Victorian Novel Villians and Villianesses

In: English and Literature

Submitted By clarebear
Words 2789
Pages 12
Clare Whitehead.

Write about the ways in which three of the Victorian novels you have read make use of villains and / or villainesses in their plots.

The villains and villainesses in the following novels demonstrate the class struggle in society that existed in the Victorian era and that still exists today. The upper class who are described by Marx as ‘the bourgeois’ which (cited in Hamilton) he goes on to describe as; ‘the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labour’ (1991 p.57) have the power in society. The working class or what Marx refers to as ‘the proletariat’ which (cited in Hamilton) he goes on to describe as; ‘the class of modern wage labourers who having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling labour power in order to live’ (1991 p.57) are controlled by this power which often leaves them vulnerable to the rich.
Furthermore, the villains and villainesses appear to be used in order to demonstrate the ‘inequalities of the rich and the poor’ (Eagleton 1996 p.200). The wealth of the ‘bourgeois’ gives them access to many privileges and opportunities that the poor can never have access to.

In the first novel Jane Eyre (Bronte 1847) Mrs Reed highlights the selfish nature of the wealthy. She speaks of Jane as ‘such a burden to be left on my hands’ (1992 p.203) because she has no wealth of her own. Mrs Reed sees her as one of ‘social inferiority’ (Nunokawa cited in David 2001 p.145) who is of no use to her. Jane does not like Mrs Reed and she explains ‘well might I dislike Mrs Reed for it was her nature to wound me cruelly’ (1992 p.27). Arguably, this shows how ‘power is crystallized and submission bred’ (Eagleton 1996 p.7) as those with wealth use their power to prey on those less fortunate than themselves. Upon learning that Jane Eyre has a prosperous relative who wants to adopt…...

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