The socio-critical novel started to flourish in public and its authors tried to
criticise the circumstances mentioned above and discuss the pros and cons of
social reforms. The novel was very important to convey social criticism, as it
could be widely spread among the reading public. And especially for those, who
didn’t know about those social problems from their own experience, these novels
were an interesting means of enlightenment, with regards to the criticism of the
system. Many of the social novels appearing at that time were serialized, as
they could be made more affordable being published that way.
The Victorian Social Novel can roughly be divided into three different stages:
the early, the middle and the late Victorian Social Novel.
In the Early Victorian Social Novel (1830 - 1850), the industrial system was to
blame for the bad living conditions of the workers. However, it was not
considered an abstract, but rather manifested itself in individuals, like good
and bad factory owners, responsible and irresponsible ones. And there was an
unshakeable belief in morality and that those who were bad could be converted to
good ones, those who were irresponsible could be made responsible. The authors
at that time drew less attention to the details of the world of work and its
machines, but rather preferred the depiction of physically and mentally injured
people, because of their work. Therefore many metaphors were used to describe
the prevailing social conditions, such as “Jungle of Work”, “Prison of Work” or
“Subjugation of the worker through the machine”.