19th Century Literature Final Summative Entry

Do the interests, concerns and experiences of writers in the Nineteenth Century still have relevance to human needs in the twenty-first century? In a word, absolutely! To use a famous phrase, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. On the surface we appear to be living much different lives to the people of the nineteenth century, but a closer examination quickly reveals the same massive gap between the haves and the have -nots. Life for the working class has many sad resemblances to Dickens’s England. Employers, managers and CEOs still insist on taking way more than their share of profits made off the sweat of the worker. Bankers and stock market cowboys fiddle with the numbers to extract every possible cent, whilst workers wages are continually threatened with cuts. The atrocious working conditions of Coketown have been moved to third world countries, whilst unskilled workers in the west find it harder and harder to find any work at all. The bullshit success that is peddled to the masses via the media is akin to the tragic treadmill Ivan Ilyich was on. People waste their lives chasing shallow goals with nothing but superficial contact with other human beings. A relentless quest to acquire material goods and fame for fames sake is considered the norm; forsaking real human relationships for shallow acquaintances that may help them up this perverse ladder. Facebook offers a fascinating look into how people are so morbidly interested in how they are perceived by others. Many meticulously edit and Photoshop their lives to look as wonderful as possible in order to impress an audience of people they have mostly never met, nor will meet. The desire to be outwardly successful and scrupulous ala “The Importance of Being Earnest” is played out daily on this social media. Unfortunately, most of us do not have a country community to return to in the way Clym Yeobright did. The country folk have mostly moved to the city in a desperate attempt to find work. Big business has squeezed most of the small farms out of business and wants only slave labour to run its super efficient profit driven farms. We can however take time out in nature as Wordsworth prescribes. Failing that we can simply take the time to pause and experience something beautiful. A tree, a flower, a bird, or a dog. Art, we should embrace it! View it. Do it. Anything that may help to awaken our souls from the mundane, depressed lethargy that our modern lifestyle invokes. We cannot begin to break the invisible shackles that big business has placed on us until we first remember the true reasons for our existence. It is not to work, eat, sleep and consume. It is to love, to create, to interact and participate in each other lives. The readings I have encountered in this unit have stirred all this and more in me. It has been a marvelous journey.

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