Victorian literature is rife with contradictions. On one hand, it was a very "stuffy" age, and very materialistic as well. On the other hand, long-held religious beliefs were being rocked by the writings of Charles Darwin. Victorians were also grappling with the writings of Marx, further challenging the faith of many. In addition, he work of Sigmund Freud was changing the literary landscape.
Labor unions began to become a force with which to be reckoned, challenging assumptions about what a country "owed" its citizens.
The early 1800s begin in Romanticism, with all its lofty and ephemeral ideals, but ended in "naturalistic pessimism."