Vanity Fair; Ideal Victorian Woman

So what are supposed to make of the ending of Vanity Fair? Life works out for Amelia, but only after much heartache for Dobbin. Is that heartache and denied love toward Amelia only meant to make Dobbin appear more heroic and a better image of the honest man or should Amelia’s first denial of his love put the spotlight on her and the kind of character she is?

It almost seems that toward the end of the story, Becky and Amelia play opposite roles. Becky drives off Rawdon; Amelia has Dobbin professing his love for her. The story could have ended there. So why must Amelia put Dobbin through one last little hoop before tying the knot? In response to the question posed in the paragraph above, I do not believe Dobbin had to go through that last heartache to make him look more like a hero (being the image of the honest man), but rather, Amelia becomes the more complete image of the Victorian woman. Although many would contest that Amelia was not the perfect example of the ideal woman, I think she held onto her love for George out of a responsibility and debt to love him, which is admirable – she didn’t just push him out of her memory once he was gone. I know I would want my wife to mourn my death – not to be morbid, but I think the grief seen shows the depth of commitment in a relationship.

In sum, I believe Dobbin’s last little heartache was important for Thackeray’s purposes in developing the different ideas of the Victorian woman figures. Becky continues to be her predictable self in being a greedy leech while Amelia becomes an even more round character in the last few pages: a testament to the virtue of a good Victorian woman.

Victorian Era, Thomas Hood, Browning

Upon reading Thomas Hood’s “Song of the Shirt” and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “The Cry of the Children,” it is clear to see that both authors believe the victims, children and women, were not their natural selves. For instance, in Hood’s writing, “a woman sat, in unwomanly rags . . .” (italics mine). He also mentions how their monotonous work continues on throughout all the seasons with no acknowledgement of change.

Similarly, in Browning’s poem, “the reddest would look as pale as snow” to one of the “crying children,” revealing the children’s incapability to observe nature. Furthermore, the only “wind” the children feel is the wind blown from the droning wheels in the factories if they are not in the stuffy “coal dark, underground.” Browning also highlights the despairing idea that the children are slaves, martyrs, orphans, and grieving people even thought they are so young: they live lives of the most decrepit elderly, yet they are in their youth. Even when the children cry out to their true Father, God, they fell that that familial bond has been broken and He does not hear them. They were not naturally meant to be on their own, left in the silence of God and passer-byes.

Are these poems a social critique on the factories and industrialism or more of the people in charge? I think both authors directly target people to look on the plight of their fellow men and help them, regardless of the reason for it. I honestly think that this poem even applies to the despondent situation that so many forced-labour slaves or victims of sex trafficking are trapped in. That being said, both Hood and Browning’s poems are timeless.

Thomas Carlyle, Victorian Era

In Thomas Carlyle’s writing of “Captains of Industry,” he muses on the English working middle class’s power in creating their own future, their own government and ultimately their driving of the fate of the world. This claim seems lofty, but Carlyle makes many large connections in this pattern of thought.

Carlyle uses passionate talk to vividly illustrate the middle class working man as a noble “warrior” and as a “Captain of the World” through his influence in industry, which everyone depends on. After following the rabbit trails of his claim, one must ask, can this really be done? Is the simple workingman really only a few steps away from controlling the way the world turns economically and socially? Carlyle attempts to lay out the path to controlling one’s own destiny by setting up the following simple path of logic: government is run and made of the people it represents, who better understands the “immense Problem of Organizing Labour” than those in the middle of it; therefore, those working in the industries of the mid 19th century are the leaders of industry, which affects every person universally, and ultimately it is the industry workers (the middle class) who will lead the world through government. Giant leap, huh?

Carlyle makes a comment meant to inspire his readers, but it also gives some insight to the unreality of such a magnanimous dream:

“The Leaders of Industry, if Industry is ever to be led, are virtually the Captains of the World…”

He states, “…if Industry is ever to be led…” This can be read to mean that he is prodding his readers on as if to say, “the reigns are open, someone grab hold and lead the way.” But could this quote not simultaneously reveal that there is no single group or person who could guide universal Industry? What person or work force could lead all of industry? He encourages his readers by affirming them as fierce “warriors,” “fighters,” and men of “nobleness” that can save the country. Carlyle’s flowery flatteries are filled with too much smooth talk with a lot of promise, but provide no plan to promote the middle class working man up the social ladder.