Characteristics of Victorian novel

During the Victorian era, which spanned from 1837 to 1901, the publishing sector underwent a significant development. Numerous outstanding literary masterpieces that are still read today were written during this time. Novels from the Victorian era are renowned for their detailed character development, convoluted plotlines, and societal critique. They frequently addressed important and heavy subjects including the place of women in society, the structure of the British class system, and the ethical and moral issues posed by industrialization and urbanization.

Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights,” George Eliot’s “Middlemarch,” Charles Dickens“David Copperfield,” Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” and Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” are a few of the most well-known Victorian novels. These novels have left a lasting impression on literature and are still read and examined today.

Characteristics of Victorian novels:

  • Social Critique: Victorian novels frequently functioned as a forum for social criticism, addressing the problems and inequities of the day, such as poverty, class conflict, and the status of women. The early 19th-century English workhouse system, criminality, and poverty are all powerfully satirized in Charles Dickens“Oliver Twist,” which shows the harsh reality of life for the working class and impoverished. The treatment of women in Victorian society is criticized in Anne Bronte’s “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,” which touches on problems such as domestic violence, women’s rights, and the limitations on women’s freedom and autonomy.

Read More: Charles Dickens as a Victorian Novelist

  • Realism: Victorian novels were known for their realism, which reflected commonplace human experiences and the realities of the day. The story of Pip, a young man from a poor family who climbs to become a gentleman, is portrayed in Charles Dickens“Great Expectations,” which is noteworthy for its accurate depiction of 19th-century England. The dramatic description of rural life in 19th-century England in George Eliot’s “The Mill on the Floss” is renowned for its realistic description of family dynamics, communal dynamics, and the changing environment of the time.
  • Complex plots: Victorian literature is renowned for its intricate and complex plots, which frequently feature a big cast of characters, complicated subplots, and surprising twists and turns. Victorian novels were frequently lengthy—running into the hundreds of pages—and were serialized in publications before being released as books. “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens is a convoluted plot that knits together several storylines and a wide cast of characters, including attorneys, clerks, and judges, all of whom are connected by the primary mystery of a protracted court case. “Middlemarch” by George Eliot is recognized for its intricate plot, which weaves together several storylines and characters while examining topics like desire, aspiration, and self-discovery.

Read More: A Tale of Two Cities as a Historical Novel

  • Sentimentality: A common subject in many Victorian books was sentimentality, which frequently reflected the intensified emotionalism of the time and the Victorian interest in romantic and nostalgic themes. The novel “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte is renowned for its vivid and emotional depiction of love as well as its themes of longing, grief, and nostalgia. “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens is known for its emotional depiction of childhood and its wistful recollection of more innocent times. Jane and Mr. Rochester’s relationship is depicted in Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” with passion and romance. The novel also explores themes of love, grief, and the resilience of the human spirit.
  • Moral and ethical considerations: Many Victorian novels are famous for their examination of moral and ethical issues, reflecting the time period’s fascination with the inner workings of the human psyche as well as its interest in issues of right and wrong. The moral and ethical ramifications of pride, prejudice, and vanity are explored in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” which is also recognized for its intricate treatment of interpersonal interactions.

Read More: Significance of the title A Tale of Two Cities

  • Characterization: Many Victorian novels placed a strong emphasis on character development, and some of literature’s most recognizable and enduring figures emerged during this time. Some of literature’s most enduring characters may be found in Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights,” including the passionate Cathy, the menacing Heathcliff, and the stoic Ellen Dean. The famous array of characters in Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” includes the compassionate Mr. Brownlow, the ruthless Bill Sikes, and the little orphan Oliver Twist himself. They all reflect the harsh realities of life in 19th-century England. Victorian novelists were able to write novels that were both intellectually and emotionally fascinating because of their emphasis on characterization. They were also able to vividly and memorably depict the reality of life in 19th-century England.

Read More: Title of Wuthering Heights

  • Symbolism: Symbolism was a common technique used in Victorian literature to express deeper meanings and explore difficult concepts. “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens explores themes of guilt, atonement, and the results of ambition via the use of symbols like the prisoner Magwitch, the foggy marshes, and the fading bride of the Satis House. In order to examine issues of authority, morality, and the human condition, George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” makes use of symbols like the tangled web of character relationships and the crumbling Featherstone castle. By employing symbols, Victorian authors were able to explore complicated concepts and feelings in a sophisticated and nuanced manner and produce works that were both emotionally compelling and deeply symbolic.

Read More: Wuthering Heights as a gothic novel

  • Narrative style: Victorian novels frequently have an omniscient third-party narrator, which means that the narrator is aware of all of the characters’ thoughts and emotions. This kind of narrator may switch between the points of view of many characters with ease, giving the reader a thorough grasp of the characters’ actions and motives. The third-person omniscient third-person narrator in Charles Dickens“Great Expectations” is a superb illustration of such a narrator in Victorian fiction. The narrator in this novel is able to give the reader a thorough comprehension of the plot’s developments and the characters’ motives.

Themes of Victorian novels

Many Victorian authors were deeply troubled by the rigid class structure of Victorian society, and the subject of social class frequently appears in their works. Victorian authors frequently utilized their works to remark on the social and economic injustices of their period, whether they were examining the lives of the rich nobility or the sufferings of the working class. In addition to that many Victorian authors also attempted to address the very contentious topic of women’s status in Victorian society through their writings.


To conclude we can say that the above-mentioned characteristics are a few of the major traits of Victorian novels, which set them apart from other genres of literature. Victorian novels have played a significant role in the literary heritage of the time due to its emphasis on realism, emotion, and social commentary, as well as their sophisticated storylines and endearing characters.

Leave a Comment