"The awful facts": Figurations of the worker in nineteenth-century British literature
AuthorMurphy, Amy Catherine
AdvisorBerry, Laura C.
Canfield, J. Douglas
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation argues that social investigators, novelists and prose writers often demonstrate similar concerns with regard to the status of workers and deploy workers to register and mitigate anxieties about industrialism and its effects. All of these writers consider what status workers should have as an emerging class. By embodying the fears and hopes of the industrial epoch, workers both serve and threaten a national identity increasingly built around Britain's industrial prowess. In chapter one, I compare Elizabeth Gaskell's 1848 novel Mary Barton and James Kay's 1832 political pamphlet, The Moral and Physical Conditions of the Working Classes. In considering the problem of the worker, middle-class utilitarians such as Kay differ sharply from working-class sympathizers such as Gaskell. Nevertheless, each suggests that the charity of the wealthier classes should be an instrument to alleviate the worker's suffering and to improve his physical condition. Thus, both Gaskell and Kay see paternalism as the solution. In chapter two I discuss the problem the worker poses to representation, showing that he challenges the fiction of organic society by resisting definition and placement within it. Focusing on George Eliot's 1856 essay on Riehl, "A Natural History of German Life," I argue that through the construction of what she calls "incarnate history"--the living connection all social ranks have to the past--she determines the worker's status. In addition, I show how Eliot's Adam Bede enacts what she considers to be a realistic portrayal of the worker. In contrast to the idealizations figured in popular iconography, Eliot calls for a realistic depiction of the worker as he actually exists. Eliot rejects the idyllic representation of the worker often demonstrated in the paintings she criticizes, yet reproduces this idealization in her characterization of Adam Bede, assimilating the worker into a vision of progress and social organization to which he no longer poses a threat. In chapter three, I explore Charlotte Bronte's investigation of a society governed by paternalism in Shirley (1849), developing an analysis of her revelation that the plight of workers and the condition of women are inextricably bound in an oppressive social order.
Degree ProgramGraduate College