A Queen and Two Jacks
The Victorian Era began with Victoria’s ascension to the throne in in 1837 and ended with her death in 1901. It was during this time that England became an industrial power instead of an agricultural nation. Industrialization lead to an emerging middle class and a trampled lower class. Culturally, the period was dominated by a middle class that strongly desired to emulate the aristocracy. Hence, no truly new styles were created but grand styles of the past were re-imagined and distorted to create “new” styles. Revivals dominated the art, clothing, and architecture of the period. Surprisingly, one of the biggest rebels of the period was Oscar Wilde. His stinging wit slyly hit both the aristocracy and the bourgeois.
Another way of summing up her reign can be found in the song “Victoria” by the Kinks (which is a really awesome song).
“Long ago life was clean
Sex was bad and obscene
And the rich were so mean
Stately homes for the lords
Croquet lawns, village greens
Victoria was my queen.”
Jack the Ripper is the name given to an unknown murder from the late Victorian era. He preyed on prostitutes in London’s East End, slit their throats, and often mutilated them. It was a case that press had a complete field day with. Lurid Victorian sensationalism took over the murders to create widespread fear and panic tempered with curiosity. As an unsolved case, these murders have became a cultural fascination, and Jack, whoever he might have been, has became a London legend. We make films, write numerous books, and create in many other mediums to try and display this fascination and explore the mystery that is Jack the Ripper.
Into the Abyss with Another Jack
In Jack London’s “People of the Abyss,” he chronicles the events that occurred as he joined the masses of impoverished people in London’s East End. London was no doubt a crusader- from his other books you can clearly see his pattern of thinking and hoping for change- but to some effect, the book almost feels like he is throwing stones at the British for many of the same things that were occurring in America at the same time. For instance, he seems to find the hop pickers to be this crazy phenomenon, while there is an even bigger mass of migrant workers in the U.S. at this time in equally degrading lifestyles. Yes, it’s good to hope for and push for change, but I feel like London should have looked to the homeless and those living in dirty ghettos and tenants around him rather than going across the ocean to find the same thing. This slant also makes it harder for me to feel that he is as truthful as possible. Yes, I won’t argue with the misery and decay of the East End and it’s people, but it’s not really that unusual for an industrial city in that time. In fact it was and in many ways still is the norm.