I can’t agree more with GoodReads statements when I once read its viewpoint on what makes classics books are evergreen. It says that certain works, be they are books or poems or drama, fall under canon literature because they convey messages that are timeless, stay-in-tune across culture and generations.
Whatever social backgrounds that lead authors of the Victorian era, I think the humanness of the fictional characters strongly portraying those living in the era is the one that makes them very memorable to readers.
General themes —- love, women role in society, faithfulness, religion, social interaction, poverty —- remain in the minds of modern readers because they are never old-fashioned. In my opinion, the emergence of the Industrial Revolution plays an important role to have made Charles Dickens’ novels highly applauded. The rise of industry in the United Kingdom at that time inspires Dickens to have raised topics on economy, materialism, consumerism, etc. But I mostly admire Dickens’ stories on people at that time. How industry has driven people to have acted at that time is related with what we see today, the modern world, where industry is no longer a phenomenon but an ordinary one.
The topic of love, particularly the relationship between women and men, I believe becomes the one that’s never enough to be written. But what makes the works in the era set standards for preceding works?
Here, my best reference is Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. So far, there’s no novel that can speak about love more thoroughly than this. To love means to work it out. Loving means compromising, working together for a bigger picture regardless bleak past stories. And the finale of the book says that you can’t have all that happy ending forever. But when you both work your best to be together, brief happy moments are all that you need to be contented.
The Victorian era provides perfect insights on women status, roles in the society, a topic that remains interesting no matter how rapid time has shifted. Referring to a few numbers of Victorian classics that I have read so far, female figures are the centre of all the books. Apparently, when it comes to the society, women take all the blames if they do something against public’ wishes. Take for instance, Hetty Sorrel in ‘Adam Bede’. She does commit adultery but it seems unfair that she is the one who is on the spotlight of all. She’s the one who gets very stressful after she murders her only kid then is put behind the bars.
Bathsheba Everdene, the central figure of ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ provides a clear picture on overwhelming burden women can suffer. In the book, she is an established woman who does not seek marriage to elevate her social status. Despite the already wealthy status, Bathsheba is still a subject to be blamed with all love stories revolving her and a few men who are fallen for her. I get the sense that all of her wishy-washy attitudes in romance taint her image as a successful woman.
In ‘Agnes Grey’ a very somber picture can be learned from the fate of Grey’s mother who chooses to have married against her father’s wishes expecting her to marry a rich man. As a result, she is let to have left her home. She is ‘no longer the daughter of the family’ then loses all her supposed inheritance.
While for some countries women are as equal as men, they sometimes remain a hot topic for debate in emerging or least developed ones probably in different, various cases. For instance, in some African countries, women are forced to marry wealthy men to help her family making ends meet. While for poor women, marriages may be driven by economy, career women may find themselves in contrastive perspectives against public. While many may wish career women to abandon their jobs after getting married, this type of women may hold different point of view.
All I can say is that women throughout time and space, across countries and generations, have been, are and will always be the ones whom public can easily put their fingers at. Those are themes that may sound usual but the creative minds of handful Victorian writers have turned them all into something extraordinary that stand the test of time.