Although we take it mostly for granted, today we enjoy relatively free lives. Whilst there are still some restraining forces, in no way are they as numerous or as strict as those suffered by 19th century British society. Perhaps one of the greatest governing forces in 19th century Britain was the issue of class. A ruthless hierarchical structure was set in place dictating that those in possession of great wealth or large amounts of land were therefore entitled to more power. People were divided into social groups called classes. These groups were determined by one’s wealth, land, religion and ethnicity amongst other things. With the class mentality in place, individual rights were often forgotten. One’s place on the hierarchical ladder was most likely determined when they were born. People did not often change classes, unless you were a woman, there was then the chance of marrying up the ladder. People were expected to stay within their faction and were expected to adhere to the constitutions of their social class. An individual wanting to determine his or her own future would find it very difficult indeed and would most likely find opposition all around. When considering the individual and their impact on society, four texts come to mind: Simon Langton’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’; ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ by Robert Browning; and Charles Dickens’ ‘Oliver Twist’.
People of the lower working class were expected to function in one way, work. It was the belief of the upper class aristocrats that the poor were poor because they deserved to be so. Perhaps they were cursed by God for their wrongdoings of the wrongdoings of their ancestors. For this reason the lower classes received little sympathy. Lower class partisans were treated with disdain by those of a higher social ranking. If not disdain it was a general dislike. Upper class members often wished to have nothing to do with their lower class counterparts. Because of this someone of... [continues]
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