The New Woman and the Victorian Novel

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Late Victorian literature

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The book publishing industry grew throughout the 19th century. There was a dramatic increase in literacy along with the growth of libraries and public schools. This provided a rapidly growing market for books. The introduction of technological advances allowed more volume at less cost. During the 19th century, big publishing firms emerged and some of these companies remain active in the industry today. In the 19th century practices of paying authors began to standardize. Publishers paid a percentage based on the price of the book and number of books sold.

During the Victorian period, the communication industry including publishing and printing of books accelerated the processes of economic, social and cultural change by dramatically increasing the volume and speed of which information, news and entertainment flowed through society. Again, Dickens will be the main focus, with his Pickwick Papers having sold 40, copies per issue at the time Part 15 came into print, and then selling , copies by in book form and , by Furthermore, The first issue of David Copperfield sold 25, copies between and To add a bit of perspective to these numbers, at the beginning of the 19th century, books were a luxury.

The price had recently rose to unprecedented heights, cutting out the middle class, even though they could have been the biggest consumers. Between and the average price of a book was said to have declined by forty percent, but that forty percent was off of an abnormally high starting price. The Victorian Era was a period of great social and political reform, especially regarding the role of women. Women began actively seeking equal social and legal rights as men, and one of the main ways they attempted to draw attention to their plight was through writing.

Voting and property rights, education opportunities, and employment restrictions were all issues women of 19th century Britain faced.

Gender book review: The New Woman in Fiction and Fact. Fin-de-Siecle Feminisms

Many women decided to address the issues in writing and publishing their work in order to make their voices heard and demand equality. Some of the more popular female novelists of this time include Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot. Many women of the Victorian Era published their work anonymously or under pseudonyms to ensure that their works would be given the same merit that works by male authors were granted. Using gender ambiguous pseudonyms, which all of the Bronte sisters did, allowed female novelists the freedom to create characters exactly the way they wanted without fear of being disrespected or not taken seriously because they were created by women.

The New Woman was the opposite of the stereotypical Victorian Woman who was uneducated, reliant entirely on a man, and led an entirely domestic life. Instead, the New Woman was intelligent, independent, educated, and self-supporting. In her novels, Bronte created strong female heroines who possessed free thought, intellect, and strong moral character. She wrote for the women she saw as being oppressed by society, which included teachers, governesses, and spinsters.

She felt that all of these women were imprisoned by society or circumstances beyond their control, and Bronte was impelled to speak out for them in her writing Lowes. Unmarried, middle-class women either had to turn to prostitution or be a governess in order to earn a living.

However, a governess has no security of employment, received minimal wages, and was isolated in the household with the label of being somewhere in-between a family member and a servant. Jane is rebellious, resourceful, and brave woman, despite all the obstacles that stand in her way in a male-dominated society. Jane ultimately falls in love with Rochester, but breaks away from society because she marries him out of love and not for the labels or security of a man and money that it provides.

The Neo-Victorian movement began as a revival of the social and literary elements of the Victorian Era. A Neo-Victorian Novel is a novel written in modern times that takes place in the 19th century and usually puts a spin on the characteristics of the Victorian Era. More often than not, these novels will point out and bring to light some of the follies of the Victorian Era.

Another quality of Neo-Victorian writing is that it often tells the intimate stories of those who were not the center of Victorian novels because of social constructs, such as, women and servants.


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For an example, these novels bring to light the fact that woman were sexual and powerful beings, during a time period where that was not believed. Charles Dickens has been thoroughly discussed throughout this page as the representative Victorian Realistic Novelist.

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It is inspired by the life and marriage of Catherine and Charles Dickens; represented by Dorothea and Alfred Gibson in the novel. However, this novel sets Catherine, or Dorothea, as the narrator and protagonist of the story; giving us the inner thoughts and feelings of this devoted woman.

Altick, Richard D. The English Common Reader. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, Charlotte Bronte. Digital image. The Recessionista. Dickens, Charles. Charles Dickens. Wikipedia, Diniejko, Andrzej. Warsaw University, 17 Dec. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.

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