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19th Century Novels and Physics

The purpose of this research is to examine parallels between the approach and attitude found in nineteenth-century physics and that found in nineteenth-century novels. The plan of the research will be to set forth examples from novels of the period that demonstrate an objective, highly structured approach to narrative as illustrative of an objective moral universe.

As the English novel moved from the romantic period and toward the modern period, there was a discernible shift in the methods of expression of feeling. Emotion for its own sake gave way to stories in which psychology of being expressed with reference to other elements of existence. Life was becoming more complex, textured, but above all it was thinkable, and literature became a mode of reflection and observation. The world, especially the contemporary society, was that which was observed. The literary world of the early and late Victorians was the world as they understood it to be and not as one might have wished in fantasy that it was.

This is a world in which Thackeray can present his novel without a hero, or Vanity Fair. In Becky Sharp in particular and in the cast of characters surrounding her more generally, Thackeray draws a portrait of a morally unattractive yet easily identifiable "type" existing in fashionable society. Thackeray develops the manipulative persona of Becky Sharp, but he also carefully prepares the way for her one selfless act--giving up Colonel Dobbin and bringing him and her friend Amelia together, and at the same time giving up an opportunity to be received into respectable society. Her method is to explain that the man Amelia thought to great love of her life was actually a scoundrel, and she presents Amelia with a love letter the scoundrel had written to herself. Her motive is the memory of Amelia's kindness to her: "Perhaps it was compunction towards the kind an dsimple creature who had been the first in life to defend her, perhaps it was ...

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19th Century Novels and Physics. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 12:41, May 29, 2020, from