The Industrial Revolution was an important event in the history of Britain as well as for the rest of the world. This period provoked many changes in society in relation to economic, political, cultural, and social activities. This revolution transformed the way of living and production that people were used to. As a result, some people enhanced their standard of living, but many people suffered the consequences of working in the factories under poor conditions. In addition to this, the process of innovation, along with technological issues were crucial in this industrialized period which contributed to the development of the intellectual thinking and important literary works as a reflect of the reality of the social and economic changes. The romantic point of view regarding modernism and society changes, considering different aspects in terms of spirituality and how to live in this new world nowadays. Another relevant aspect is the relationship between technology and culture. Many authors started to write about this phenomenon, trying to express their ideas and feelings in relation to the revolutionary period. For this reason, the analysis of the description of how to adapt the way of being part in this period is a good opportunity to identity the pros and cons in those changes, using a variety of figures and symbols to characterize the results and consequences of the Industrial Revolution. So, in order to identify the social criticism according to literary works during that period, I will describe two novels which dealt with how people faced industrialization and showed its disadvantages.
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The Industrial Revolution is recognized as an important historical event which affected the way of viewing the newly introduced changes and acting according to the new rules established by the industrialization in society. This revolution began in The United Kingdom from the 18th century to the 19th century and one of its most important characteristic is the fact that it was being spread in different countries and continents. The use of machinery and new techniques in the manufacturing process, the invention of useful transportation and the improvement of daily life artifacts, implied a big change in the society. In this period, the employment and the chances to get a job increased, for this reason many people migrated to the city, looking for better opportunities. Unfortunately, workers had to work under extreme working conditions and spent extensive hours in factories. Furthermore, many children started working, performing tasks that were meant to be for adults, so it was a hard period in terms of cruelty and abuse, jeopardizing children's lives. Education was just for the people who could afford it, and it was not an option for children who belonged to a low social class, and that is why children had to work so young instead of studying. In this period, the role of productivity is essential for the development of factories and machinery. This fact explains the idea of economic increase, which was becoming more evident as time went by. This transition from small groups of workers to more specialized labor squads triggered a massive migration; people who lived in farms moved to the urban areas, bringing along with them diseases because of the poor sanitation. Social problems such as abandonment of children, prostitution, crime, alcohol abuse and others also appeared. Other changes were the influence of the middle class in relation to political issues and the increasing of proletariats, who constantly raised their voice in an attempt to look for social justice. In order to find answers to the questions about the distance and separation between an industrialized society and the natural environment, new philosophical ideas were suggested. Novelists like Charles Dickens wanted to show the reality with the purpose of criticizing the problems associated to the Industrial Revolution. For example, Dickens' work, Hard Times, offered the reader an ironic though realistic description in regards to urbanization on the working class. Besides, romantic writers referred to the evolution of machines as a threat to humankind. In Preface to the Second Edition of Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth said that "the mind is reduced to a state of almost savage torpor". The Industrial Revolution is controversial in relation to environment and industrialized machinery, so many writers began to describe through literature critiques and difficulties for the people in that time.
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Romanticism was developed during the revolution period, especially during the Industrial Revolution, so in terms of literature, the Romantic Movement contributed to how to perceive the world from an industrialized point of view and also to understand the transformation of society into modernity. Imagination is the primary faculty for creating all art. This is the main characteristic of the Romantic Movement, thus it is important to create power through emotions and imagination. Other aspects of Romantic art include strong emotions, intuitions, instincts, and feelings that focused on the individuals. An outstanding author of the Romantic period was Mary Shelley. She wrote the novel Frankenstein during the Industrial Revolution, and her aim was to show how the scientific revolution was affecting the society and symbolized several aspects in relation to the revolutionary changes. Victor Frankenstein, the main character of this book, states: "No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world" (Shelley 58). In Frankenstein, the use of metaphor and figures of speech expressed the ideas of a rebellious society, incorporating the development of science as a parallel to the creation and implementation of new technology. Victors Frankenstein's creation is an example of demonstrating that many people disagreed with the consequences of the cities and the industrialized way of dealing with the social and economic needs. Moreover, the romantic point of view in this novel refers to an emotional experience for the individual and shows the feelings in regards to the actions and the results of the industrialized society, in which many people were afraid by those huge transformations.
On the other hand, as a way of expressing discomfort and critical analysis to the current society, a recognized author started to write about the problems of Industrial Revolution: Charles Dickens. He developed his work during the process of revolutionary times. During this time, the economy increased so rapidly that everything changed. In his novel Hard Times, Dickens showed the injustice between factory owners and the working class. In his novel, he highlights poor working conditions, low wages, long shifts, and the concern about children who worked like adults but earned less than them, because they did not have the opportunity to be educated. During the Industrial Revolution, he belonged to the poor class, and for this reason, he joined different organizations in favor of working class, in order to give them support and improve their working conditions. In addition, he organized some projects for building safe and cheap housing for avoiding poverty. He used his arts to raise awareness among his readers, criticizing the differences between rich and poor people. He tried to represent his thoughts by creating realistic characters in his novels and making it easy to read, these characters represented real people who had feelings and beliefs. The main themes of his book were the mechanization of human beings, where people turned their lives into the factories and putting away their emotions. Another important proposal of his work was the femininity, the emotional sensibility of women that support characters in different scenarios.
To conclude this essay, The Industrial Revolution was very significant for the development of economy and the progress of the cities, not only in the place where this revolution took position, but also in countries all over the world. In this revolutionary period, many authors were considered noteworthy and they began to express their ideas and feelings in regards to social changes and negative effects of industrialization. Romantic writers had their own way of viewing the reality; people had to face those difficult times because new technology was invading their homes and altering their lifestyles. As a consequence, authors started to write about the most relevant aspects such as injustice, poor working conditions, problems related to the migration that appeared because of the overpopulation, and the influence of new technology and development of knowledge in different areas, especially in scientific understanding where man could be easily replaced by a machine. Both Frankenstein and Hard Times novels developed a critique toward all the scientific and technological innovations made during the Industrial Revolution period. The previously mentioned disadvantages experienced by the people of that era were also depicted in both books and those works were fundamental in the literary movements of Romanticism and Victorianism respectively.
Israel Navarrete Orellana
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