Role of the Victorian Society in the French lieutenant's woman by John Fowles

Essay by angel4eva May 2004

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In this novel, Fowles is interested in the genre of the nineteenth-century romantic or gothic novel and

successfully recreates typical characters, situations and even dialogue. Yet his perspective is that of the

twentieth century as can be noted in the authorial intrusions and opening quotations drawn from the works of

Victorian writers whose observations were uniquely different from the assumptions that most Victorians held

about their world. In this way, he attempts to critique those values that Victorians most heralded.

Until today, the Victorian Age was seen to be a Golden Age where Reason and Rationality were proclaimed as

dogma and faith. People were beginning to question the claims that religion made about the existence of God

and the beginning of man. Anything that could not be proven through experimentation and science was

immediately treated with suspicion. With Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species (1859) the biblical myth of

Adam and Eve and the origins of man were shattered.

Darwin's work created quite an uproar as it succeeded it

in shattering the Victorian people's unquestioning religious faith.

The Victorian society imposed a great deal of repressive conventions and norms on its people, especially women

and the working class. Victorian women were socially conditioned to believe that their rightful place was at

home with their husbands and children. A Victorian woman was expected to accept the patriarchal norm

unhesitatingly. Her duty was to her husband and children. Only if she toed this social line would she be deemed

a proper young Victorian lady. The institution of marriage was often a contract agreement. Money often

married into a titled family as in Charles and Ernestina's case, thereby reinforcing the dominant society's power.

Money and nobility were often the main criteria for a Victorian marriage.

The practice of prostitution was a topic that...