Double Lives In Victorian Literature Essay

1384 words - 6 pages

The existence of a “dark double” abounds in many literary works of the Victorian Era. These

“dark doubles” are able to explore the forbidden and repressed desires of the protagonist, and often

represent the authors own rebellion against inhibitions in a morally straight-laced societal climate. The

“dark doubles” in these stories are able to explore the socially unacceptable side of human nature, and

it is through these “dark doubles” that many of the main characters (and through them, the reader), are

able to vicariously explore and experience the illicit, forbidden, and often exciting underbelly of what

was considered deviant behavior. The accepted “normal” behavior that strict Victorian social protocol

demanded could be cast aside by these “dark doubles” and the “immoral” desires of the human heart

could be explored in the safety of ones sitting room.

In Oscar Wilde's play, “The Importance of Being Ernest,” we see a satirical prodding of the

hypocrisy associated within the strict moral code of English “genteel” society. The play's protagonist,

Jack, creates his own “dark double”, his supposed carefree, immoral, and decadent brother, Ernest. It is

through his own creation of Ernest that Jack is able to lead his entertaining double life. While

portraying himself as Ernest, we see Jack pursue all of the things that he is incapable of exploring in his

own stuffy Victorian world as Jack. While explaining his presence in town to Algy, Ernest states, “Oh,

pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring one anywhere?” (690). Ernest goes on to explain to Algy

what occupies his time this way, “When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country

one amuses other people. It is excessively boring” (690). The audience and the reader, are left to imagine what titillating “pleasures” and “amusements,” Ernest is alluding too.

For most of the play, Jack is Jack, not Ernest, and when the lies and deceit finally catch up to

Jack, who needs to make his “brother” Ernest disappear, and at the same time, become a man named

Ernest, one feels both amused and confused at the hypocrisy surrounding these strange events. Wilde's

implications are clear when we discover that Jack's real Christian name is in fact Ernest John.

Although Jack felt societal pressure to create the persona of Ernest, they are still the same man, having

to hide his identity while fulfilling hidden desires does not change that. The irony here is that Jack

needed Ernest, or at least the name of Ernest, to exist in order to achieve the respectable, socially

acceptable life that the “good” side of his persona aspires too.

Like much of Wilde's work, the play ends on a witty and humorous note, with Jack telling his

beloved Gwendolen, “ it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been

speaking nothing but the truth” (720). Jack understands the...

Find Another Essay On Double Lives in Victorian Literature

"Literature and Lives" by Allen Carey-Webb Ascertaining the efficacy of reader-response and cultural studies in the classroom

1527 words - 6 pages deprived of for so long, cracking the shell of the coconut to find the sweet milk that nourishes the mind, body, and soul. It is exactly these novel approaches that Allen Carey - Webb espouses in his book Literature and Lives.In an attempt to relate literature to students lives, and remove it from the esoteric and often archaic social ideologies and linguistic constructs of centuries gone by, he uses reading materials from many different disciplines

Victorian Age Essay

1166 words - 5 pages The Year 1837 was very significant. It was not only the year that Queen Victoria acceded the throne, but also the year that a new literary age was coined. The Victorian Age, more formally known, was a time of great prosperity in Great Britain's literature. The Victorian Age produced a variety of changes. Political and social reform produced a variety of reading among all classes. The lower-class became more self-conscious, the middle class more

John Fowles

940 words - 4 pages . Although he incorporates modern quotations and authorial interjections into the novel, Fowles uses the theme of dualism in the Victorian society as his main vehicle for illustrating that today's society is much the same way. He focuses on the effects of society and its mores on individuals, and how those individuals choose to live within those boundaries. Fowles' characters throughout the novel demonstrate the double standards found in Victorian

The French Lieutenant's Woman as Victorian Realistic Novel

1822 words - 7 pages The French Lieutenant's Woman as Victorian Realistic Novel      Although The French Lieutenant's Woman was written and cinematized in the 20th century and is based on a modern film production of a piece of 19th century fiction, the stories and plots themselves have contextual elements of a Victorian Realistic Novel. Despite the inability to accurately and directly compare it with that of true Victorian literature, many of the same elements

Prostitution in the Victorian Era

718 words - 3 pages , Megara. “The Fallen Woman in Fiction and Literature.” []. 1999.   Finnegan, Frances. Poverty and prostitution: a study of Victorian prostitutes in York. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.   Fisher, Trevor. Prostitution and the Victorians. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. 48-60.   Victorian Culture and Society. Ed. Eugene C. Black. New York: Walker and Company, 1974. 383-394.   Waters, Mary. University of Davis, California. 08 Feb. 2002.   Wells, Jess. A Herstory of Prostitution in Western Europe. Berkeley: Shameless Hussy Press, 1982. 53-84.

Identity as a Name in The Importance of Being Earnest

830 words - 4 pages at the expense of societal acceptance was a burden that Wilde himself battled with. According to Bromige, “the biographical details are closely connected with the art of Wilde and with The Importance of Being Ernest, a play in which a number of characters lead double lives” (1). Because “[Wilde], like many apparently heterosexual men, also had sex with men” (Bromige 1), he was doomed to live a double life because he couldn’t let the judgmental

Escape from Industrialization in Wells' The Time Machine

3833 words - 15 pages regular paid labor force.  Poor and working class women did many jobs that were hard, dirty, and dangerous" (Mitchell 47).  Just as the aristocracy dominated the working class and dictated their lives, Victorian women often found themselves dominated by men in their lives.  For Victorian women without money or high birth, this was a double dose of control.  For women, one method of escape was escape by empowerment.  Sarah Grand and her novel The

Victorian Literature

3198 words - 13 pages individuals and left an impression of the majority of society, including my three chosen authors. The exposition of the lives of the working-class in their literature is particularly demonstrative of how certain individuals began to re-consider their purpose in life aside from contributing as mere “hands”, into imaginative and clinical thinkers, seeking a happier and higher position in a cruel Victorian society. Throughout the novel Hard Times

Feminist Literature

2193 words - 9 pages Conferences which then lead to female independence. “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin, connects with feminist literature because the author is trying to portray the life style Edna has made for her self and how she realizes her independence after she succumbs to the tradition of marriage. Chopin examines the principals of the female characters in their work and household duties and how they exemplify their lives around the issues women faced during the

To what extent do any two texts, one drama one prose, mirror their society

4767 words - 19 pages , setting to create atmosphere and mood, to name only a few literary devices, that Shakespeare successfully depicts the burning issues of Elizabethan-Jacobean England.On the other hand, The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) falls under the Victorian era. In this era literature was viewed as a criticism of life. According to Tichapondwa (AECS 307: 11), the period 1832 - 1914 coincides with the reign of Queen Victoria. On the whole, it is a complex literary

Poetry Styles of the Victorian Period

1185 words - 5 pages background to what was happening in Britain at the time led to a new and interesting literature period. There happened to be three influential types of literature during the Victorian Period. The first of these types was Realism. "When Victorian writers confronted the rapid technological and social changes amidst which they lived . . ." (857) realism evolved. Realism centered on "ordinary people facing the day-to-day problems of life, and an emphasis that

Similar Essays

The Reflection Of Victorian Britain In Literature

4298 words - 17 pages which I am going to focus on first is about the role God played in many people's lives and how this is reflected in the literature of the Victorian period. In 'Frankenstein' Mary Shelley's point of view about the advances occurring in the progress of medicine and technology can be seen. She also explains the dangerous issues connected with man trying to copy the role of God. The central characters in 'Frankenstein' are Dr Frankenstein

How Literature Was Affected In The Victorian Age

1629 words - 7 pages The Year 1837 was very significant. It was not only the year that Queen Victoria acceded the throne, but also the year that a new literary age was coined. The Victorian Age, more formally known, was a time of great prosperity in Great Britain's literature(Keach 608). The Victorian Age produced a variety of changes. Political and social reform produced a variety of reading among all classes(Stuart 5). The lower-class became more self-conscious

Influences Of Charles Dickens In The Victorian Era Literature

1447 words - 6 pages Charles John Huffam Dickens is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in literature, due to his work during the 19th century, referred to as the Victorian Era. Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Dickens endured harrowing experiences that significantly sculpted his approach to writing. The impact of these experiences are apparent in his various works, in which he utilizes literary techniques such as satire and dark humor, in order

The Repression Of Women In Victorian Society As Shown In 19th Century Literature

1283 words - 5 pages The Repression of Women in Victorian Society as Shown in 19th Century Literature 19th century literature reflects to a certain extent, several ways in which women were repressed in Victorian society. They were considered inferior to men, and given a stereotypical image, showing them as gentle, loyal and angelic. They were rejected of any personal opinions or independence, for