Nineteenth Century Literature, Summative, Uncategorized

Summative Entry

The human and artistic concerns of both the Romantic and Victorian Ages are similar to our own concerns; the response to those concerns- given by poets, novelists, dramatists and artists- can help us live fuller, more meaningful and creative lives in our own times.

Human and Artistic concerns of the Romantic and Victorian ages are similar to our own concerns in today’s world. The responses provided by writers, poets, playwrights and artists of the time help us to live fuller and more meaningful lives within our today’s society.

A key concern portrayed through texts of this time was the way in which individuals were presented and the status which they held. Three individuals who portray this idea are Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde.

In Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication to the Rights of Woman”, Wollstonecraft expresses her argument that women should have an equal right to education; a right which would allow them to pass knowledge down to their children and to grow wiser. She states that by not receiving an education, women will “stop the progress of knowledge and virtue”, implying that these are important skills and qualities to hold. While Wollstonecraft argues this, From Wollstonecraft’s ideas, we can see that she strongly believes that women hold an important place in the world. While Wollstonecraft is sharing these opinions, Austen uses marriage as a key theme within her novel in which she too comments on women moving up in society and making a name for themselves. Although Wollstonecraft does this through fighting for education and equal rights, Austen focused on the idea that women should show independence and a desire to move up in the world, but achieve this through marriage and/or wealth rather than education.

This suggestion of Austen’s starts to bring in materiality and focus on one’s possessions and wealth rather than their personal qualities such as knowledge, wisdom and virtue to name a few.

Oscar Wilde’s play “The Importance of Being Earnest” draws our attention to these materialistic ideas through the use of satire. Within the play, Lady Bracknell portrays an extremely exaggerated interest in these aspects such as one’s wealth and status in order to determine whether or not they measure up to society’s expectations. Ironically, Bracknell states ““We live, I regret to say, in an age of surfaces.” Not only is she commenting on this idea that people are judged by what is seen on the surface (wealth, status, etc.) rather than their true qualities such as character and virtue, she is also criticizing society for this idea without realising that she is portrayed to be the worst part of this society.

Although today’s world still values the ways in which they as individuals are presented, we are still very materialistic in terms of how much we earn, the size of the houses we buy, the types of cars we own, etc. At the same time though, we focus more on an individuals’ qualities and interests, and use our careers and educations to move ourselves up in the world rather than marriage. By writers, poets, playwrights and artists commenting on these concerns, we are able to judge the ridiculousness of the idea of favouring materialistic possessions over built-in human qualities such as love and emotion, and as a result, we are able to try to avoid doing this in order to allow ourselves to focus on qualities such as happiness and creativity instead in order to allow us to live our lives to the fullest.

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