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The day is not far off when the poor will rise against the rich' (Limping Lucy in The Moonstone) - How do ONE OR TWO novels represent the point of view of lower class characters?

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The day is not far off when the poor will rise against the rich' (Limping Lucy in The Moonstone). How do ONE OR TWO novels represent the point of view of lower class characters? 'Save England before it blows up, like the springing of a mine' (Hillis-Miller 1998, 31) is the warning embedded in Charles Dickens's Bleak House, though it seems far from the time in which the novel was born. The 1850's saw the staging of the Great Exhibition, an event through which England could boast, according to the Times, 'of that day when all ages and climes shall be gathered round the throne of the maker' (Schlicke, p48). Dickens was most certainly not to be found amongst this inertia of idol worship. For the novelist, the year was not one that should inspire celebration or self-approval. He sharply wondered when 'another Exhibition - for the great display of England's sins and negligence's...[would be presented to the]...steady contemplation of all eyes'. (Schlicke, p48). Such keen statements, within his literature and journalism has for many years shaped Dickens as a pioneer of the working-class movments, and almost voice box for their many grievances and sufferings. However it is debatable how far Dickens can actually be considered as this advocate of working class identity and point of view. At times his impassioned tone stops short of being anything but a sympathetic and pitying sentiment. By exploring the potential threat of the lower classes, the exclusion from the political and literary world, the bonds that exist between them and ultimately the patronising narrator one can build picture of the lower class point of view as one that was always interpreted by others, even ignored, and rarely given a chance to hold its own. One such movement that attempted to address this problem were the Chartists. Active in the 1830's and 40's, they attemtped to voice the political point of view of the lower orders. ...read more.


'Touchingly and awfully drawn together', during Gridley's last moments, 'he and little mad woman were side by side, and, as it were, alone. She sat on a chair holding his hand and [nobody] went close to them' (chapter 24). At times in the novel this caution not to approach them appears wise, particularly at other times they are capable of biting. Certainly the lower classes are portrayed as metaphorical animals, 'the blinded oxen, over goaded, over driven, never guided, run into wrong places are beaten at; and plunge, red-eyed, and foaming at stone walls...very like Jo and his order; very very like'. (BH 258) 'Jo and his order' are so treated like animals that their life can only consist of 'animal satisfaction'. The way is which they view and appreciate things is a result of the way that they have been treated. In a touching moment Jo and a dog stand listening to the music in the square that evokes much the same feelings within both of them. They are the two sides of one personality, and as the narrator warns, 'turn that dog's descendents wild, like Jo, and in a a very few years they will so degenerate that they will lose even their bark - but not their bite' (BH 259) This bite it seems is considered to have its origins from 'the north of England [from which Chesney Wold's parasite - Volumnia fears there is a general conspiracy] to obtain her rouge pot and pearl necklace'. (BH 457) Her pathetic concern might in some ways be justified as the lower orders in Bleak House can also move up the social ladder. The Ironmaster, who from a boy constructed 'steam engines out of saucepans' is also considered to be moving in that 'Wat Tyler direction', evoking the leader of the 1381 Peasant's Revolt. (BH 107). Sir Leicester Dedlock blatantly lives in constant fear of the so-called 'flood-gates opening' and allowing a repeat performance. ...read more.


(Price, p.139) Her hopeful intergration in society, however is not easily achieved for other local class characters. In many ways the social world of Bleak House is dissected so as to lay bare 'how civilisation and barbarism walked this boastful island together'. (BH, 180) One is made aware of how dangerous it is to ignore the point of view and ultimately the experiences of the lower classes. The upper crust of society are made to realise that their social inferiors are part of the same system for whom they are equally responsible. As Esther states, one should learn 'the art of adapting [their] mind to minds very differently situated, and [thus address] them from suitable points of view'. However, one may well ask whether the novel actually adheres to such good advice? Lower class opinions emerge in Bleak House as no more than a social tract, in which they are denied indivduality and merely become symbols (Hillis-Miller, p.69) for the 'social gangrene' that infects society (Oddie, 1972: 146). Their carefully controlled (and ultimately suppressed) characterisations become merely demonstrations against the stagnant and diseased nature of society. Thus whilst the novel on the one hand campaigns against their lack of intergration into society, it fails them on the other by only illustrating their social significance; whilst the only remedy seems to be to willfully accept like Esther and eventually Jo, or endure while the greater hands of charity play catch up. However, considered as one united point of view their social significance is not without its danger. By isolating their ability to express themselves, either through blinding them with extreme poverty, illiteracy, and incompetent do-gooders whose only achievement is to interpret the lower orders as mere lost sheep, rather than as equal human beings, has served to create a class of distrustful wounded 'animals' that have a 'Watt Tylerish' potential. Whilst the social remedy in the persona of Esther and Doctor Woodcourt ironically 'move on' from where they are really needed, (Brown, 1982: 83) one is left at the conclusion of Bleak House listening to the 'east wind' blowing wildly around Tom-All-Alones. ...read more.

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