This is why I studied literature in college. This is why I became a teacher: to share in grand conversations about books, to spread the joy, to initiate and welcome students into the fraternity, into ..."the club of clubs," to travel with them into wondrously familiar or incredibly strange imaginative worlds.
Jeffrey D. Wilhelm
The Victorian Age was called the "age of fiction" because of the immense popularity the genre gained in the period. Many outstanding writers turned to novel writing and the number of novels published yearly increased enormously. Novels were also serialised in magazines. The first part of the Victorian Age was characterised by the triumph of the realistic novel. Both characters and events were interpreted and judged by an omniscient narrator who expressed the dominant moral view of the time. The story generally ended in a happy way or at least with good triumphing over evil. In the second part of the Victorian Age an anti-Victorian trend developed in the criticism of the hypocrisy and bigotry of the middle classes. The general anti-Victorian trend culminated towards the end of the century with the Aesthetic Movement which rejected the Victorian moral view of literature.
Here you can download a handout about the Victorian novel.
The most popular and productive novelist of the Victorian period was Charles Dickens. His novels represent his concern with with the need for social reforms, but he never questioned the basic values of his time. If he was critical of the injustices of Victorian society, he also gave the reassuring view that the secret of happiness was to be found in hard work, romantic love and family life. His recurrent themes reflect what he considered the worst social abuses of his time: the exploitation and ill-treatment of children, the plight of the working class, the greediness of the rich upper classes, the evils caused by an outdated system of injustice - examples include the legal system in Bleak House, the workhouse system in Oliver Twist, patent offices in Little Dorrit, and the education system in Hard Times.