Thursday, April 2, 2020

Chartism Essays - Chartism, Existentialists, Labour Movement

Chartism By Thomas Carlyle One of the most salient social problems of the Victorian period was the struggle of the working class. In Chartism by Thomas Carlyle, the problem is outlined; in William Dodd's narrative, it is recounted from personal experience. Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South is a fictional account of the very real condition of England. Clearly, questions of social and economic injustice were on the front burner even as the social oppression transpired. Another very prominent feature of Victorian England was religion, more specifically Christianity. William Dodd and Bessy Higgins are individuals who have endured enormous suffering, who have lost any sort of quality of life to the factories, and yet adhere perhaps even more strongly to their faith. Thomas Carlyle, "with purse oftenest in the flaccid state," bears closely in mind the fact that "[he has] the miraculous breath of Life in [him], breathed into [his] nostrils by Almighty God" (Carlyle, p. 37). Margaret Hale, who is of modest but comfortable means, witnesses a multitude of sufferings during her time in Milton, but she maintains her lofty notions of God and Christianity, even as her father, a man of the church, questions the godliness of the church's economic practices. How does it come to pass that humans can endure and/or witness such suffering as was endured by the working classes of 19th century England and maintain their religious convictions all the same? It seems that the coexistence of the two phenomena would, or should cause some cognitive dissidence for a pious person, but here are four examples of people, two fictional (Bessy and Margaret), two real (Carlyle and Dodd), who can apparently reconcile religion and suffering. Perhaps Christianity was so ingrained in the culture and in these individuals that faith was more of a reflex than a conscious decision. Dodd raises the question, but dispels it without ever actually examining it. Near the very end of his narrative he asks, "Is it consistent with the character of this enlightened, Christian country...that we, worn-out, cast-off cripples of the manufacturers, should be left to die of want at home? ?Forbid it, Heaven." (Dodd, pp. 318-319). His assertion of inconsistency is correct, but Heaven, despite his appeal, had clearly not forbidden a thing. The God in whom he has placed his faith has allowed for his suffering, and the church that he respects and to which he submits himself has not acted on his behalf. Either England was a Christian country in name only, or the Christian church cared little about the welfare of individuals who hadn't the means to make a donation; either way, the issue of moral impropriety in the church itself is another issue. The fact remains that any society that is content to send children to labor in factories at an exceedingly young age, as Dodd was, lacks the moral grain that one would suppose is integral to upholding religious fervor. Carlyle takes a fairly businesslike and not religious approach to his condition of England manifesto, but the overwhelming Christian sentiment of the era naturally finds its way into his writings. He seems to be of the mind that God has given him enough simply by giving him life, but as a non-Christian, non-religious reader of Chartism, the very mention of Christianity and the overwhelming injustice of England's social structure at the time is an inherent paradox. There is something of a synapse in reasoning where he contends that "...society ?exists for the preservation of property'" (Carlyle, p. 36), but maintains that the English social structure is a Christian one. The fault lies not in Christianity per se; Jewish people, for example, have struggled since the Holocaust to reconcile their own faith with such an abhorrent occurrence that viciously seized the lives of six million Jews and six million others. Still, the problem of intellectual and emotional dissidence remains the same. Perhaps the most perplexing of all of these characters is Bessy Higgins. She not only maintains her ardently religious beliefs in the face of utter physical ruin caused by factory working at too young an age and the loss of her mother, but actually seems to draw upon her suffering to amplify her faith. Bessy is resigned to death, even anticipates and welcomes death, which is not unheard of considering how ill she is?save for the fact that she is only nineteen years old. It is her faith, her utter devotion to the Bible and to her notions of God and Heaven that make death seem a welcome reprieve from the suffering that she has endured, albeit

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