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Focusing on the 3 authors, how did their literature reflect the growing concerns of the Victorian reader? Illustrate your essay with specific examples.

The early Victorian literary era had been defined by authors such as Jane Austen, whose novels of sensibility idealized the lives, morals and virtues of a nineteenth century elite. However, half way through the century a 'realist' trend emerged, seeking to address the real concerns of the Victorians. In examining this, the works of Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell will be examined in relation to; the effects of the industrial revolution, crime and changing gender roles.

'Smoky towns expanding into the countryside and densely packed streets of unhealthy houses rife with crime, drink and disease.' This is how eminent historian Martin Pugh explains the views of Victorians in reacting to the Industrial Revolution. Whilst, rural life had been cruel rapid immigration into towns created much concern. The population of Manchester and Salford stood at 25,000 in 1772, but by 1851 455,000 perspos resided there. At the height of the revolution Robert Owen took control of his father-in-law's Clyde cotton mill, and describes seeing 2000 workers living in, 'ignorance, crime and drunkenness.' Charles Dickens reflected this in his novel Hard Times, set in coketown, based on Manchester and Preston. The creation of this story is based upon his viewing of strikes and employers lockouts on a visit to Preston. At the height of the radical Chartist movement, which concerned many Victorians, Dickens reflected a sympathy with the industrial worker praising their, 'high sense of honour.' In Mary Barton, Elizabeth Gaskell also seeks to identify with concerns for the worker, with the strong portrayal of the courageous trade unionist John Barton. However, some viewed it as too sympathetic. The Manchester Guardian deplored its, 'sensibility to the conditions of the operatives.' Not all agreed, Dickens was so taken that he serialized her next novel in his journal. George Eliot also looked at the new industrial world, but came to a more balanced conclusion. Gareth Jenkins identifies that she realized a struggle for improvement was required, but that she preferred a liberal gradual approach, 'the good of the world depends on the un-historic acts.'

With respected figures such as liberal John Stuart Mill campaigning for an extension of the franchise gender was a concern in the Victorian era. Dickens had a traditional view on gender, respecting the selfless attitude of women who stay loyal to the family. However, he is critical of women treated cruelly by men such as Quilp or Sikes. He also expresses understanding in Oliver Twist for the wider reasons for the existence of 'fallen women' like Nancy, who says to the kind Rose Maylie, 'If there was more like you, there would be fewer like me.' In The Old Curiosity Shop Little Nell dies because she cares for her gambling father, and in Our Mutual Friend Jenny Wren has to support an alcoholic father who she calls her 'child.' Dickens even makes it clear that the hatred of Mrs. Havisham in Great Expectations is down to a man 'jalting' her at the altar. Marion Evans showed the limits to enfranchisement by publishing under the pseudonym George Eliot. She also showed the increasing independence and options of women in Middlemarch. In the novel Celia says, 'I should not give up to James when I knew he was wrong, as you used to do to Mr. Casaboun.' However, A.W. Bellringer criticizes Eliot for her conservative attitude to gender describing votes as an 'extremely doubtful good.' Catherine Gallagher praises Gaskell's work most highly, saying she focuses directly on gender. She is widely respected for being the Victorian author who most reflected Victorian females, rather than Dickens who uses it as a metaphor for worker-employer relationships.

Therefore, Dickens reflected the concerns of Victorians greatly focusing on life in the new industrial towns. His focus on crime, being both sympathetic, but also focusing on a penal work ethic reflected vast opinion. George Eliot takes a more balanced look at industrialization, whilst Elizabeth Gaskell paints the most realistic picture of the gloomy industrial town. On the issue of gender Gaskell most strongly represents contemporary concerns. Eliot portrays gender issues, but like Dickens ultimately has a conservative family based attitude. In the final analysis, however, all these authors represented the concerns of Victorians.

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