英 国 文 学
English Literature
of Critical Realism
Lecture VIII. English Literature of
Critical Realism
I. Historical background
II. English Critical Realism
III. Literature
1. Charles Dickens
2. William Makepeace Thackeray
3. Mrs. Gaskell
4. George Eliot
5. Charlotte Brontë
6. Emily Brontë
7. Anne Brontë
8. Tennyson
9. Mr. and Mrs. Browning
10. Oscar Wilde
11. William Morris
12. Lewis Carroll
13. Thomas Hardy
14. William Wilkie Collins
15. Robert Louis Stevenson
16. Arthur Conan Doyle
17. Samuel Butler
18. Charles Robert Darwin
19. Anthony Trollope
I. Historical background
1. Monarch
 -- Queen Victoria ruled over England from
1837 to 1901, one of the most remarkable in the
development of the country. She became Queen
at the age of 18 in 1837 when her uncle, King
William IV, passed away. She ruled Britain 63
 -- In the history of England, the period has
generally been regarded as one of the most
remarkable in the rapid economic development
of the country with serious social problems.
 --England was the "workshop of the world".
Historical Background
2. Party and reform
 -- The arrangement of the old Whig and Tory
groups resulted in the modern Liberal and
Conservative parties.
 -- The awakened social conscience is the
predominant theme in Early Victorian literature.
 -- The first effective act regulating child labor in
factories was passed in 1833
Historical Background
3. Workhouse(济贫院)
 -- According to the Poor-law Amendment Act of
1834, the system of workhouses was applied to the
whole country. Full-time salaried civil servants
were employed in each workhouse. Although
these employees were attacked in Dickens’ and
other writers novels, the new policy was a change
in the right direction.
 -- The picture in Oliver Twist (1838) was typical
ones about workhouse in the years.
Historical Background
4. London Slums and Pestilence
 -- The crowded population, poor and polluted
environment resulted in the spread of cholera, a
pestilence. The pictures of the London slums in
Oliver Twist and Bleak House are realistic
 -- Pollution and the translation of Oliver Twist
Historical Background
5. Conflicts Between Capital and Labor
 -- The contradictions between labor and capital
resulted in Chartist Movement. All the important
events of the Chartist Movement, esp. the class
contradictions underlying these events, found their
expression in the novels of the critical realists like
Dickens, Charlotte Bronte and Mrs. Gaskell.
Historical Background
6. Chartist Movement
 -- England was developing into a rich, advanced
industrial country in the Victorian age, and this
was also an age full of sharpest contrast between
the rich and the poor. The severe depression,
widespread unemployment, exploitation of men,
women and child labor brought great miseries to
the poor people.
 --The workers started their independent struggle
and resulted in Chartist Movement in 1836.
Historical Background
7. The problems of women
 -- In this period, women were still regarded as
second-class citizens. Married women had no
property rights, not even any their own earnings.
They had no rights to custody of their own
children and were excluded from universities and
 -- The explosive growth of industry brought
hundreds of thousands of women into factory jobs.
 -- Women must do the cheap labor but very
heavy and hard jobs
Historical Background
-- The unbearable working conditions and
unemployment drove thousands of women into
 Poem by Alfred Tennyson
Man for the field and woman for the hearth;
Man for the sword and for the needle she;
Man with the head and woman with the heart;
Man to command and woman to obey.
Historical Background
-- However, some outstanding women appeared,
such as Florence Nightingale, the founder of
nursery, famous women writers Bronte sisters,
George Eliot, and Mrs. Gaskell.
 -- In the late period of Victorian Age, women
now were able to walk out of the home, to share
part of the responsibility of men and the family.
and, at the same time, were entering into social. A
feminist movement started, fighting for women's
equality and freedom, and for their educational
and employment opportunities.
II. English Critical Realism
 1. -- In mid and late 19th century, appeared a
new literary trend-- critical realism. The critical
realists described with much vividness and
artistic skill the chief traits of the English
society and criticized the capitalist system from
a democratic viewpoint. It found its expressions
in the form of novel. The greatest English
realist of the time was Charles Dickens.
-- Others were W.M. Thackeray, Bronte sisters,
Mrs Gaskell, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy.
 These critical realists exposed and criticized the
corrupted society mercilessly.
 -- The English critical realists not only gave a
satirical portrayal of the bourgeoisie and all the
ruling classes, but also showed profound
sympathy for the common people.
 -- But the critical realists did not find a way to
eradicate the social evils and they were unable to
find a good solution to the social contradictions.
-- The major contribution made by the 19th
century critical realists is their perfection of
the novel.
III. Great Novelists
–The major Victorian novelists are:
Charles Dickens
William Makepeace Thackeray
Charlotte Brontë
Emily Brontë
George Eliot
Thomas Hardy
George Eliot
Charles Dickens
1. Charles Dickens
A. Brief Introduction
-- Dickens is the greatest representative of
English critical realism.
-- (See the textbook)
B. Novel Technique
--Each monthly part has a minor climax.
-- the device of "tagging" his characters
e.g. Murdstone,
Points of View
– A spokesmen of the poor people
– It is his serious intention to expose and criticize
all the poverty, injustice, hypocrisy and
– He hates the state apparatus, especially the
Parliament, and yet he is convinced that the
state should intervene to control the rapacity of
landlords and capitalists and to raise the living
standards of the working class.
– He is interested in social reform. He is
certain that reform should work in the
direction of reducing aristocratic privilege.
– He wants improvement in the life of the
poor, but is afraid of a real revolution.
– A humanitarian who pours all his love and
sympathy for the poor, weak, innocent,
injured and neglected good people
3) Special Features
– A master story-teller
– Characterization
both types and individuals
mostly larger than life
best at child character portrayal
horrible and grotesque figures and
the broadly humorous or comical
– Writing from a child's point of view
– Humor and pathos
Dickens is a great humorist.
 He believes that life is itself a
mixture of joy and grief.
 He gives readers bright merriments
and dark gloom at the same time,
mingling tears and laughters as in
real life.
4) Major Works
- The Pickwick Papers (The Posthumous
Papers of the Pickwick Club (1836-7)
Oliver Twist (1837-1838)
David Copperfield (1849-50)
Bleak House (1852-53)
Hard Times (1854)
A Tale Of Two Cities (1859)
Great Expectation (1860-61)
David Copperfield (1849-50)
-- in the form of autobiography;
 --rich and colorful in vocabulary and
 -- personification, simile, metaphor;
 -- vivid description (inner mind);
 -- realistic
 -- Discuss Dickens's narrative techniques.
Bleak House (1852-53)
-- It attacks the law's delay and the selfperpetuating mass of futility it has become.
The novel exposes the abuses of the
English courts, and the plot is built around
the law-suit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce over
the inheritance of a family fortune, which
has dragged on for many generation.
Hard Times (1854)
-- Its tone is grim, its structure tightly knit,
its purpose serious; it remains an excellent
example of Dickens's capability as a serious
 "of all of Dickens's works it is the one that
has all the strength of his genius, together
with a strength no other of them can show--that of a completely serious work of art."
A Tale Of Two Cities (1859)
-- In this novel, Dickens takes the French
Revolution as the background of his novel,
and the "two cities" are Paris and London in
the time of that revolution.
 -- The theme is revolution, the idea “Where
there is oppression, there is revolution.”
Great Expectations (1860-61)
-- The story is about the development of
Pip. He learns from his bad fortune and gets
rid of his snobbishness. Because of the
unity of interest, centered on the chief
character, and the credible quality of its
romantic story, many critics have called it
the best of his novels.
Other Novels
1) Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39)
 2) The Old Curiosity Shop (1841)
 3) Barnaby Rudge (1841)
 4) American Notes (1842)
 5) Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-1844)
6) A Christmas Carol (1843)
 7) Donbey and Son (1846-48)
 8) Little Dorritt (1855-57)
 9) Our Mutual Friend (1864-65)
 10) The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870)
Features of Charles Dickens's
1) Dickens's novels offer a most complete and
realistic picture of the English bourgeois society
of his age. They reflect the protest of the people
against capitalist exploitation, and criticize the
vices of capitalist society.
 2) Dickens is a petty bourgeois intellectual. He
could not overstep the limits of his class. He
believed in the moral self-perfection of the wicked
propertied classes. He failed to see the
necessity of a bitter struggle of the oppressed
against their oppressors. There is a definite
tendency for a reconciliation of the
contradictions of society. That is why most of
his novels have happy endings.
 3) His novels tell much of the unhappy
experiences of his own childhood.
 4) Dickens is a great humorist and satirist. His
novels are full of humor and satire.
2. William Makepeace Thackeray
Points of View
-- Politically Thackeray was a radical,
advocating social reform and democracy.
-- In his opinion, the existing society was
corrupted as well as corrupting.
-- He took it as his duty to expose the vices of
his age, esp. those in the upper-middle class.
-- He regarded snobbery and the moneygrabbing as the chief vice in his society.
3) Major Works
– The Book of Snobs (1846-47)
– Vanity Fair (1847-8)
– Pendennis (1849-50)
– The History of Henry Esmond (1852)
– The Newcomes (1853-55)
5) Vanity Fair
-A Novel without a Hero
-- The plot is around the lives of Amelia Sedley
and Becky Sharp.William Dobbin, finally wins
Amelia, the woman he has always loved.
 -- Thackeray wrote to a friend in 1847. He set
himself up as a:
 ‘Satirical-Moralist' with ‘a vast multitude of
readers whom we not only amuse but teach'.
 Rebecca Sharp ≠ Joseph Sedley (Amelia’s brother)
↗ ↘ ≠ (lover of Lord Steyne)
 Pitt Crawley ---- Rawdon Crawley (Pitt’s son)
Amelia Sedley -- George Osborne (died in the battle)=
↘ (at last they got married)
 Captain William Dobbin
 The
-- The selection given below is taken from
Chapter 36 of the novel. Here it’s on Becky
Sharp’s adventure in Paris. There is a very
keen social satire in society, whether in
England or in France, and Thackeray tries
to indicate that such vices are too common
in the world.
– Themes
The world is shown as full of all kinds of
vanity, esp. snobbery, duplicity of socialclimbers, and the weakness of human
The realistic depiction, the ironic and
sarcastic tone and constant comment and
criticism of the author make it a
masterpiece of social criticism.
6) Characteristics of
Thackeray's Novels
(1) He is one of the greatest critical realists of the
19th century Europe. He paints life as he has seen
it. With his precise and thorough observation, rich
knowledge of social life and of the human heart,
the pictures in his novels are accurate and true to
 (2) Thackeray is a satirist. His satire is caustic
(scathing) and his humor subtle.
(3) Besides being a realist and satirist, Thackeray
is a moralist. His aim is to produce a moral
impression in all his novels.
4) Discussion
 (1) What are the themes of Vanity Fair?
 (2) What does the subtitle mean in the novel?
 (3) Make a comparison between Dickens's and
Thackeray's works.
Character Analysis
Rebecca Sharp
-- Rebecca is talented.
 -- physical charm with wit
 -- She is a merciless social climber. She wants to
gain wealth and position by any means. She
destroyed Rawdon and will destroy Joseph, but
Rebecca once acts unselfishly to help Dobbin and
Amelia. She serves as a direct contrast to Amelia.
Character Analysis
 --Amelia is gentle and virtuous, but too simplehearted and naïve to oppose the plots of the selfish
and calculating personages that surround her.
 ----industrious, obedient, sweet, and beloved
3.Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
3. Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
Mrs Gaskell(盖斯凯尔夫人)
Mrs Gaskell was brought up by her aunt.
After her marriage to a clergyman, William
Gaskell, Mrs Gaskell lived in Manchester.
They made a study of the conditions of the
workers in Manchester, and she gives a
vivid picture of the class conflicts at that
time in her novel Mary Barton.
Mrs. Gaskell is generally associated with
industrial Manchester by her readers, though only
two of her novels are actually set in the city. (in
lecture sheets)
Gaskell was one of the first English writers to
make the class struggle between the workers and
the capitalists the theme of a novel. (in lecture
She was Charlotte Bronte’s friend and the
first one to write a biography of Charlotte Bronte,
Life of Charlotte Bronte ( 1857).
4. George Eliot (1819-1880)
4. George Eliot (1819-1880)
A. Eliot’s life and position
 George Eliot is the most earnestly imperative and
the most probingly intelligent of the great midVictorian novelists. Her seriousness was readily
praised and acclaimed by the reviewers of her first
published works of fiction.
 (See textbook)
B. Her main works
Adam Bede《亚当·比德》1859
 The Mill on the Floss《弗洛斯河上的磨房》 1860
 Silas Marner《织工马南传》1861
 Middlemarch《米德尔马契》1871-2
C. Characteristics of Eliot's Novels
1) Her novels, for the most part, describe rural life,
deal with moral problems and contain psychological
studies of the characters.
 2) She has rich humor and keen observation, and her
characters are real men and women of her time. She
writes very faithfully about the rural artisans (工匠),
farmers, the country clergy, and other native people
and she fully realizes that the working people like
Adam Bede and Silas Marner are much better than the
landed aristocracy.
3) Her novels are very philosophical. The
philosophy she preached is idealistic. She
believes that all contradictions of social life
can be solved by converting mankind to the
religion of humanity.
 4) With her the transition from critical
realism to naturalism began in English
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