What are the salient features of the Victorian Age in English literature? 

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because the Victorian Era covers so many years, 1830 - 1900, it is usually broken down into the early Victorian, mid-Victorian, and late Victorian, each of which displays its own characteristics. With the rapid industrialization taking place during the years 1830 - 1850, early Victorian works are characterized by attention to social issues such as child labor and poverty. Representative works include the heart-rending "The Cry of the Children" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the beloved novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. To the credit of private and public figures of that time, including Queen Victoria herself, real progress was made on many of those issues.

This progress led to a period in the middle of the century when the British Empire blossomed and pride in the national identity peaked, represented by Prince Albert's Great Exhibition of 1851. George Eliot wrote novels of moral decency and brilliant psychological realism; Alfred Lord Tennyson, who became poet laureate in 1850, wrote wonderful lyric poetry, his famous "In Memoriam," and patriotic verses such as "The Charge of the Light Brigade." The Pre-Raphaelites celebrated beauty in language and visual arts, contributing to the mid-Victorian heyday of literary achievement.

The later years of the Victorian Era saw a tendency toward the deconstruction of Victorian values. Playwrights Oscar Wilde and Bernard Shaw were each cleverly iconoclastic in their own ways, satirizing the shortcomings of their society in plays such as The Importance of Being Earnest and Mrs. Warren's Profession. Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde also pointed out the hypocrisy of those who would live dual lives in a surprising detective type story with a Gothic twist. In poetry, Robert Browning's fascinating dramatic monologues foreshadowed the 20th century's use of the natural rhythms of speech over the strict metrical arrangements of traditional poetry. 

In general, Victorian literature represents a zenith of English language literary achievement in terms of the beauty of its language and thought, reflecting traditional values and using time-tested literary forms to express its themes. The later years of the period began to show more disillusionment and doubt, which would become full-blown in the 20th century. 

estoverl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Specifically, the Victorian period began when Queen Victoria became queen of England in 1837 and ended with her death in 1901. However, the period from 1830 to 1900 is generally considered the Victorian Era. During this time period of course, characteristics of the culture were presented in the literature of the era. 

English power was expanding into Africa and Asia. A growing English middle class, wanting to gain access into the noble class, produced some appearances of a stuffy, proper culture. Manufacturing was growing and living conditions for the poor were often deplorable. Cultural struggles grew over science vs religion, the role of women and proper behavior, especially with regard to sexuality. All of these elements showed up in the popular forms of literature. 

Novels were extremely popular at the time and often had themes of social advancement, usually linked to financial gain or proper behavior. Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte are two popular authors of this theme. Idealized behavior written in literature helped to create what it meant to be a "proper Englishman". Didactic poetry grew in popularity as did nonfiction material. Towards the end of the Victorian period, themes of satire and rebellion against all the proper behavior stereotypes began to show up in literature. 

mshargaden eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Victorian period in history and literature was during the years of the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). Queen Victoria was the longest-running English monarch in history.

The Vistorian era was a bridge between the romantic era in literature of the 18th century and the industrialized world of the 20th century.

In England, the Victorian era was the era of massive empire building.  Writers like Joseph Conrad were inspired by daring adventure found in the quest to take over far-flung areas of the world.

Victorian literature tends to be concerned with morals, right and wromg.  It often champions the downtrodden.Sometimes this led Vistorian novels to be grim and realistic portrayals of life among the poor classes.  Happy endings also became les and less common in Victorial novels.

Sometimes Victorian literature is thought of as stuffy and morally opressive. However, it is also very imaginative and emotional.  It also uses realism to show the plight of everyday working people.

Some of the most famous authors of this period are Charlotte Brontë , Emily Bronte, and Charles Dickens, all English writers.

During this time the novel became the most important literary work.