Saturday, October 26, 2019

Orphans in 19th Century Victorian England :: Victorian Era

Orphans in 19th Century Victorian England The Victorian Era was a time of social evolution as well as technological and economic advance. A distinct, unique middle class was formed alongside the traditional working class and wealthy aristocracy. However, there were certain individuals that fell outside this model of Victorian society. The â€Å"abandoned child† was society’s scapegoat- a person without a past, without connections, without status. They could appear in any class, at any time. The upper and middle classes often had a somewhat romantic perception of them, due to their prevalence in Victorian literature. Novels like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights made heroines/heroes out of orphans, portraying them as respectable yet troubled (Cunningham,â€Å"Orphan Texts†). However, orphans were also often treated with disdain and distrust, due to their reputation as â€Å"criminally prone† individuals. They were a victim of classic â€Å"Victorian contradictions† that characterized most aspe cts of Victorian society. Victorian Definition of â€Å"Orphan† When we hear the word â€Å"orphan† we imagine a child whose parents have both died tragic deaths. Indeed, there were plenty of these pitiable creatures in Victorian society – the living and working conditions of the poor were so unsanitary and crowded that diseases such as typhus and tuberculosis often spread unchecked, sending many of their victims to the grave (Czarnik, â€Å"Living Conditions†). However, children were often considered â€Å"orphans† if they had one surviving parent, had been abandoned by their family, or were forced out into the world because of overcrowding at home (Cunningham, â€Å"Orphan Texts†). In 1861, it is estimated that 11% of children had lost a father by the age of 10, 11% a mother, and 1% had lost both parents (Czarnik). Adoption A very common fate of orphans was adoption. They were often taken in by relatives or neighbors, and even, on occasion, strangers wishing to raise them as their own children. In England, there were no laws concerning adoption until the 1920s, so most adoption was informal. Children who were adopted by their own social class were usually treated fairly and equally†¦ however, if they were adopted by a family whose status was above and beyond their original class, they were frequently mistreated and neglected. Children of different social classes were not encouraged to fraternize, so if an orphan was taken into a household where higher class children lived, they could be forbidden to even speak to them (Czarnik). Education Orphans sometimes met another fate†¦ being placed in an educational institution. Many philanthropists donated money to these â€Å"schools† for the express purpose of boarding and educating orphans.

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