from a lower level of society. The idea of what the role of woman in society also comes up quite frequently as well. They were expected to uphold a certain way of carrying themselves in society and we see this carry out in all the novels written during this time.
When reading Oscar Wilde’s letter there was an aspect that stood out as something that was quite consistent throughout the piece as well as other pieces of literature that we have read. I found it interesting the different ways in which Wilde turned to religion or referred to religion in his writing. There are several examples but this caused me to reflect back on the poetry that we read towards the beginning of the semester. In poems like “The Cry of the Children” we see a negative connotation when it comes to religion. The children use religion to serve as the representation of the disconnect between their parents and them. In this case we see religion in a form of symbolism. Wilde uses phrases like “oh lord”, this may push the reader to believe that he is religious and looking for guidance from a religious point of view. The reason that this is important in my opinion is because during this time, religion was an important factor during this time, even though it may have served as something different in every case. There are many questions that arise when we are reading different literature that encompasses aspects of religion. When we read something like “The Cry of the Children” we understand that there is not a good connection between the characters and their religious views. We can see Wilde has a different kind of connection when it comes to religion. He explains how the “gods” have given him everything. This shows that he is grateful for everything he has despite his unfortunate situation, he still owes everything to his religious views. He then talks about how “sorrow remarries us to God”. I wondered why here he refers to one God and prior he refers to many gods. I think that this is an interesting connection to make since in sorrow he chose to connect himself to God, where in “The Cry of the Children” there was a disconnect between the children and religion. This is an important connection to make across all texts, as understanding the connection between their relationship with religion and the text can lead you to understand other aspects of the texts further.
Each piece of literature we read from this time period, seems to always touch on social class and how it correlates to the characters. This seems to be a very important part the the development of each story and how the characters interact with each other. When reading this next section of Great Expectations we see another instance where a character of a different social class does not feel like he has the social right to interact or have a dignified relationship with a character of a higher social class. In chapter 43 Pip explains to the reader that he does not fit into the social class image that he feels like he needs to, to be good enough for Estella and her position in society. Naturally, this reminded me of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and how he did not feel as though he could belong in that higher social class either. I also found it very interesting that in each of these pieces of literature we see the same kinds of descriptions about each social classes. When Pip is speaking about Estella, he describes her as “Estella in her pride and beauty”, I saw a connection here with Catherine from Withering Heights. The characters of the higher social classes are always either described as beautiful, they have a certain image that they have to uphold. This led be to believe that this is why each of the characters, Estella and Catherine, are described in this manner. In Wuthering Heights, Catherine is described as being “changed” to fit into her class of society better. This connection shows us that there was a “social norm” for these social classes during this time. This is important for us to remember when reading literature from these times because we will be able to make this same connection amongst many other pieces of literature.
While reading the next section of Great Expectations I was drawn to recount a certain aspect of Wuthering Heights. I wanted to point out a connection I noticed about the way in which both of the authors, Dickens and Bronte, choose to tell the stories of the different characters in their books. In Great Expectations, we see a situation where Herbert is talking to Pip in chapter 22, he is telling him the story of Miss Havisham. He tells the story of her life going all the way back to her childhood. When I was reading this section I could not help but think of Wuthering Heights and the role that Nelly serves in the book. She tells the story through her perspective and we almost have to instill a form of trust into her character to believe what she is saying. Bronte and Dickens both choose to tell stories through different characters in their pieces of literature aside from the normal narrators that are telling the story. I was wondering and reread this section a few times to see if this format of relaying the story to the reader changed anything in my perception of the information. I was thinking back the first chapter of Great Expectations when Pip the narrator is the one to tell his story and introduce his background and how this situation differs from the one in which Pip is not the one telling us the story. Pip tells his own story about his childhood in the beginning, yet we see the contrast when Herbert is the one to recount this story. It was interesting to see that multiple novels from the Victorian Era both had such a similar way of telling stories. We spoke briefly about the effect that Nelly’s storytelling had and when reading Wuthering Heights I was interested to see if Great Expectations was similar at all in this matter. Does the fact that Miss Havisham’s story is coming from Herbert take away from the authenticity or does it add to our understanding on the type of person and or character that she is? When the story comes from the perspective of another character, like Nelly and Herbert, how should the reader interpret this?
When reading the first few chapters of Great Expectations I began to think further into how children are used in a lot of different ways in Victorian Literature. Due to the fact that I am writing my critical essay on the poems “The Chimney Sweeper” and “The Cry of the Children”, I recall the way the writers use the point of view of the child to guide their writing. I enjoyed the first section of the book a lot, where Pip explains to the reader how his name formed into Pip. I believe that this made the reader connect to Pip, the speaker of the novel. This reminded me of the poems because the goal of those poems was to connect the reader to the children and their emotions. This is a connection that we can see expanding across a lot of literature written during the Victorian Era. Since Pip is the main character of Great Expectations, we are being told the story through his eyes and his point of view. This can change a lot about a story, by simply knowing who is telling it. The poem “The Chimney Sweeper” would almost lose its effect if it was not written from the voice of the child. The reader would not be able to connect to the story or grasp the scenario that the writer is trying to portray to them. Remembering this aspect of the poem and how it had an immense impact on the literature brought me to think about the opening section of Great Expectations and how it would have been changed if a different character was delivering the reasoning behind Pip’s nickname. This carried with me throughout the first few chapters of the novel that we read. I was reminding myself of the importance of the voice of the child in Victorian Literature, and how this can connect us more to the story and send the message. In Great Expectations, when the story was being told from Pip’s perspective we could really feel and connect to his emotions as he was afraid of what was happening and afraid of what could possibly happen when he encountered the man with the metal leg. Hearing it from the “I” point of view makes the emotion seem more real to the child itself. This is exactly the same as the strength of the “I” in the poem “The Chimney Sweeper”. As I continue through reading through the novel I will be curious to see how the point of view in which the story is told remains prevalent.
The idea of dependence is explored in great depth in both Darwin’s writings as well as Chamber’s writings. We see the idea that one thing cannot exist without another thing. There is a plan for development before it happens. In Darwin’s writing we see him mention that a plant in the desert will be entirely dependent on moisture as well as a mistletoe being dependent on the apple and the trees. This brings us back to the idea that all plants and animals are interconnected which is a topic that is visited in both pieces of writing. We see a concrete example of this in Chamber’s piece of writing where he is describing some similarities that may go unnoticed amongst the different species. He gives us the example of the human species in comparison to species that have a tail. He explains that these two different species had different plans for development. A human could have possibly had a take if their development lasted longer, however it comes to a stop when there is simply a cluster at the lower back. This is why we can see this connection amongst all species because this is not a coincidence that we see this small similarity. Another way we see these two writers compare to each other is when they both leave room for further research. Understanding that everything is subject to change with the more information that you obtain. Both writers also refer to the “Vegetable kingdom”, this was another similarity that stood out in word choice that could be owed to the time in which they were written. This is a similarity in a word that can change the way we think about the writing, at first glance when I saw this word I was thinking something different than what the writing was intended to be about. This is why word choice across the different texts are very important aspects to point out.
When continuing to read Wuthering Heights we can see a strong parallel between Catherine and Cathy. I wanted to relate this back to discussing if Emily Bronte put woman in a position of inferiority for the novel’s story line or just because this is what was normalized for the times. Was this parallel between mother and daughter one that was written in on purpose or did this just happen naturally. I was very interested in this connection between the Catherine’s and what motivated the author, Emily Bronte, to write the novel this way. There is also the interesting fact that Catherine did not raise Cathy, she died when she was giving birth to her, this is why it is interesting to the reader that there is such a connection between they way Catherine acts and what happens to her and they way that Cathy acts and the things that happen to her. In the story we can even recall the section where Nelly compares the two and says how much Cathy reminds her of Catherine. Simple things such as how they act towards people and there specific personality traits she can see in both characters. We also see there there is some sort of physical resemblance between the two as well. There are few cases where Nelly brings up the physical resemblance and we can also see this in the attitude change that Heathcliff has with Cathy when she starts to remind him more and more of her Mother.
After becoming interested in this aspect I did some research on the side and noticed that a lot of people pose the argument that Catherine and Cathy actually differ from each other in many ways. When finding interesting connections amongst these texts, it is interesting to do some further research to see if there are different opinions on these connections. Now, I can see that on the surface there are many similarities es but as you go deeper their may be many evident differences. At first glance when reading it seems as if there is almost an intentional parallel between the plot lines and character developments of Cathy and Catherine. I would be interested in understanding if this was done for a particular reason, or if this is just how all the woman were to be written.
When continuing to read Wuthering Heights, I continue to see just how much control over the woman and what they do that the people in power have. For example, Catherine cannot do anything or see anyone without it being an issue or made into one. I believe that although this may not seem like a major component of the plot it is something that we need to take into account when we are thinking about the time that the story takes place in and the connections in that aspect. This type of control over the woman character’s action in this story is a recurring theme that we see pick up with young Catherine as well. A very interesting connection that crossed my mind that may not have come up for others is a connection to George Eliot and her writings about women’s place in society. I was thinking back to the discussion in class we had about how your perception of the writing could be altered when you know the gender of the person who is writing it. We connected this idea to the Eliot’s writings and how we were surprised that she would write about woman in that way. This helped me make a connection with that fact that Emily Bronte is writing as a woman in that time period and always putting woman in an almost secondary-like position. Each female character in the story was constantly under a microscope, similar to woman in society during this time period. Catherine was expected to act a certain way and as we progressed in the novel we see the same theme with little Catherine and who she was allowed to keep in her company. I think that was an interesting connection to make since female writers often write with the female characters not in power because is what they are used to and that is what has been normalized for society in that time period.
When reading the first couple of chapters for Wuthering Heights I continue to see that same abuse of power that we see in so many other readings. Nelly begins to recant the stories of everything that has gone on in Wuthering Heights and our eyes begin to open to all the things that were going on prior to the time period of the book. I see this most prominently when Hindley is able to get away with treating Heathcliff the way he does since he is in authority or of a higher social class that Heathcliff. We tend to see this happening very frequently and it comes up as a common discussion in class. I also thought of another slight connection to our discussion of Queen Victoria in relation to our readings about Carlyle. This situation is similar to how Queen Victoria took in a child of a low social class. It reminded me of this, however it is clearly very different because Queen Victoria treated her god-daughter like her own, since she was so smart. Hindley knows that no one will question his treatment of Heathcliff because of his position in society. This is why the greed and power theme is always reiterated in my head while reading Victorian Literature, because everyone in higher society or simply a position of power had a sense of that.
While reading about how young Catherine was changing due to the people she was surrounding herself with I was thinking about George Eliot’s essay. Woman are always expected to act a certain way and keep a certain type of company. I was making this connection and thinking about the premise of the paper and how women should be able to do anything and not be held to a certain standard that is drastically different from the one created for men.
When thinking back to the treatment of Heathcliff I recall he was being treated different because he looked different and was different from everyone else. He was not allowed to play with the same children as Catherine. Instead of being treated like he was apart of the family, he was being treated as a “worker”. This brings me back to the discussion we had about how what you wear and your appearance carried such weight, especially in this time. Heathcliff was excluded and not treated fairly as a child, simply because of the way he looked and dressed.