The 19th century was perhaps one of the most literary centuries of all times. This century experienced the emergence of literary works in form of novels, short stories, as well as the explosive growth of the same. This is in line with the fact that the more advanced film, radio and television technologies were not in existence which is one of the main factors why literature grew at a very high rate. Major trends in literature during the 19th century are such as romanticism, naturalism, realism and symbolic literature.
One of the most outstanding characteristic of the 19th century novels and other literary works is that they tend to celebrate integration of the individual into the society contrary to the post-modern novels and literature that present integration as a far problematic process. One of the things that 19th century novels tried to do is that they tried to be idealized portraits of the current situation in the lives of individuals at the time which always depicted daily processes such as perseverance, love, luck as well as the virtue of punishment of wrongdoers in the society. Most of these literary works always tried to depict how human beings interact and integrate in the society commonly revolving around the themes of love, romance, punishment and the moral well being of individuals in the society. This is evident from the various literary works that were published during this period.
However, the situation changed with the modernist literature where authors in this period always perceive the issue of integration to be a problematic process in modern societies. In more recent literary works, integration is always attributed to social illnesses such as war, cultural conflict, identity crisis and ethnic differences. It is therefore evident that the 19th century literary works are very different from the subsequent writing with respect to the said difference.
In the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, the novel merges three distinctive genres that are a follow up on a child’s maturation process mainly concentrated on the emotions and experiences that accompany the transformation to adulthood. According to Reagan, the novel also contains another aspect of the social criticism which analyzes social structures which are seen as flawed and aims at practical solutions by specific measures, radical reform or even revolutionary change (pp, 17). The third genre in the novel is the aspect of gothic fiction that is evident from the brooding and moody quality exhibited by the symbolic representation of a Byronic character.
This novel tends to celebrate the integration of an individual into the society in the sense that it portrays the development of thinking by a young woman who is both individualistic as well as desiring for a full life. Jain evolves from being a simple and plain woman who lacks self confidence and stature to a full woman who is both compassionate and self confident. As Jane matures, she frequently makes comments regarding the human condition as she tries to find answers on her life situations. Despite being a staunch believer, Jane is also very self reliant and independent in the context of her approach to life. This novel is commonly attributed to the early feminist approach in writing in the sense that Jane is never portrayed as a damsel in distress.
How the novel tends to celebrate individual integration into the society.
“This is specifically portrayed when Jane declines becoming Mr. Rochester's paramour due to her impassioned self-respect and moral conviction” (Walder, pp, 67). Instead, she approaches the whole morality issue with love, independence and forgiveness indicating just how Jane is determined to integrate her moral position in the society without fear or favor.
God and religion
Throughout the entire plot of this novel, Jane is at constant battle with her conscience to strike a balance between her moral obligations and earthly happiness. One of the things that she despises the most is the hypocrisy of Mr. Brocklehurst. Earlier in the novel, Jane admires Helen Burns who is a strong believer that revenge should never be applicable in any life situation something that helps her forgive and forget some of the atrocities by both her aunt Reed and her cousins. Jane is very cautious in the sense that she does not want violate the moral position of the society something that would jeopardize her position as a morally upright person. She does this by not accepting to marry Rochester until he is widowed as it is provided for by the society. Religion seems to play an influential role in shaping Jane’s life but Jane is very careful not to reveal her true self throughout her life experiences.
What the author is trying to achieve from this is to create a correction in the moral perspective that self righteousness is equal to religion and that conventionality is morality. The entire novel is based on the moral beliefs of the main character Jane and her efforts to integrate in the society without having to change what she believes to be true Christianity. Various characters are portrayed as having a serious challenge balancing between their moral positions in an attempt to fit into the society and determining what really is right. A practical example of this is Mr. Brocklehurst who is perceived to be a hypocritical character in the sense that he uses religion as a justification for punishment.
Jane is very outspoken when it comes to criticizing discrimination based on class something that is attributed to her humble upbringing. Despite the fact that she is highly educated, has some sophistication compared to other women and is a woman of good manner, the fact still remains that she is paid servant who belongs to a lower social status in the society.
Gender relations are one of the key factors seen to play a key role in shaping the lives of most of the characters in the novel. Each character is seen to assert her position in the society particularly Jane who is seen to assert her position despite being female in a male dominated society. However, the male characters in the novel try to keep Jane in her subordinate position by denying her the freedom of expression and free will. Jane’s marriage is only after she is guaranteed that her marriage to Mr. Rochester will be based on equal terms in the marriage contract.
Love and Passion
Jane Eyre can simply be described as a love story which is mainly the love that exists between the impoverished Jane and the wealthy but tormented Mr. Rochester. However, this love is rocked by many obstacles as it is the case for many similar situations both in the past and currently. However, this novel does not only focus on the love between Jane and Mr. Rochester only but it tries to explore other love as well. Helen Burn for example expresses selfless love to friends which is a practical example of just how the author celebrates the integration of Helen Burns as part of the society. According to Reagan, Jane appears to be the more realistic character in the novel since she is able to realize that the lack of love between her and St. John Rivers would make their marriage a living death like that of Mr. Rochester and Bertha.(pp.123)
The author tries to suggest that a life that is not lived passionately is not a life at all (Walder pp.67). Jane is therefore portrayed as a very passionate character that practices what she believes is right which is evident from the fact that she refuses to live by Mrs. Reeds rules while at the same time having a consuming passion for Mr. Rochester. Despite this, passion is not the only force that governs Jane’s life in the sense that she stands by her morals and principles by leaving Mr. Rochester as a result of the guilt of having to live as a mistress. Ingram on the other hand is seen as not being attracted to Mr. Rochester due to the natural attraction nature but rather for the wealth that the landowner possessed. St. John Rivers appears to be a more intelligent character despite not being able to live his life to the fullest. One of the reasons for saying so is because his marriage proposal to Jane does not appear to be genuine but rather driven by a business interest behind it as he regards Jane as a junior partner in his missionary works.
The author is seen to celebrate the fact that Jane Eyre is finally able to integrate into the society by overcoming a male dominated field that is full of prejudice and discrimination in the society. Throughout the book, Jane is portrayed as relentlessly demanding to be treated as an equal member in the society despite her low social class. She is also frequently punished for being herself that is being independent and having the perception that she follows her moral standings and position despite the contrary direction given by the other characters. The overall outcome of this rebelliousness is that the other characters finally come to love her for what she is and what she stands for. Mr. Rochester loves Jane due to the fact that she is a governess woman a situation that makes it almost impossible for his servant to influence his perception of her.
One of the most outstanding principles that Jane believes in is forgiveness which comes out due to her being a staunch believer in religion. Mr. Rochester is portrayed as a man who is frequently being hunted by his past. This is as a result of his past atonements and atrocities which he frequently confesses in the novel. The reader may be led to accuse Mr. Rochester of behaving sadistically first for not telling Jane the truth regarding his relationship life. Mr. Rochester is aware that his marriage to Jane before he is widowed is seen as a bigamous practice both in the religious and civil context. The author tries to attribute Mr. Rochester’s adoption of Adele despite the fact that he is not her natural father as an act of retribution and atonement for his previous sinful life. Mr. Rochester also becomes very remorseful with respect to his trying to console his conscience by having three mistresses and he ends up asking for forgiveness to Jane. This act seems to heal his heart as coupled with the destruction of Thornfield by fire and the loss of his hand which is seen as the price he has to pay for his past atrocities.
The Awakening is a novel by Kate Chopin that centers on the life of Edna Pontellier as well as the constant struggles she has to go through in an attempt to reconcile her rather unorthodox perspectives on both feminism and motherhood. Edna is presented as a complex and emotionally dynamic character which was a very rare trait among female characters during the 19th century literary works. Robert Lebrun another main character in the novel develops mutual attraction that is the central basis of the conflict in the novel. Robert relocates to Mexico on the pretext that he has a found a business opportunity there but rather, he is escaping an otherwise dead relationship that has zero chances of survival. Robert however later confesses that the reason for his trip was not as a result of a new business venture but to get away from the relationship he perceived not possible. Robert later leaves stating that he is not coming back something that leaves Edna devastated where she returns to Grand Isle where she first met Robert. Her return signifies the confliction emotions that she has had to wrestle with throughout her life and the novels ends where Edna allows herself to be overtaken by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico (Reagan pp, 145)
What is evident from this is that the author tries to briefly follow the life of Edna Pontellier and the changes that occur in her attitude and perceptions brought about by summer romance. At the start of the story, Edna is a young mother of two but despite being married and having children, Edna becomes acquainted with a young man Robert Lebrun who seems to give her special interest. This follows with a close analysis of independence in the love life, and sexual fulfillment of Edna Pontellier something that she had almost forgotten. The writer tries to portray Edna in that despite being a married woman with children, she is relentlessly trying to fight off her role as a wife and a mother at the time. Although the author does not seem to directly celebrate the integration of Edna Pontellier into the society, the ending of a story depicts a transition into a better aspect of living away from the relentless and frequent identity crisis on the main character.
However, subsequent literary works tend to view the issue of integration as a more problematic process in modern societies. This is particularly evident in the thematic issues that accompany modern literary works and modern authors. Unlike the 19th century novels that advocated for social integration in the society, modern writings perceive integration to be one of the major causes of social ills and differences in the society. This is practically evident in most of the post colonial writings and becomes the basis of writing in post colonial literature.
The term post-colonialism is a helpful analytical term that tries to review the aftermath of colonization as well as the struggle for independence. The effects of colonialism comprise of social and political changes. In an attempt to eliminate foreign rule, the native people underwent a long process of liberation before having the freedom they so much yearned for. Post colonial literature contains in it cultural identity that in that one is left to predict the outcome of the place and people after the achievement of freedom. Some of the questions that are triggered by post-colonialism writings are; what will happen now that independence has been achieved, can the cultural differentiation return to its original state now that social and cultural changes have occurred?
The book ‘A Grain of Wheat’ is a book that close analyzes the state of emergency and the struggle for independence in Kenya. The plot of the novel revolves around one Mugo who lives with so many past secrets that have come to haunt his present. This comes at a time when the country is preparing to celebrate the transition of power from the colonial government after a long struggle for independence. Another event taking place at the time is the planned execution of the traitor who had collaborated with the colonial government that led to the murder of Kihika a local hero. The book attempts to indulge the reader in the need for a system that restores the original culture of the people. Such a book raises an important question whether integration of an individual in the society is beneficial to both the individual and the society at large or the process only leads to social problems in the society.
The main features of post colonialism are the criticism of the term itself. Literature research suggests that post colonialism writers seldom use the term in their writing. However, postcolonial literature does not revolve around colonialism but also dwells in cultural transition and differentiation. Post colonial scholars have been identified to be part of the larger group of individuals who expose the struggle of local inhabitants against racial prejudice and exploitation by large rich nations. Some critics however argue that the term post-colonial literature should be used to refer to the written works that were written after colonization.
Most colonial writings review different writings and their cultural significance in the world today. This cultural integration of individuals was what led to the achievement of liberation of people that they so much fought for. The exchange of cultural practices also led to a complex and dynamic generation growth. Most books on post colonialism critically analyze the aspect of Diaspora among the writing of various authors .An example of this is ‘From Post-colonial to Commonwealth. Another book that displays this is the book ‘The Woman as a Nation. This book tries to display the superior side of a woman away from the general belief that the female gender is the weaker gender in the society. However, modern authors try to balance the approach of this integration in determining whether this integration is of entire benefit or is the cause of the social disparities that exist in modern societies.