The Role Of Gentlemen In The Victorian Society

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In the Victorian Society, class was heavily emphasized and was strictly sanctioned based on wealth. Because of the Industrial Revolution the proportions of each class were changing. A growing middle class led to a desire to climb the social ladder. Previously, kings and knights were seen as upper class individuals and all of these noblemen held gentile qualities due to the feudal code. This led to the association of the upper class to gentlemen. This association led to the common misattribution that in order to be a gentleman one must be from the upper class. Authors such as Charles Dickens and Samuel Smiles made the claim that this misattribution of class and qualities was leading to the downfall of true gentile qualities. The Victorian Society…show more content…
The feudal past explained how members of the clergy belonging to the Church of England, army officers, and members of Parliament were considered gentlemen within this time period. Because all of these occupations were for men of virtue, those who were fearless and bold yet sympathetic and honorable, these men were considered gentlemen. However, members of society such as John Ruskin argued, “The essence of the gentleman is what the word says, that he comes from a pure gens, or is perfectly bred” (qtd. in Cody). This assumption of gentile qualities in those of the upper class was the result of political or economic power. These two opposites, quality versus heredity, caused the confusion among those in the Victorian Society. Some authors of the time tried to merge the two notions that gentile qualities derived from societal standards as well as defined morals. Lauren Goodland tried to interpret what a gentleman stood for in this age arguing that it was both empirical and based on education yet mystified and relied on one’s genetics (Landow, “The Political Function of the Gentleman”). This skewed perception of what a gentleman was denied people from accepting the fact that poor people could be gentlemen whereas wealthy people could be rude and void of moral principles. It is this same ignorance that leads Pip within Great Expectations to not see that “… violence and refinement, Magwitch and Estella, are not warring opposites but intimately and inextricably bound together” (Gilmour). The two sharp contrasts of what it entailed to be a gentleman therefore led to the confusion of those who tried to pursue

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