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Darwin and darwinian infuence on Thomas Hardy (Jude The Obscure) and Lewis Carroll (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and through the looking-glass)

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  1. Charles Darwin and the Victorian Society
    1. Charles Darwin's Career
    2. Victorian Society
  2. Darwinian influence on Lewis Carroll and Thomas Hardy
    1. Love and Death
    2. Heredity and Artificial Selection
    3. Growth and Metamorphosis
    4. Sexual Selection and Gender Transcendence
    5. Stylistic Approach

Charles Darwin's theories upon ?Evolution? had a great impact on the scientific world in the nineteenth century, and contributed to change with respect to mentalities in a well-established Victorian society. He is mostly remembered for his conception of Evolutionism based on his theory of ?Natural Selection?, which radically transformed the scientific point of view on the immutability of species. Extended to the human race, his writings gave a new perception of the role of human beings in nature, and also in society. The influence of his theories can still be noticed today and that is one of the main reasons we have chosen to study his work. Why his ideas raised such a debate around the origins of man and what repercussions they had on nineteenth-century mentalities shall be the leading questions of our searches. It seemed to be important to go back to the sources of the process of ?Natural Selection? to better understand the impact it had, which is partly revealed by the mirrors of the mood of the period: the writers. Indeed, they represent one of the groups of artists who can convey ideas upon the atmosphere of a particular period. We can assert that Darwin's first book, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life (1859) deeply marked the nineteenth century and thus influenced, consciously or unconsciously, some writers. We have more particularly chosen to study one of Thomas Hardy's novels, Jude the Obscure (1895), as well as Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1872) primarily because they were contemporaneous with the emergence of Darwinism, and also as these writers are actually very different from each other. Indeed, we have a realist novel on the one hand, and a fairy tale on the other hand. Moreover, they are, at first sight, dedicated to different types of readers as Jude the Obscure is a novel for adults while Alice is meant for children. However, we will study what lies behind Carroll's writings and see that they can be read on different levels and, to a certain extent, can reach grownups. That is why it will be interesting to find what themes are dealt with by the two authors and their links with Darwin's theories. The comparison between the ways the writers tackle these themes will be our purpose. As a result, our study will be divided into two main parts, and we will link civilization with literary analysis in order to see the social and scientific impact of Darwinism on Victorian society, and its influence on nineteenth-century literature.

First of all, we will tackle Darwin's career and see how the concept of Natural Selection progressively came to his mind. We will see to what extent his studies and family environment led him to be a naturalist and we will more precisely show how his trip on the Beagle proved to have a decisive role in his conception of biological and geological phenomenon.

Tags: Darwinism, Lewis Carroll, Survival of the Fittest, Victorian Age

[...] Part II : Darwinian influence on Lewis Carroll and Thomas Hardy I Love and Death According to Darwinian theories, love is a criterion as important as sexual attraction for reproduction and it is scientifically considered as a necessary element for the survival of the offspring. This feeling maintains the couple together and above all reinforces the desire of protection of the children, creating a stronger community, since the individuals take care of each other. Here is an extract from Darwin's Sexual Selection in Relation to Man underlining that scientific approach: The development of the moral qualities is a more interesting problem. [...]


[...] In Through the Looking-Glass, the Gnat suggests to play with that way of using language: might make a joke on that something about ?horse' and ?hoarse', you know.?(chap.III, 145) but Alice refuses it. Once again, the graphic criterion to understand the meaning of a word is not only applied to the words, but to the situation since the characters used for the Gnat's sentences are smaller than the rest of the text, alluding to his small size and little voice. [...]


[...] We have more particularly chosen to study one of Thomas Hardy's novels, Jude the Obscure (1895), as well as Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1872) primarily because they were contemporaneous with the emergence of Darwinism, and also as these writers are actually very different from each other. Indeed, we have a realist novel on the one hand, and a fairy tale on the other hand. Moreover, they are, at first sight, dedicated to different types of readers as Jude the Obscure is a novel for adults while Alice is meant for children. [...]

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