Victorian Literature- Experience of Childhood

Topics: Victorian literature, Victorian era, Charles Dickens Pages: 4 (1231 words) Published: February 6, 2013
Examine how Victorian writers portray the experience of childhood. Victorian writers often explore the idea of childhood, with themes of persecution, education and religion being commonly prevalent. Specifically, the negative aspects of childhood seem to be explored in a manner in which writers use hyperbolic and satirical means to express their critique. The persecution of children seems a recurring theme in Victorian literature at which writers show their dismay, focusing on the oppression of children, often inflicted upon by adults. This is the case in ‘Jane Eyre’ where Bronte shows the reader Mrs Reed’s ill treatment of her niece, Jane, who is ordered to be taken ‘away to the red room and [locked] in there’ as a result of Mrs Reed’s ‘aversion’ towards Jane. It becomes clear that the young Jane has been completely secluded by her family fellows, and her isolation is what highlights her persecution. Bronte’s negative portrayal of Mrs Reed and her son John Reed is effective in creating sympathy for the ‘diffident’ Jane thus highlighting the poor treatment of Victorian children. Similarly, in ‘Bleak House’ we see Dickens describe the ‘shivering, little ‘prentice boy’ whose ‘toes and fingers’ seem ‘cruelly’ pinched on by the ‘fog’. The writer’s use of personification here really points out the punishing treatment towards children, and particularly the use of the word ‘cruelly’ creates a sympathetic tone, similar to Bronte’s tone in ‘Jane Eyre, the use of sympathy by both writers is what is effective in expressing their dismay. Poor standards imposed upon children is also another point many writers study, the persecution of children expands into schooling where children are deprived of decent food and instead are forced to eat ‘dirty’ ‘wasteful’ ‘rancid’ and ‘offensive’ food, left ‘craving with hunger’ as expressed in Gaskell’s ‘A biography: The Life of Charlotte Bronte’. Gaskell uses her language very effectively; by associating the children’s food with...
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