Victorian England

By: Morgan Smith


Charles Dickens' Excerpts

So how were the conditions in Victorian Era England? Charles Dickens attempts to answer this questions through his writing.

In Oliver Twist, Dickens introduces a poor orphaned boy that is dropped into the work force at age nine. Throughout this writing, Dickens explores the evil nature many individuals of the Victorian Age had towards the poor. The boys in this orphanage are almost starving. Oliver Twist is viewed as detestable because he asks for more food. The orphanage goes as far as to offer an award to anyone who will take Oliver off their hands. Oliver is both physically and mentally abused just because he is a poor orphan.

In Hard Times, Dickens explains a shift from emotional to extreme rational thinking. A student is taught to define a horse as a "quadraped. Gramnivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelveincisive." There is no mention of emotional ties to the animal, just pure facts. Satirically, Charles Dickens shows how facts have become the new obsession. The teacher tells the students to throw away their imagination and instead adopt reason. Emotional thinking, such as in the Romantic Era that proceeded the Victorian Era, has been disregarded.

In Bleak House, Charles Dickens shows how a family of poor people are greatly misunderstood by a self-assured charity worker named Mrs. Pardiggle. Mrs. Pardiggle prances into the messy poor house in her fancy clothing knocking over what little they do have. The women with the black eye (given by her drunkard husband) hides her face while the husband makes it clear that the charity woman is not welcome. The charity woman asks about the book she had left them. There is not fruitful discussion following this question seeing as no one in the family could read. She then sits down to lecture the family in religion even though the husband is clear in his hate for it. The charity woman shows no understanding about the lives of these people and shows no wish to get to know them better.

In these three excerpts, Charles Dickens explains the conditions in Victorian Era England. In Oliver Twist and Bleak house, he shows how poor people were in a very bad situation of being abused and misunderstood. In Hard Times, he shows the shift of thought from emotion to facts. This mixture of bad conditions and no emotion made it very hard for the poor people of this time period.

General Facts

The Victorian Era was a time of rapid growth and change.

It began with the reform bill passed in 1832 and ended in 1901 with the death of Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria was an odd but beloved character. She was very proper and powerful and married German prince, Prince Albert. After his death, Queen Victoria went into a long grieving state where she only wore black and expected all her followers to also.

Tinged with this sadness, the rapid growth in the Victorian Era scared some individuals and left other behind. The poor of these time grew even more desperate and abused.

The effects of the Industrial Revolution that ended in 1830 were still being felt. Major advances in medicine, science, and technology were ever-present.

Some major thinkers that contributed during this period were Marx, Darwin, and Freud.

The British Empire was also huge. It consisted of over 25% of the current world's population and area. It included Canada, India, New Zealand, Australia, and many other areas.

Typical Annual Wages

Aristocrat: 30,000 pounds

Merchants and Bankers: 10, 000 pounds

Middle-class: 300-800 pounds

Lower Middle Class: 150-300 pounds

Skilled Workers: 75-100 pounds

Laborers and Soldiers: 25 pounds

The difference in wages of the time were astounding and it is easy to see why there was such a huge gap between the upper class and the lower class.


"Victorian England: An Introduction." The University of Wisconsin. The Board of Regents at the University of Wisconsin, 2014. Web. 6 Nov. 2014. <>.

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