1. The basic problems raised by English realists of the 19th century in their works.
2. Charles Dickens – his life and work. His best novels.
3. Problems of childhood and education in his novels.
4. Charles Dickens and America.
5. Other important novels by Charles Dickens.
6. William Thackeray – his life and work.
7. Snobbism according to Thackeray. 'Vanity Fair'.
The basic problems raised by English realists of the 19th century in their works
Victoria became queen of Great Britain in 1837. Her reign, the longest in English history, lasted until 1901. This period is called Victorian Age.
The Victorian Age was characterized by sharp contradictions. In many ways it was an age of progress. The Victorian era marks the climax of England's rise to economic and military supremacy. Nineteenth-century England became the first modern, industrialized nation. It ruled the most widespread empire in world history, embracing all of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, and many smaller countries in Asia, and the Caribbean. But internally England was not stable. There was too much poverty, too much injustice and fierce exploitation of man by man.
The workers fought for their rights. Their political demands were ex-pressed in the People's Charter in 1833. The Chartist movement was a revolutionary movement of the English workers, which lasted till 1848. The Chartists introduced their own literature. The Chartist writers tried their hand at different genres. They wrote articles, short stories, songs, epigrams, poems. Chartists (for example Ernest Jones 'The Song of the Lower Classes'; Thomas Hood 'The Song of the Shirt') described the struggle of the workers for their rights, they showed the ruthless exploitation and the miserable fate of the poor.
The ideas of Chartism attracted the attention of many progressive-minded people of the time. Many prominent writers became aware of the social injustice around them and tried to picture them in their works. The greatest novelists of the age were Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot.
These writers used the novel as a tool to protest against the evils in contemporary
social and economic life and to picture the world in a realistic way. They expressed deep sympathy for the working people; described the unbearable conditions of their life and work. Criticism in their works was very strong, so some scholars called them Critical Realists, and the trend to which they belonged — Critical Realism. 'Hard Times' by Charles Dickens and 'Mary Barton' by Elizabeth Gaskell are the bright examples of that literature, in which the Chartist movement is described. The contribution of the writers belonging to the trend of realism in world literature is enormous. They created a broad picture of social life, exposed and attacked the vices of the contemporary society, sided with the common people in their passionate protest against unbearable exploitation, and expressed their hopes for a better future.
As for the poetry of that time, English and American critics consider Alfred Tennyson, and Robert Browning to be the two great pillars on which Victorian poetry rested. Unlike the poetry of the Romantic Age, their poetry demonstrated the conservatism, optimism, and self-assurance that marked the poetry of the Victorian age.