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Class In Victorian Society Essay

2187 words - 9 pages

Class in Victorian Society

Victorian society was very different from ours. The age was in fact
revolutionary. Many writers's for the first time expressed their views
in writing and books were widely available to anyone with the money to
buy them. Despite this, most readers were still upper class and most
books were written for upper classes. This age in literary has given
us a very stereotypical image of the Victorians as they are for the
most part about the lives of the upper classes. The woman in white is
another example of the melodramatic Victorian novel that we are so
used to but through this many of Wilkie Collins own opinions on the
actual state of affairs in the class divided Britain of the 1900's
shine through.

The very first time that Collins blatantly allows himself to express
his feelings happens in the early stages of Walter Hartrights stay at
Limmeridge House when he meets Mr Fairlie. Whereas Walter is shown to
be active and sympathising with the lower classes, Mr Fairlie, who is
a much more aristocratic man, is shown to be a very feminine character
and despises the working classes. Collins show's this during the
meeting with Walter. During the meeting, Fairlie calls his servant an
Ass twice and he also calls the children of the village brats and
plebs. This portrayal of these characters perhaps represents Collin's
opinion of the upper classes, and more importantly, the aristocracy.
Collins doesn't stop with Mr Fairlies attitude to other people;
Collins also stresses the way Mr Fairlie treats valuables most people
would treasure. The priceless watercolours he shows Hartright in the
meeting he stored in portfolios as opposed to displaying them on
walls. Collins, who spent part of his life as a landscape painter, is
very critical of this and he uses Walter's character to express this.
By making Walter tell Mr Fairlie that he thinks that the paintings
should be displayed and then making Mr Fairlie do nothing, Collins
makes Mr Fairlie look very arrogant and this extends his stereotyped
aristocrat. This arrogance is directly linked in with Mr Fairlies
nerves.

During the meeting, Mr Fairlie stresses the sensitiveness of his
nerves, but these nerves play no part in the story apart from
extending Collins continuing mockery of Mr Fairlie and thus the
aristocracy. Collin's make it quite clear that Mr Fairlie's 'nerves'
are really just an excuse to avoid society and problems. This is quite
probably a metaphor for the aristocracy, and perhaps Collins was
suggesting that the aristocracy did nothing when problems evolved.
From this small part of the novel, Collins appears to define the
aristocracy as undeserving weaklings bought up to feel superior. By
introducing Mr Fairlie before any other aristocratic characters
Collins makes Fairlie a standard Aristocrat for the...

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