The Victorian Era

My perspective regarding the Victorian Era has changed drastically in the last week, especially after reading Jack London’s The People of the Abyss. Before enrolling in Jack the Ripper’s London, I had always pictured the Victorian Era as being a time filled with grandeur and prosperity. As a little girl I had an American Girl Doll that lived during the Victorian Era, and the clothes that came along with the doll reflected wealth and upper-class standards. She had her “cold-weather outfit,” which consisted of a velvet dress with a fur cape, a gorgeous hat complete with flowers, and a fur hand warmer that matched her lovely miniature ice skates. For the summer she had a sundress and wicker hat with matching ribbons for her hair, and for her everyday dress she had a stylish plaid dress, gold necklace, and button-up boots. There was a book that came along with the doll telling me about her life, and she lived in a beautiful Victorian-style home with a well-to-do father, a mother that was the epitome of the perfect hostess for social events, and several servants that helped the family with their everyday household tasks. The character was always dressed according to her mother’s “prim and proper” standards, and was not allowed to get dirty as she played with the servant children. The family would often talk about Queen Victoria, and it seemed that the world was at peace—at least among the upper-class. This rosy depiction of the Victorian Era has been the perspective that I have maintained until this point. Now, however, I know differently. I was astonished and taken aback as I read London’s first-hand accounts of the East Side, documenting the poverty, misery, filth, and hopelessness that was rampant at the time. In essence, the idealistic view of the wealthy that many have come to associate with the Victorian Era was merely a façade for the grim reality that lay beneath. 


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