The influence of religion on the Victorian literature

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Table of contents 1
Abstract ..3
Introduction .. .5
1. CHAPTER ONE: The religious context 6
1.0 A brief introduction into Victorian religion ..6
1.1 The Dissenters ...8
1.2 The Hegelians 8
1.3 The Positivists 10
1.4 The Atheists 14
1.5 Conclusions .14
2. CHAPTER TWO: Crisis of faith in Elizabeth Gaskell's 'North and South'
2.0 About the novel . 16
2.1 Mr. Hale, Dissenter or Unitarian? ...17
2.2 Bessy Higgins, a girl with 'methodee fancies' . 22
2.3 Nicholas Higgins, the agnostic ahead of his time 24
2.4 Conclusions . 25
3. CHAPTER THREE: Paganism in Thomas Hardy's 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles'
3.0 Introduction . 26
3.1 Paganism ..27
3.2 Angel Clare's 'neo -  paganism' .29
3.3 Tess, the 'boundary breaker' .33
2
3.4 Tess, the positivist heroine .34
3.5 Paganism vs. Positivism .36
3.6 Conclusions ..37
4. CHAPTER FOUR: Hate, Evangelicalism, and The religion of love in Charlotte
Bronte's 'Jane Eyre' Bronte's 'Jane Eyre' 38
4.0 About the novel ..38
4.1 Mrs. Reed, the woman whose religion was 'hate' ...39
4.2 Mr. Brocklehurst's Evangelicalism ..40
4.3 Helen Burns and the religion of love 43
4.4 Conclusions .46
5. CHAPTER FIVE: Christianity as an example for humanity in Charles Dickens's
'The life of our Lord' 47
5.0 Introduction ... 47
5.1 About the story 48
5.2 Another religious view 50
5.3 Contextualization . 52
5.4 Rewriting the 'New Testament' .. 53
5.5 Conclusions ... 56
Conclusions .. 57
References 59


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ABSTRACT
The purpose of this study is to explore how religion influenced some of the writings from the
Victorian literature, after the scientific discoveries that shook the era and the continuous
changes within the Church.
The research seeks to answer the question of whether religion still remained an important part
of the era's literature and how Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Bronte, Thomas Hardy and
Charles Dickens coped with the loss of faith in the Christian dogma after they were acquainted
with Darwin's writings.
The first chapter of this BA Project presents the religious context of the Victorian era, an
essential introduction for understanding the theme of my work. The second chapter argues that
Elizabeth Gaskell saw the embracing of industrialization as a manner to deal with the loss of
faith, and analyses her most well-known novel, 'North and South'. The third chapter presents
one of Charlotte Bronte's writings, 'Jane Eyre' and how the author was absorbing currents of
religious thoughts not only from Anglicanism, but also from Catholicism and Methodism. In
the fourth chapter, I tried to show how Hardy embraced an alternative 'religion' in 'Tess of the
d'Urbervilles', The Positivist 'Religion of Humanity', while the fifth chapter is dedicated to
Dickens and his writing 'The Life of our Lord', a piece of work composed in his last years,
which offered readers a distilled version of Dickensian Christianity and a direct articulation of
his Jesus-centric belief system.
The methods adopted in planning the research incorporate investigation of primary resources,
textual reading and attempting to concentrate on the themes that are appropriate and suitable
for the paper's subject.
On the basis of the results of this research, it can be concluded that religion still remained the
most important topic of the era, although the writers had their doubts regarding religion.
Notwithstanding the fact that Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Bronte, Thomas Hardy and Charles
Dickens had different opinions and beliefs about the Christian Church and faith, their works
did not lack in religious references and none of the above mentioned writers renounced
completely in believing in an Absolute Power, even after Darwin's Theory of Evolution and
industrialization.
4
INTRODUCTION
Religion is a system of beliefs, dogmas, rites and feelings that define the relation between
humans and divinity. Religion existed since the moment mankind existed; Homo Habilius
worshiped natural phenomena, due to the fact that they could not understand or control nature.
Religion changed alongside human's evolution, meeting the demands of the time. Hence,
when humans renounced to fear the uncontrollable meteorological phenomena, the basis of
religion adjusted to the new needs, as the need of a supreme protection or the idea that
everything has a purpose and every existence is not in vain. Maslow's hierarchy of human
needs situates the need of protection on the second stage of the pyramid, being considered a
'basic need'; therefore, religion imposed itself as a very important part of human life.
The theme of my BA Project is 'The influence of religion on the Victorian literature' and I
decided to discuss the subject of religion in this era, as the Victorians had faced the notorious
'religious doubt'. After Darwin's 'Theory of evolution' was published, the religious doubt
started contouring more and more. For the first time in history, people had the opportunity to
'revoke' the connection with divinity: they were not God's creation anymore. They were not
forced to believe in something that cannot be seen, and they were not supposed to fear God's
punishment if they sinned. Another cause of Victorian doubt was that the religious institutions
were no longer serving the moral sensibility, as they were supposed to. Humanitarianism, the
need of a social reform, the changes and conflicts within churches, the evangelical movement
and the influence of scientific discoveries were also important factors that led to this loss of
faith.
The religious doubt became vocal and widespread in a manner that England had not
previously seen before. It was especially pronounced among the intellectuals, where
manifestos like Charles Hennell's An Inquiry Concerning the Origin of Christianity (1838) or
the The Nemesis of Faith (1849), by J. A. Froude and Frank Newman were much debated,
while important scholars as John Henry Newman and Mill wrote autobiographically about
their crises of faith.


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