The Demise of Inherited Property, the Rise of Self-Made Gentlemen in Bleak House (80648)

Session Information: Literature/Literary Studies
Session Chair: Akiko Takei

Saturday, 25 May 2024 14:10
Session: Session 3
Room: Room 608
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 9 (Asia/Tokyo)

Attitudes toward gentility changed significantly during the lifetime of Charles Dickens (1812-70), leading to a redefinition of what a gentleman was. Dickens keenly observed the social dynamics of the Victorian period, and his works reflected the evolving perceptions of class, morality, and social responsibility during this period. This study analyzes Dickens’s descriptions of key changes in the definition of a gentleman in his novel Bleak House (1852-53), focusing on the backgrounds of Jarndyce, Sir Leicester Dedlock, Rouncewell, Carstone, and Woodcourt. The analysis covers changes in social mobility and industrialization, professionalism, and meritocracy, as well as the emphasis on character and morality, philanthropy and social responsibility, education and the cultivation of the mind, the decline of aristocratic privilege, and professional codes of conduct. The findings clarify that the definition of a gentleman changed significantly during the lifetime of Dickens. The sudden end of Jarndyce and Jarndyce implies the decline of hereditary property and the rise of self-made gentlemen. The contrasts between those with inherited property and self-made gentlemen in Bleak House reflect broader societal shifts towards valuing meritocracy, moral character, and social responsibility. Challenges to the traditional aristocratic criteria for gentility led to a more inclusive and dynamic understanding of the concept in Victorian England. The various types of gentlemen portrayed in Bleak House reflect and contribute to these evolving notions of what it meant to be a gentleman during this period.

Akiko Takei, Chukyo University, Japan

About the Presenter(s)
Akiko TAKEI earned PhD in University of Aberdeen in 2004 and has been Professor in Chukyo University, JAPAN since 2008. Her research interests are British literature, culture, and history. She has attended IAFOR conferences since 2020.

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00