Victorian literature is found to have several distinct traits. One such trait is the big stride of fictional literature in the Victorian age. The popular literature of the age is found to be no more poetry, but fiction and the most endearing literary names are all great masters of English fiction Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope, Charles Reade, Kingsley, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and many more.
But this is not all. Victorian literature also marks the striking emergence of a number of women novelists, reputed and popular enough. Those women novelists occupy as much importance in the history of English literature as their male counterparts. In fact, in the making of the golden age in English fiction in Victorian literature, the Victorian women novelists are no less significant, and they have no mean role in the march of English fictions.
Alongside their male counterparts, the women are equally significant in making the golden age of Victorian fiction. The feminine fancy and passion for novel seem standard from reading to writing in that period. The high standard of Jane Austen is well cultivated in the novels of these authoresses, noted particularly for the rich contents of their novels.
Their novels exhibit a strong note of social realism. In the realm of fiction, these Victorian women novelists emerged as a check to the medievalism of the Romantic period. Novelists like the Brontes and George Eliot were acutely conscious of their contemporary society. The social history of the time in its manifold aspects is reflected in their novels. The interaction between the characters and their society with its bearing upon them forms the essential core of their novels.
Living in the York Shire moorland, Charlotte and Emily absorbed the silence of the lonely moors. Charlotte was the ace of the lonely, repressed womanhood. The tragedy of unloved woman in “Jane Eyre” or “Villette” is very touching indeed. For her, a woman is a social being like men with her passions and desires, which she has the right of her sex to express. She wrote of life from the woman’s point of view. An intense subjectivity, great impulsiveness and the note of revolt are the essences of all her novels.
Emily’s “Wuthering Heights”, in painting the sufferings of a woman, breathes the very spirits of the wild desolate moors, breathes the very spirits of the wild desolate moors. She painted the sufferings of an individual personality. A deeply moving tragedy of love is here presented in a setting of wild and awful, vast and mystic nature. It is a strange world, one of fervent pantheism and mystic spirituality. It is an unsurpassable work of art with much grace of lyric poetry.
The originality of the Brontes lies in the harmony, with which realism and lyricism are juxtaposed. Given new conceptions, their heroines are women of feeling and inner strength. However, their novels depict English life with considerable social value. Thus thy juxtaposed social and psychological realism.
In the novels of George Eliot, the note of realism was more psychological than social. She was the first to lay stress more upon characters than upon incidents. It was a step forward to modernity. Her novels reveal the inner struggle of a social and the motives, impulse and hereditary influences which govern human action. Most of Eliot’s, novels like “Adam Bede” and “The Mill on the Floss” derive their characters from the English country life among humbler classes. Her studies of English countrymen show great understanding and insight. In “The Mill on the Floss” the moral problem of human relationship is emphasized. “Middlemarch”, her best, shows her amplitude of situations, character portraits and humour at best. The tone in all her novels is one of moral earnestness. Yet it is often lightened by her humour.
Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels present an objective view of the real, material world around. “Mary Barton”, a ‘Labour novel’, is a penetrative analysis of the growing social unrest, as the product of industrialism. It is a great social novel in its human consideration of the exploitation of the workers. Her “Cranford”, however, proves to be her most original.