The Victorian Era ranged from around 1832- 1900. Queen Victoria became the Queen of England at the age of 18 and ruled for over 64 years consecutively. Due to this many believe that she gave England the leadership and stability that transformed their nation forever. During Queen Victoria’s reign there was known to be a certain type of behavior that was needed to obtain in order to withhold the reputation England was working to portray throughout the world. During her reign, Victoria worked endlessly to expand her empire and was extremely successful taking over large nations such as Western Canada, South East Asia, and a large portion of Africa. The Victorian Era was known to be strictly based off of three major assets that helped keep everyone and everything in order (Gender, Class, and Race). Through the very strict rules and ways of living, the way humans interacted with one another with another was based on their social class. The three social classes consisted of the upper class (those who were born into money), the middle class (those who were doctors and lawyers, financially stable), and the lower class (those who worked on a day to day basis). The ranks of your financial status could often be determined by the clothing worn. All folks were known to dress conservatively meaning that women could not even show their ankles, as well as men often wearing long suit jackets and long pants. The difference within the appearance and fabric of the clothing.
One major aspect that took place during the Victorian Era was Gender. Women and Men were known to have separate jobs in society. “Women inhabited a separate, private sphere, one suitable for the so-called inherent qualities of femininity: emotion, passivity, submission, dependence, and selflessness, all derived, it was claimed insistently, from women’s sexual and reproductive organization.” (Gender Roles of Victorian Era for Men and Women). Women would have to obtain the household due to their nurturing and sensitive characteristics. This was believed; women would not have made it in a man’s society due to their sensitivity, often thought that they would have failed at their jobs and become an embarrassment. The highest withholding job a woman was able to abide was one of a teacher. Women did not have the freedom to explore their horizons and discover their strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, men were known to be mean, strong, and tough, making them qualified to make it out in a very cruel and vindictive world. Men were able to explore different fields of interests until they discovered what they were good at. The image of women was known to be the glue that kept the house from falling apart, meaning that although a woman was working within her household throughout the day, she was not exempt from looking her best. Women would also be asked to blend with the many other women in their society, meaning they would dress the same, wear there hair the same, and not overcome the norm. Charlotte Bronte wrote a novel titled Jane Eyre in which she discusses very often the appearance of women as well as what was appropriate to society and what was not. “Julia Severn, ma’am! And why has she, or any other, curled hair? Why, in defiance of every precept and principle of this house, does she conform to the world so openly—here in an evangelical, charitable establishment—as to wear her hair one mass of curls?” In this passage, there was a sense of mortification when Mrs. Temple discovered that a child’s hair could naturally curl without a way of taming the curls. Her response to this was “I have again and again intimated that I desire the hair to be arranged closely, modestly, plainly. Miss Temple, that girl’s hair must be cut off entirely […].” Their way of coping with something that was outside the norm, something that not everyone could do so naturally, was to dismay is and entirely get rid of such a catastrophic appearance.
Throughout the book, there is a very strong sense of women slowly taking over and making their voices heard. Jane Eyre was published during the Victorian Era (1847-1901) and although this was a time of growth for women and their education, there remained a lack of respect as well as abiding by certain rules put in place. As seen in the image titled A Girls Complexion. We see an image of five girls who appear to be sitting alongside a deck, looking into the water as they smile. Written on this image is “… is not injured by sun or wind. It may be burned or tanned, but such conditions quickly yield to the right treatment, and the delicate skin is restored to its soft, clear, pink and white loveliness.” When interpreting this quote, what appears relatively clear is that they are trying to paint a vivid picture that; no matter how many times you knock us down, no matter the hurtful and semi-permanent words and scars you place within one’s heart and soul, every woman is capable of healing, restoring herself, and standing up stronger and more lively and beautiful than ever before. Women are a force of nature that can be wrecked with, but when done so there will be consequences for the actions taken place. One thing I noticed was the image is of young girls who appear to be starring at the water smiling, my interpretation of this is pure innocence. They appear to be doing what they were taught from the time of birth. As they sit up straight, well dressed, and appearance of perfection… they demonstrate exactly what was expected of a woman, to sit still and look pretty. I feel almost as if, had this image been of a man or young boys, they would be off studying or dressed for a court of office appearing serious and ready to tackle on a big work assignment.
In Jane Eyre, we are introduced to a young child who was sent off to live with her Aunt and three cousins who treated her unkindly. Jane was given the opportunity to attend a school in which many poor children attended with no the best of education. Jane and her friend Helen worked together to create a better and happier life together, but after Helen’s death, Jane was lost again. Striving to succeed Jane graduates and becomes a teacher for two years before being offered a position as a governess. It is here where she falls for the very handsome Mr. Rochester but as seen later on was already married to a mad woman named Bertha. After forgiveness and many years apart from Mr. Rochester, Jane returns to his home where she realizes its destruction learning of Bertha setting fire to the Rochester Home and jumping to her death. Jane finds Mr. Rochester blind and full of regret and offers to marry her once more. Jane accepts having a son ten years later.
Men, on the other hand, were thought to be the warriors of the world. The ones who rode into battle ready to fight and protect their nation, for no one cared more for England than those who were ready to die for it. The Soldier written by Rupert Brooke tells the story of a brave soldier who marches his way into battle, fearing the unknown but brave enough to die for his country. “If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.” My interpretation of this very powerful opening stanza is simply; if he were to die in a foreign country wherever he is buried, wherever his blood mixes with the soil of a foreign land, his blood, his body is displaying England. His bones will stand for England. That country has a piece of England. Men were known to be the ones who would protect their families from any harm that would come there way. Many times, money came into play when deciding who would fight for England. Being that rich and wealthy men could not afford to lose their lives, it was often found that commoners, people of the lower class would have to fight for their country in order to withstand its reputation.
Men were known to spend countless days, weeks, and months away from their families and homes in order to provide for their family. Working endless hours to be able to provide for the family was one of the major components that went into being a male during the Victorian Era. “According to Susan Kent, men possessed the capacity for reason, action, aggression, independence, and self-interest [thus belonging to the public sphere].” (Gender Roles of Victorian Era for Men and Women)
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Ground crewmen from the Italian bomber squadrons on the Channel coast prepare for a mission against England, which has suffered devastating attacks in the past weeks against cities producing vital war materials.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1940. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/ae7bb9f5-450a-5a5d-e040-e00a1806317f
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “A Girl’S Complexion.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1914. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-f1ed-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “Queen Victoria.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1931. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/45003c00-6dce-0132-2fff-58d385a7bbd0
Joshi, Vaijayanti. “Queen Victoria.” NYPL Digital Collections, 2017, digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/45003c00-6dce-0132-2fff-58d385a7bbd0.
Rollason, Jane, and Charlotte Brontë. Jane Eyre. Richmond, 2012.