II. The Victorian Social Novel – Origins, Stages and Social Criticism
To fully understand the following analysis of the socio-critical elements in David Copperfield, it is of the greatest importance to have some background knowledge about the Victorian Social Novel, its origins, stages and the social criticism conveyed in these kind of books. Therefore, the subsequent few lines try to offer a short introduction into the origins of this genre, the causes that led to its development and the parts of society that shall be criticised by the means of it.
Nowadays the Victorian age is considered to be the age of social criticism, as the main feature of literature at that time is dealing with state, society and industry and disclosing the reasons that led to poverty, unemployment and common discontent.
It is roughly estimated that the first “real” social novels started to develop around 1830.
The main reasons therefore were the mostly bad living conditions of the lower classes in factory cities, the automation of industry and the huge birth surplus in the country all throughout Great Britain. Furthermore there were waves of migration into the huge cities and more and more capitalists that could be found in parliament, widely supporting political industrialization, completely neglecting the working conditions of their employees.