Victorian Era

Before I took this class and read People of the Abyss, the Victorian era conjured up pictures of well-educated and well-dressed aristocrats gathered in lavish ballrooms. When I heard the word “victorian,” I immediately thought of gorgeous gowns in every color worn by women out of breath from their tight corsets. I imagined that everyone was excessively wealthy and relatively happy under Victoria’s reign. Most of my ideas came from Jane Austen novels and the films based off of them. Now, however, I know much better and the Victorian era no longer reminds me of these things. Contrary to popular belief, this period of time was rife with severe poverty, death, violence, and overall feelings of hopelessness. The East End was a hotbed for disease and despair. People were packed like sardines into filthy rooms, only if they were lucky. Otherwise, they would have to stand in line half the day in hope that they could stay in a “spike.” The homeless gained no sympathy from the roaming police and received no real help from the government. I had no idea these horrible things had happened during the Victorian era until I read London’s book. London opened my eyes to the horrible plight of the poor East Enders and made me realize that life during the Victorian era was not all about riches and romances.

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