English 1 CAS
June 2nd, 2013
The Victorian Era was a time of great change for England. It was the beginning of a modern society, manufacturing, feminism, and culture. Queen Victoria reigned during this period. Some of the many important things to her were the defined formation of a society. Being cultured meant many things in the nineteenth century. It was where families resided and the quality of life they experienced. Society was rapidly changing, and social formalities became important. It brought dignity and pride to one’s family. In Victorian England, the etiquette and formality learned and applied to daily life varied immensely and affected a person’s social standing. During the Victorian Era, the formation of class distinction was advancing. The social classification was the Lower Class, Middle Class, and then the Upper Class. They were classified this way because society was reformed in such an order, that the higher aristocrats did not want to socialize with the others (Miller). Since the Industrial Revolution took place in this era, the Middle Class was formed. They were the miscellaneous individuals with varied occupations. For example, the Middle Class could contain doctors, artisans, and often servants. Most of the time though, there was not a defined Middle Class (Miller.). It was the people who were not born into power, but they were better off than the average laborer. Occasionally, the only things that separated the Middle and the Upper Class were the amount of wealth or servants a family obtained. The daily life of each class varied tremendously, a working or Lower Class man would typically head to a factory or a place of intense labor for the days job (Corey, Ochoa.). He would then come home to a small hut filled with many mouths to feed, often located in the middle of a grimy city. Their leisure time might consist of going for an afternoon stroll, but most of the time the Lower Class focused on work. On the other hand, the Middle Class might go to work as number of different occupation. Influenced from Queen Victoria, this was the first era in which the average person could enjoy leisure time. The Middle Class could enjoy a book; go to a social gathering, and many other options. Since the Upper Class is mostly made up of aristocrats and people born into wealth, their time mostly consisted of various casualties. The many different classifications and how they lived their daily life, is one of the characteristics that made up the Victorian Era (Miriam.). Another aspect greatly valued by Victorian society was etiquette. It started simply as means for people to tolerate each other. It evolved though, into a way society judged families and oneself. When Queen Victoria reigned she brought up the formation of culture & advancing society. She started with institutions, schooling, and also on manners. During her reigned it became extremely important to follow the basic rules of etiquette. Each class thought of etiquette differently. To the Lower class it was not considered a necessity to be on your best behavior everywhere. They had more important things to worry about; debts, food, children, medicine, etc. Most of the time they did not like to accept charity, but they looked at etiquette as something for the rich. The way the Middle and Upper class viewed the Lower class was a form of punishment. Most of the time they acted like they did not exist, and they believed they deserved to live the way they did. On the other hand, it was very important to the Middle class. Since they often socialized with the Upper class, while they looked down on them as common people, showing they knew how to be proper was a big deal. They also attended many social events such as dances, dinners, and even to tea. These were the times that they needed to show extravagant etiquette to even socialize with the Upper class, and occasionally do small work for them. Amy Killhan wrote, “Sometimes the ‘uppers’ and the ‘middlers’ would mingle. If the proper introductions could be managed, it was possible for a tradesman to receive banking from a prominent ‘upper’. With a successful business deal, both parties could increase their wealth, and for the ‘middler’ their station in life (1).” For the Upper class etiquette was just another part of their life (Pamala). They were taught it from the day they were born with their clothing choices, eating, talking, and the polite way one introduced them. Not showing proper etiquette was a very shameful thing to you and your family, and could even bring one down in social classification. Society viewed you immensely on how one presented themselves. It was an obvious separation between social orders, and could either bring pride or shame to a family. Etiquette in social situations was an immense deal. It was a families way to boast that they had the most money, and had ‘properly behaved’ children or spouses. In each social event there was certain etiquette that went along with it. For example, if a couple attended a formal dinner party, they would have many rules to adhere to. They would need to watch how they ate, how they introduced themselves, their utensil placement, proper eating habits, accepting/declining, posture, evening attire, and even their hand placement. For dancing it was even more intensely strict. They had procedures for how one could dance, how high their dress/suit could go, and how they would introduce themselves to one another. Dances were highly important in society. It was the first era where they became a prominent, constant event. They usually were hosted by Upper class charities, churches, or private events. If someone from the Middle class was invited to one of these exclusive events, it usually meant they were in a highly respected business or were known for a professional achievement (Pamala). The afternoon tea was much more casual. Usually while the husbands were at work, and the children were at school, the wives would meet up after the housework was done. They would sometimes discuss literature, the recent theater production, and clothing. Etiquette at these events were important, but not as mandatory because they were more casual & lenient. During the Victorian Era gender based etiquette became very prominent as well. Women were very limited in what they could do, and how they addressed themselves. Miriam Eunice of Network Solutions wrote “Etiquette for women was just as important as the house they lived in, how much money they had, and even their daily necessities. (45)” It was especially important how they presented themselves physically. They were expected to dress nicely, appropriate for their age, and the occasion, but also to appear modest. Showing skin was considered completely vulgar and inappropriate. Women were also expected to only speak when asked, or when deemed appropriate. Even though men were taught to please them, help them, and respect them, a woman couldn’t say no to a father or male ranking above her. Males were supposed to provide for the family, and always appeal to the father and wife. Children didn’t have any freedom in the Victorian Era. For the Upper class it was common the child wouldn’t spend much time with their parents. They would often be raised by a respected nanny or maid. Children were taught to exceed in school and to not speak unless spoken too. They were not allowed to ask questions or ask for material items. If they were to disobey or embarrass their family in public, it wasn’t rare to be severely punished. Comparing the twenty first century & the nineteenth century, they’re very y similar. Our society bases many of our basics of etiquette off of theirs. Our basics include modesty, respect, dressing nicely, and public appearance. Many good manners are universal, and are just a basis for people to tolerate each other. If we continued to use many of the formal manners from the Victorian Era, society would be a lot more tolerable & respectable. In conclusion, our society has gathered many basic concepts of etiquette from the Victorian Era. From how we address ourselves, proper etiquette, grooming, and many more. It is very apparent that how you presented one’s self determined your social standing and your placement in society.