In your own words explain what you sense is the real difference between the fictional worlds of George Eliot, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.
George Eliot, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen are all writers who seek to make a social comment in their writing. However, the focus of this social comment differs amongst the three.
Dickens writes from a perspective that highlights the state of all society, amongst various social classes and backgrounds. I feel that Dickens believes that all people are affected by the modern state of the world, particularly with regard to the influence of the industrial revolution. He seeks to persuade the reader that the current state of affairs is ineffective and harmful, necessitating change in the way lives are lived (or in the case of Hard Times, not really lived at all). Dickens seems to view and treat all his characters similarly, despite social distinctions. The only sense of superiority is felt when Dickens discusses the circus crowd, whom he promotes as a positive and necessary influence on society.
Austen, whilst making social comments, focuses particularly on the upper class and their romantic relationships. She manages to use the romantic tales of her characters to convey messages and views of societal norms, which we may assume she is challenging. These largely relate to the role of women and their ability to determine their own futures and use their talents for anything beyond attaining a husband. I feel Austen’s focus on women and marriage is evidence of her focus on females in particular, almost representing early feminist ideas. However, as enjoyable as Austen is and very talented in her ironic challenges to societal norms, they are polarised, singularly focusing on the upper class with little to no mention of the poor or lower classes. Emma provides a mild exception to this rule by including the characters of Mrs & Miss Bates – however they do not represent a true lower class.
Eliot serves as middle ground between the works of Dickens and Austen. Eliot writes of what it is to be human. She does not merely express the effect of society on humanity as Dickens chooses, and although she explores ideas of love, it is not primarily of romantic nature as it is with Austen. The other bridging lies in the fact that Eliot chooses characters from both the upper and lower classes. Class distinction is used as a vehicle to demonstrate the idea that humanity is found in interactions which have little to nothing to do with wealth or poverty. ‘Silas Marner’ is a novel which emphasizes the necessity of human interaction and contact, creating a novel with a both simplistic and holistic message – humans need deep personal connections and relationships in order to attain meaningful and fulfilling lives.
All three of the aforementioned authors are noteworthy, interesting and important. Whilst they express differing views and fictional worlds, all contain intelligent ideas which maintain relevance even in a modern context.
Image sources: http://www.inkpellet.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/p-46-Charles-Dickens-1858.jpg, http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/janepict.jpg, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/George_Eliot_2.jpg, https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/78/9d/8d/789d8dfda4a79778334b82d806db81b2.jpg