This is the Part I of the author's "The Endings of Victorian and Modern Works: Domesticity Preserved, the Family Resurrected, Domesticity Destroyed, the Family Denigrated."

decorated initial 'T'he endings of novels are perhaps their most crucial points, when both themes and characters diverge or converge, when expectations are fulfilled or crushed, when the novel comes together to leave no questions or to create new ones. The endings of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, Charles Dickens Great Expectations and Graham Swift'sWaterland are all superb. Jane Eyre and Great Expectations served as the inspirations for Wide Sargasso Sea and Waterland, respectively, and within each pair, the endings of the modern texts bear more similarities to each other than they do to their Victorian counterparts. Jane Eyre and Great Expectations end on more hopeful and exuberant literary notes than their modern day rewritings: in the two Victorian endings, love is confirmed, miracles are worked, dreams are fulfilled, children are born and new familial bonds are established. Further, both Brontë and Dickens place emphasis on the human capacity to change, as both authors' characters mature morally and spiritually by the novels' endings. The modern re-workings of these texts are not so finitely optimistic. Both Wide Sargasso Sea and Waterland end on unique notes of despair: madness, death, hate and suicide come to clearly define these modern endings. Any hope of plesant domesticity is destroyed, as couples are separated by hate or death, as mothers and children perish and in so doing destroy the families of which they are a part. Ultimately, the Victorian texts come to frame and prize traditional the promise of traditional domesticity, while the modern texts focus on the undoing and ultimate impossibility and destructiveness of family and home.

The Endings of Victorian and Modern Works


Victorian Overview Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre Discussion questions for Jane Eyre

Last updated 20 May 2004