Decorative Initial I

n Through the Looking-Glass and Jane Eyre the concept of good manners comes under scrutiny. Lewis Carroll and Charlotte Bronëboth satirize this social convention as part of their social commentaries. Generally speaking, satire, "holds prevailing vices or follies up to ridicule: it employs humor and wit to criticize human institutions or humanity itself, in order that they might be remodeled or improved. Satire functions differently in these two works. All of Through the Looking-Glass satirizes social convention, and the royal family comes in for a particularly resounding parody. It is very appropriate that in Queen Victoria herself was quite unpopular at this time. "By 1870 her popularity was at its lowest ebb, (at the time the monarchy cost the nation £400,000 per annum, and many wondered whether the largely symbolic institution was worth the expense) but it increased steadily thereafter until her death." The queen's mechanical attitude towards curtseying emphasizes how empty and absurd this gesture is. Carroll parodies protocol; Alice observes her elders and learns the ropes of the game. Brontë, uses satire much more sparingly. For example, the use of the appellation "sir" in Jane Eyre progresses in usage from representing the standard, politeness of Jane's early discourse with Rochester to a much more ironic usage in the engagement scene. Rochester enjoins her to use his first name; yet Jane invokes the critical class differences which separate them by persisting in calling him sir.

Content last modified May 1994