British Short Fiction in the Early Nineteenth Century: The Rise of the Tale

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Yet throughout the novel, she asserts an intellectual and moral independence that reflects a Wollstoncraftian conception of gender politics. By , almost everyone in the middle classes and above could read, and literacy rates for the rest of the population rose steadily thereafter. In part, the rise of the novel was spurred on by new forms of printing and marketing, which made books less expensive and expanded their readership. Smaller format books—octavos and duodecimos, as opposed to quartos—were more portable, and therefore easier to consume.

Similarly, novels became more readily accessible through the expansion of various modes of access, including circulating and subscription libraries as well as periodicals, which made literature affordable in a time when books were often prohibitively expensive. Nevertheless, novels of the kind Austen published would have been an unaffordable luxury for a great deal of the population. This was in part because of a desire to limit access to information for the lower classes in response to revolution in France and upheaval at home.

Though the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries marked an explosion in novel reading and the production of the novels themselves, the widely affordable novel would not become ubiquitous until the middle of the nineteenth century. The realist novel, defined by its putatively objective narrator, psychologically developed characters, and minute description of the realities of domestic life, was in part inaugurated by Austen in Pride and Prejudice, and would come to dominate the literary scene in England throughout the rest of the nineteenth century.

The Periodical Market

The rise of the novel has historically been linked to the rise of the middle class in England from the eighteenth century onwards, because this expanding social class and middle class women in particular had both the income and the leisure time available to consume them. Claudia L. Columbia College Search Enter a keyword Search. In Of Mice and Men, this purely objective approach is embodied in the structure of the text by its being constructed like a stage play.

It consists in the description of settings - which pose the social context and the atmosphere, of actions, of dialogues on the vernacular. The narrator does not intervene in the story; he is a mere spectator or witness, using the techniques of external focalisation, or zero focalisation. Another naturalistic theme is the parallel between men and animals, first seen in the title. The mercy killing of Candy's dog parallels that of Lenny in the end.

The men are little more than animals: the ranch society is like a pack of dogs or wolves, in which only the dominant male has a right to a female, and where everyone intents on defending his territory even Crooks, the black man, transforms his exclusion into a desire for privacy. Lenny is innocent but dangerous, hence animal-like; his love of soft things is the way in which desire and sexuality find their way to a tragic end. Finally, nature is seen under a dual aspect. In the opening and closing scenes, it is indifferent to man, in true Darwinian fashion.

Introduction to The Nineteenth-Century English Novel

Yet it can also be motherly, as in the workers' dream of a farm. It is then edenic, in harmony with man, as in the Jeffersonian Frontier. It is an illusion, yet dreams are powerful too : they can influence reality, as they influenced the lives of these characters.

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It is perhaps in the humanitarian undertone of the book and in this complex attitude to men's dreams that Steinbeck goes beyond a purely naturalistic approach. Due to the tradition of realism that had pervaded English literature since the end of the 18th century, a tradition that did not deny the claims of the imagination, the naturist movement had less audience than in France and the USA. Yet the increasing pessimism of the late Victorian era, fuelled by the moral crisis following Darwinism and the rise in social problems, made naturalism a strong influence on major writers such as Thomas Hardy in Tess of the D'Ubervilles , Jude the Obscure or Joseph Conrad in Heart of Darkness , and Lord Jim Hardy and Conrad shared with the naturalists a sense of tragedy, a belief in the uselessness of human free will, and a conviction that savagery lurked just beneath the veneer of civilisation.

Yet their style was highly literary and symbolic, and they expressed doubt about the possibility of ever reaching the truth - as opposed to the early naturalists' belief in the infallibility of science. The end of Heart of Darkness , a violent denunciation of European colonialism in Africa and a pamphlet about the relativity of the notions of civilisation and savagery, ends on these mysterious words: "The horror, the horror!

These aesthetic and epistemological characteristics identify Hardy and Conrad with the naturalistic school perhaps less as they make them forerunners of Modernism. Realism and Naturalism are based on the premises that reality can be known science as total knowledge and can be represented objectively transparency of the medium. Hence its closeness to the social sciences and psychology realism and to biology naturalism. These movements aimed at representing society as it is, often with a critical intention Dickens, Hardy, Conrad.

The biggest theoretical problems confronting realism were those of the definition of "reality", and of the possibility of "objectivity". An artist can never be completely "objective" and transcribe "reality" as it is : even Zola's motto "A work of a art is a corner of nature seen through a temperament" reintroduces subjectivity.

A temperament is the artist's subjectivity, expressed in a choice of subject matter and a choice of treatment. Why choose only the middle classes or the poor? Exceptional people or the aristocracy are also a part of reality.

The 19th century

Happy-endings can be as true to life as naturalistic tragedies. Art necessarily implies a "point of view", as illustrated in Henry James's Portrait of a Lady It is the story of a young American woman, Isabel Archer, who is both the protagonist and the "centre of consciousness" of the novel. Everything is seen through her subjectivity; even the narrator becomes less and less omniscient as the book develops. This elicits doubts about the possibility of absolute knowledge, as corroborated by the "impressionistic" style and the open ending, which keeps several possible conclusions available to the reader's imagination.

The novel stands between Realism and Modernism, and announces the "stream of consciousness" technique. Another reaction against the strictures of Realism was to be found in the movement called Aestheticism, whose most famous practitioner was Oscar Wilde A famous dandy, Wilde was very popular among the Victorian higher classes, yet this open homosexuality brought about a trial and prison sentence, and the end of his career. His works, celebrated for their incisive wit and many paradoxes expose the arbitrariness of conventional wisdom and morality.

Plays like The Importance of Being Earnest are a sharp critique of Victorian morality and hypocrisy, satire under the veil of comedy. His only fantastic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray betrays the influence of aestheticism Dorian Gray is a dandy like Wilde himself , establishes the independence of art from morality, and uses the fantastic as a means of contesting a "realistic" conception of life and art. The latter is a parody of Victorian moralistic stories, often aimed at the education of young gentlemen.

It is centre on the paradox of a moral crime, or a murder committed out of a sense of duty. Being told by a cheiromantist that he will commit a crime, Savile decides to kill before marrying, for fear of bringing dishonour on his bride. He ends up killing the cheiromantist, and lives happily ever after. The story is a satire on the fashionable superstitions of the time : the fortune-teller reveals to be a fake, and his prediction a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is also an indictment of the confusion between morality and upper-class selfishness and conventions.

As a crime without punishment, it is the opposite of a moral tale, even though it masquerades as one. The story is not realistic since it does not obey the laws of verisimilitude, and since its comic tone contrasts with the seriousness of most realistic works, yet it does have an indirect social relevance.

It follows the structure of the fairy tale, in which a pure young girls saves the damned soul. But its main impetus is a comparison between Britain and America, or two visions of the world. One is traditional and superstitious; the other is positivistic and pragmatic: the Americans give the ghost oil to lubricate his noisy chains, the kids play tricks on him and lead him to despair. Even in his comedies and parodies, Wilde's writings were influenced by the aestheticist philosophy of men like Pater, who associated realism with a bourgeois outlook capitalistic, rational, morally conventional , and pictured the reality of refined life as that of the sensations and the imagination.

Icefields, snow white on very dark blue water as far as the eye can reach.

The Ice Balloon

There was, in reality, very little to be found at the Pole by way of triumph or material gain. But one could be exhilarated; one could be moved. Conan Doyle was. To the end of his days, he would sound a rhapsodic note when recalling his time on the Hope, crediting it with everything from launching his literary career to sustaining his lifelong good health. Yet polar travel was more often dangerous than salubrious—and, on the evidence of his journal, Conan Doyle at sea was not quite so sanguine as Conan Doyle on land.

Nothing to do and we did it. His crewmates jokingly nicknamed him the Great Northern Diver. The hazards Conan Doyle faced were the hallmarks of the region. As regards the water, you could wash overboard and drown, fall off a floe and drown, get dragged into the ocean by a kink in the hurtling line of a harpoon and drown. As for the ice, you could freeze to death on it, starve to death on it, get stranded on it, get lost on it, get frostbite on it, or float away on it.

William Parry and twelve of his men once walked northward over ice for thirty-five days, hauling eight hundred pounds of gear, only to discover that the ice itself had been drifting south, nullifying their gains. Of all the bad things that transpired at the poles, however, what sailors most feared was getting trapped in the ice, partly because it happened so often. Sometimes an icebound ship thawed out unharmed, leaving its crew merely thinner, colder, and crazier come springtime.

This was the reality of polar travel: more ordinary in its awfulness than the gothic horrors conjured up by novelists; more wretched, desperate, and deadly than the stories circulated by the British Admiralty and its publicity machine. Tragically, the novelists were right that much of the death toll was brought about by hubris.

Everywhere else in the former British Empire, English chauvinism led to the death of untold numbers of native people. In the Arctic, English chauvinism led to the death of untold numbers of Englishmen. Moreover, and contrary to the claims of the day, many of those men died in vain. Most expeditions yielded little in the way of scientific discovery or economic worth, and the great age of polar exploration to which they contributed did not end, as promised, in triumph and glory.

Indeed, it can scarcely be said to have ended at all. It simply attenuated in both faith and effort until, by the time its original goals were achieved, they had become both trivial and tarnished. Of all the fictions told about the Arctic, these are among the least plausible.

To reach the Pole in the time Peary said he had done so, he would have had to average thirty-eight miles a day, or more than three times faster than the highest proven average ever achieved—and that was by snowmobile. Cook would have needed to average a faintly less unreasonable seventeen miles a day, but the rest of the evidence against him is damning. Denali, he failed to record celestial navigations for eighty-eight days of his trip, and he later paid someone to fake the missing data.

The first person to actually reach the North Pole over land was Ralph Plaisted, an insurance agent from Duluth, who arrived on April 20, Fifteen months later, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. It likely arose from the fact that compass readings grow wildly erratic near the poles. As for Hyperborea, its epistemological status has proved far more equivocal.

The Development of the British Short Story | TSS Publishing

No tropical paradise has ever flourished at the far end of the world; on the contrary, from long before Pytheas to well after Franklin, some four and a half million square miles of ice spread outward in all directions from the Pole. Around the time that the age of polar exploration ended, however, human-caused atmospheric changes began steadily raising the temperature of the earth. Since then, the chilly Arctic has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the planet, owing to a vicious cycle.

Ice, being pale, reflects heat away from itself; the ocean, being dark, absorbs it. As more ice melts, more ocean is exposed.


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As more ocean is exposed, it absorbs more heat, and the ice in it melts faster. For the once enormous icescape ringing the North Pole, the results have been dramatic. Since , sea ice in the Arctic has declined thirteen per cent each decade.

The Greenland Ice Sheet, which is more than a hundred and ten thousand years old and covers six hundred and sixty thousand square miles of the Far North, has shed two hundred billion tons of water a year since These changes have already made travel in the region notably easier; in , for the first time in history, a ship navigated through the Northwest Passage without help from an icebreaker.

Such travel will only get easier in the future. According to the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, by the end of our own century the summertime Arctic will be entirely ice-free. From time to time during the life of our planet, roughly once every half-million years, a curious thing occurs: its geomagnetic field reverses, such that the North Pole and the South Pole swap polarities.

Lately, our stories about the poles have done the same. The nineteenth century dreamed of an Arctic that was warm, accessible, and domesticated, but found a remote and frozen region indifferent to human life. Now, in the twenty-first century, as we approach an ice-free, accessible pole that has succumbed to our influence, we dream of a faraway frozen land unspoiled by humankind.

Introduction to Victorian Short Fiction

They are trapped in the floes of the Far North, and their courage is failing. Once the ice disappears, there will be nothing there. At that point, if we reach that point, the Pole will become once again what it was long ago: a place we know only through stories. Six decades before Arthur Conan Doyle killed the mad commander of the Pole-Star, another writer sent a captain sailing northward, full of hope and Hyperborean convictions: I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight.

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