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Reflect Social Changes in Victorian Poetry

Autor:   •  March 31, 2014  •  Essay  •  1,312 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,423 Views

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In the Victorian Era, poetry diversified in its form and context. Those changes are the reflection of variations of the period. During the Victorian period, many positive changes occurred rapidly, for instance, The Great Exhibition showed enormously developed science technologies, and among them the invention of the steam engine provoked industrial development in unbelievable scale and speed. In addition, the growth of the middle class which began along the industrial development also made the system of the society more democratic. As Dr. Thomas Arnold claimed, “We have been living, as it were, the life of three hundred years in thirty” during the early developing stages of England’s industrialization. Reflecting this social atmosphere, there was a sudden variation in poetry. The two young poets, Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning wrote poems such as St. Simeon Stylites, Johannes Agricola in Meditation, and Porphyria's Lover which showed significant difference from romantic poems in form by using dramatic monologue.

However, rapid social changes brought not only positive but also negative results; the rapid speed of the turn made people became tired of aggressive progression, people started to feel sorry about what they lost, the growth of middle class caused class division and conflict, and alterations in the role of men caused men to experience consciousness of crisis . It seems that the whole changes were a double-edged sword. At first, people may praise these progressions. However the more time passed, the more side effects people found. The anxieties about the side effects started to be reflected in poetry. Among these anxieties, Alfred Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’ and Robert Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess’ shows identity crisis of men.

The Victorian Period showed rapid changes in the social structure of the English people. This alteration in the social structure seems to be represented by a new form of poetry, dramatic monologue. With the development of machinery, mass production became a reality; so did mass population. The economic progress and expansion of general education stimulated the growth of middle class. The growth of middle class enabled social structure to be democratic with some events such as revolutions of 1848 in Continental Europe. The new form of poetry that Tennyson and Browning tried in their poems reflects that democratized society. The dramatic monologue usually leaves room for various interpretations by hiding the poet and showing fictional characters. This can be possible only when the poets believe the reading comprehension of audiences. If poets failed to trust reader’s faculty of reading, they would easily take a prophetic attitude toward the readers and try to transmit what they feel and realize one-sidedly like romantic poets usually did. According to ‘Preface to Lyrical Ballads’ of William Wordsworth, “The poet is a man, it is true, endued with more lively sensibility,


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