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Home » » What are the characteristics of the Victorian Novel?

First of all in the Victorian Age the dominating literary form was the novel. It was in fact easier to be read and understood by simple people, its plot was more interesting than any other literary forms, the main protagonists of the novel were the same people who read it so that they felt deeply involved in the adventure told, the writer and his readers shared the same opinions, values, and ideals because they belonged to the same middle class, the setting was mainly that of the same city where readers lived. In conclusion the novel was a kind of mirror which reflected society and where a self-identification of the readers was possible. Of course the middle class readers were the most avid consumers, particularly women: they had the money to buy or to borrow books. they had plenty of free time to dedicate to reading, but they also had enough privacy to read. The problem of privacy was in fact very important: poor or working people lived in narrow houses and more than a single family often shared the same flat or, at worst, the same room. So they didn't have the possibility to read because reading needed silence, tranquility, light. 

In order to improve the reading public, in this period they started to publish novels in instalments: every week few pages of the novel (or a complete chapter), were included in one of the periodicals issued. This kind of publication had an important advantage on the price of the novel but also on the writers: they could check the reaction of their public to the plot and, if parts of it were not appreciated, they could decide to change it in accordance with the taste of readers. This happened because, if not satisfied, the readers could stop buying the magazine determining the failure of the novel and of its writer. 

The novelists represented society as they saw it but, being aware of the problems created by industrialisation, (exploitation of women and children, terrible living conditions, etc.y they used their novels in order to put in evidence these evils and to stimulate people to find remedies to them. In this sense ‘didacticism' was the dominating aim of most of the novels of these years. As a consequence the narrator is generally omniscient: he operates a marked division between good and evil characters, he judges people and actions, he makes its stories finish with a wise distribution of ‘punishment for the evil characters, ‘retribution’ for the good ones. 

The plot of the novels was generally very long and complicated by many sub-plots: the writer also wanted to give a marked impression of reality so that he presented not only the adventures of the main characters, but also those of the secondary ones. . 


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