This climactic moment of self-realization and of landscape blending with plot immediately brings to mindthe literary technique of word-painting. Suggestive of pathetic fallacy, this passage goes beyond it to become utterly cinematic. The vivid imagery evoked by this passage grabs a reader so that he too feels “tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea." Pip, at the end of Great Expectations, expriences a similar moment of emotional discovery and triumph that becomes intertwined with the natural world around him:

But it was only the pleasanter to turn to Biddy and Joe, whose great forbearance shone more brightly than before, if that could be, contrasted with this brazen pretender. I went towards them slowly, for my limbs were weak, but with a sense of increasing relief as I drew nearer to them, and a sense of leaving arrogance and untruthfulness further and further behind.

The June weather was delicious. The sky was blue, the larks were soaring high over the green corn, I thought all that countryside more beautiful and peaceful by far than I had ever known it to be yet. Many pleasant pictures of the life that I would lead there, and of the change for the better that would come over my character when I had a guiding spirit at my side whose simple faith and clear home-wisdom I had proved, beguiled my way. They awakened a tender emotion in me, for my heart was softened by my return, and such a change had come to pass that I felt like one who was toiling home barefoot from distant travel, and whose wanderings had lasted many years. [444]

Aside from presenting the theme that self-knowledge can lend an individual a novel outlook on his life and the world, these two passages distinctly celebrate Nature. In contrast to the dark insides of Gateshead Manor or Satis House, and to the filthy, wet streets and alleys of London, the natural world overflows with freshness and vibrance, light and vitality. Both authors depict the outdoors as the setting in which characters can free themselves, can see things more clearly and can feel most alive.

This opposition between country and city living relates directly to nineteenth-century England. During the lifetime of these writers, one tenth of England's entire population was concentrated in London. Socially stratified by income, London forced its urban poor into crowded and filthy slums. In eighteen-hundred and fifty-four, Hawthorne recorded an entry in his notebook that poignantly illustrates the extremity of the city's problems:

The following is an inscription on the inner margin of a curious old box: ŒFrom Birkenhead to Hillbree/A squirrel might jump from tree to tree.' I do not know where Hillbree is, but all round Birkenhead a squirrel would scarcely find a single tree to climb upon. All is pavement and brick buildings now.

A few years later, in eighteen-hundred and sixty, Ruskin sadly expressed, “That great foul city of London, rattling, growling, smoking, stinking, ghastly heap of fermenting brickwork, pouring out poison at every pore." (DC, “A Brief History of London", Victorian Web) T.S. Eliot would follow in nineteen-hundred and twenty-two with “The Wasteland". Unless you enoyed money and/or power, London resembled a nightmare, yet for many there was no where else to go; one could not find work outside of the city. Seemingly crucial to Jane and Pip's happiness at the end of the novels, is that they have the option to escape the city.


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations Jane Eyre

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