As Victorian age overflowswith the contradiction between moral values and materialistic views, it bringsan adverse effect on Victorian people Victorian literature. It can be easilyavowed that the most of the upper classcharacter of the Victorian novels judge the of other people around them withthe thread of wealth, money and property and familial or social status insteadof social or moral values and the lower or middle class characters are foundgood until they are pushed materialistic thought into their blood of how tomake money, how to learn artificial dress and manner codes of ostensiblegentility and how to grasp higher social status, love and happiness as Matthew Arnold said in his essay “Theincompatibles” “We are a commercial people…” 10 As a matter of fact, when theVictorian people become materialistic in thought and actions on the member ofself-named upper clans, the society finds them as immoral snobbish, revengefuland of course rootless. In the novels, Charles Dickens, Makepeace Thackeray,and Trollope explicate the conflict between materialistic ideas and moralvalues exposing the materialistic Victorian idea of a gentleman. In CharlesDickens novel Great Expectation, the protagonist Pip, a member of the lowerVictorian class, lives with his sister Mrs. Joe and brother-in-law Mr. Joe, ablacksmith in the profession, is innocent and morally good until starts keepingin touch with Mrs.
Havisham and Estella, a woman of materialistic thoughts andactions. At the very outset of the novel we observe that Mrs. Havisham andEstella start instigating Pip to be a gentleman by earning much money andwealth learning artificial manners and dress codes to get love of Estellabecause these characters like Victorian people believe that ‘wealth, money,property, respectable family’11 and learning Victorian aristocrat society’sself-made dress and manner codes are the ways of establishing a person as agentleman. Modesty, good manners, morality, and humanity are not in the matterof consideration in respect of this very issue. This is because, even thoughCompassion is proved to be corrupt, Magwitch regards him as a gentleman.
12Again, Estella who possesses gentility in her thoughts and behaviors accordingto Victorian social norms denies the fact that she is the daughter ofMagwitch.13 Even a materialist Pip is, at lost, able to establish himself asa so-called Victorian gentleman without moral or human values. For, pip stateshis condition when Magwitch goes to meet him: “For an hour or more, I remained toostunned to think; and it was not until began to think that I began fully to know howwrecked I was and how the ship in which I had sailed was gone to pieces….” (Chapter 39, Great Expectations)Again, “Miss Havisham’s intentions towards me,all mere dream; Estella not designed for me… but sharpest and deepest pain ofall- it was for the convict, guilty of I knew not what crimes and liable to betaken out of those rooms where I sat thinking, and hanged at the Old Baileydoor that I had deserted Joe.” 14 In a similar manner, whenMagwitch comes back, he acknowledges Pip’s contradicted expensive habits as thesymptom of a Victorian gentleman. In the truest sense of the term, losingcontrol over oneself in respect of spending money lavishly can’t be thecharacteristic of a true gentleman.
This very Habit, in fact, can destroy themoral values of a man and when moral values will not develop in a person, he orshe will be the product of materialistic ideologies and so the people around him mustsuffer from the materialistic crueltiesas we observe Estella ,a lady of aristocratic Victorian society, misbehaveswith pip and uses many harsh and insulting worlds like ”thick boots” and”coarse hands”. and Pip after becoming a materialist did the same with hisbrother-in-law Mr. Joe who brought him up when he comes to meet Pip.
As pipsays : “Not with pleasure though I was bound tohim by so many ties; no; with considerable disturbance, some mortification, anda keen sense of incongruity. If I could have kept him away by passing money, Icertainly would have paid money. I certainly would have paid money. My greatestreassurance was that he was coming to Barnyard’s Inn, not to Hammersmith, andconsequently would not fall in Bentley Drummule’s way.” 15 In these lines, the very word ‘mortification’is making clear that Pip feels embarrassed about Mr. Joe’s coming.
Truly, Pip, a gentlemanaccording to the Victorian notions of gentility denies his low origin or root.Likewise, pip’s snobbish attitude clearly appears when he travels to MissHavisham’s home named Satis house forcelebrating her birthday. Pip suffers from a superiority complex and so feels adeep sense of revulsion at sharing a coach with two lower class people. As pipexposes his snobbery saying: “There are two convicts going down with me…….Their coarse mangy ungainly outer surface as if they were lower animals.” 16 To judge two convict’s to be ‘lower animals’is a matter of irony because his adviser Magwitch is a criminal and his belovedEstella’s parents Molly and Magwitch are two criminals too.
Moreover, Pipbecomes so materialistic that he is reluctant to visit home in which he hasbeen reared up by his mother and father like Mr. and Mrs. Joe. As amaterialist, he sends some material products only like ‘cold fish’ and a’barrel of oysters’ to home.
In truth, if he had not been a so-calledmaterialist Victorian gentleman, hewould have visited home and kept in touch with his family. It can be said thatVictorian gentleman without moral or social values or humanity is like thedodder “leafless twining, parasiticplants in the morning glory family”* 7 without roots. As a matter offact, Charles Dickens establishes an idea of a true gentleman through thecharacter Mr. Joe, the brother-in-law of Pip. Mr.
Joe is a true gentleman though he is a blacksmith and so neither hepossessed lots of money nor does he know the artificial dress and manners code.He never forgets his root and so he continues his family trade and maintainshis family well with his lowest income. In a similar manner, he even brings anorphan brother-in-law Pip up as a father. He loves him more than his ownsister.
As Pip praises Mr. Joe as a ”good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-goingfoolish, dear fellow – a sort of Hercules in strength” Again when Mr. Joe marries biddy afterthe death of Mr.
Joe. Pip says to Biddy: ” Dear biddy, you have the best husbandin the world.” So it can be noted easily that man accordingto the Charles Dickens can’t be a gentleman with money or respectable familialstudents or artificial manners and dress codes but he can be a gentleman onlyat heart or through practicing moral values. As Matthew Pocket states: ” No varnish can hide the grain of wood; and that more varnish you put on the moregrain will express itself.” Comparablythe conflictual ideologies are crystal clear in another Victorian novel ”Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte. In this novel Catherine Earnshaw, a femaleprotagonist and a lady of materialistic Victorian society, suffers from a superiority complex and therefore she isdeeply antipathetic to the people around her.
In her view, a man without muchmoney and social status can’t expectgood treatments from the upper class materialistic Victorian people. This is why, Cathy starts disdaining Hereton as hedoesn’t come of an upper-class family.Cathy does maltreatment with heretic saying : ” I can’t endure..
. I despise you”17 On the other hand, she has a deepsense of sympathy with her cousins Edgar Linton a man of aristocrat society.This is why, since Linton asks Cathy : “Youdon’t despise me, do you? In reply she says despise you? No…… …… I love youbetter than anyone living”. 18 Likewise, Heathcliff “considered to bea Byronic hero”19 has to be disdained in every step of his life by most ofthe family members of the aristocratic Earnshaw family as he is an orphan boywithout any social status.
He is so unwelcome in this family that he isaddressed as a ”thing or it”. He has no freedom of entering into the rooms ofCatherine and Handley. Edgar Linton, the cousin of Catherine, degrades him timeand again. “He wants that authority should hang him atonce .”(Bronte ,1999.p.55). Isabella, anothercharacter without moral values, judges Heathcliff to be a “frightful thing” and also instructsto “put him in the cellar” (Bronte p.
56) Likewisewhen Hindley appears as the master of the Wuthering Heights the condition ofHeathcliff becomes worse. As the novel explicates the immoral actions of theVictorian aristocrat people or the conflict between moral values and vengefulaction: “Hindleybecomes tyrannical …….. …. He drove him (Heathcliff) from their company tothe servant, deprived him of the instruction of the curate, and instead that heshould labor out of the door…… (Bronte 1999.p.
52) Again, the conflicts betweenmaterialism and humanity become more clear when Catherine wants to marry EdgarLinton leaving Heathcliff she loves him though. As she narrates hermaterialistic thought regarding marriage: ”………. It would degrade me to marryHeathcliff …… (Linton) will be rich and I shall like to be the greatest womanof the neighborhood and I shall be proud of having such a husband.” So this kind of materialistic attitude dampensthe love affair between Heathcliff and Catherine. In a like manner when Heathcliff becomeswealthy Victorian people acknowledge him as a gentleman though he loses hismoral values. In the truest sense of theterm, Victorian mate- realistic social norms metamorphose him from a man ofgood heart to a revengeful and immoral man.
When Heathcliff becomes the owner of the Heights,he gets vengeful on the members of the Earnshaws family who degraded him. EvenEdgar Linton’s son Hareton has to “live in-house as a servant deprived of theadvantage of wages as punishment though he is innocent. So Heathcliff, at least, becomes abruptvengeful and immoral because of having no morality.