Poverty and Crime

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Thursday’s walking tour was by far the most informative and made the most connections to Dickens’ life and background. Our tour guide discussed topics varying from the conditions of poverty in the Victorian Era, the role of women, and where Dickens drew his inspirations from. Our first stop was near The River Thames and The Mudlark, located in front of the very bridge Dickens walked under to obtain ideas for Oliver Twist. This bridge, in fact was the bridge Oliver Twist’s encounters with Sikes took place in the novel. Our tour guide informed us that Dickens would sit on the steps connected to the bridge and observe the night time activities. Many wondered where Dickens obtained such vivid details in the descriptions of London’s Underworld in his novels and it was very rewarding to be able to visit the places he developed his ideas from. What’s even more interesting is that many people who read his novels wondered how he came up with ideas relating to the crime and poverty conditions of London. It makes me realize how divided the classes truly were. To the rich, Dickens must have seemed like he had a great imagination, but in actuality, he was recounting true events and encounters in his novels.

As we continued our tour, our guide spent some time discussing the conditions of women and children in The Victorian Era. Women often had no choice but to become sex workers. Children usually ended up in work houses or did horrible jobs like “pure picking.” which was picking up dog feces with bare hands, since there was no plastic, and selling it to collectors. These jobs often led to infections and disease since there were no proper sanitation methods available to the poor. Although the church thought they were helping, work houses seemed to make things even worse. As we read in Oliver Twist, children would often starve because they were barely being fed. In Morrison’s Child of The Jago, we can also see the effect of poverty and poor sanitation with the high mortality rates, especially in infants. Death happened so often that it became normal, which explains the lack of much emotion from Dicky Perrot’s parents about the death of his baby sister and their quick return to the pub. The church also did not do much for women. Instead of attempting to get women out of the situations they were in, they simply read The Bible to them. We look back at things like this and they make no sense to us, but this was truly what people believed would solve problems during the time period.

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Our tour ended with a visit to Marshalsea Prison. This was the very prison that Charles Dickens’ father was sent to for debt in 1824. I was a little disappointed to find out that the wall had recently been cleaned. It would have been great to see the wall in its original, filthy state to get a better idea of what it looked like. This was another place that Dickens drew inspiration for a novel from. Although we did not read Dickens’ Little Dorrit, our tour guide gave us a brief overview. Little Dorrit’s father was a prisoner at Marshalsea, so she would come and go from the prison and sleep there. Unfortunately, one night the prison gates were closed as she returned and she had to seek shelter elsewhere. This story is another perfect example of the extent of poverty and the conditions children faced during the era. Dickens used the experiences and people he encountered to bring awareness to the social issues of his time.

The morning’s events ended with a walk back to Borough Market for some delicious food. Fortunately, we had the luxury of eating the food that was sold there, unlike the poor of The Victorian era, who would search for remnants in the late hours of the night.

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Westminster, Theater, and Italian Food

Today we took a break from The Victorian aspect of our trip and visited some historic locations in London. Or first location was Westminster Abbey and I must say the building was amazing in so many ways. It was interesting to see how much time and effort was put into making the building so beautiful. Out of all of the history we learned about Westminster, I particularly found interest in the fact that poets and writers were buried there. I did not know much about Westminster Abbey, so finding out that Geoffrey Chaucer, C.S. Lewis, and even Charles Darwin were buried there was very surprising to me. After Westminster, we walked around the area and stopped by the parliament buildings and walked through St.James Park. I fell in love with the park as soon as I set my eyes on it. here were so many beautiful flowers, plants, and bodies of water. It reminded me of Piedmont Park in Atlanta, except it was more colorful because of the bright grass and flowers. Our walk through the park then led us toward Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, the guards were not outside today, but being in front of Buckingham Palace was amazing nonetheless.

After our last stop of the tour, a few of us decided to go to Oxford Street since it was close by. This area is by far the best shopping strip I have ever been to. It had any store you could think of plus more. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I think you get the idea. We didn’t have much time on Oxford Street, so we will be going back tomorrow to explore and do some shopping. Since we were so mesmerized by all of our shopping options, we were almost late to our group meet up at the fountain on Trafalgar Square. Luckily, we made it just in time.

Our dinner plans didn’t go as planned, but we ended up having a great dinner anyways. Instead of having Indian food, we ended up at an Italian restaurant named Spaghetti House. I have vowed to try something new each day here, so having authentic Italian food definitely fit that criteria. The food was delicious and all of the ingredients tasted fresh. Our night ended with a viewing of Much A’Do About Nothing and the show was amazing. I love theater, so being able to see a play in London was a great experience for me.

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London East End

For the past few days, I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of living in London and today made me decided that I’ll be moving here. (Not really, but I’m seriously considering it.) We started out day with a trip to The East End, where we met for a tour of the area. Our tour guide gave us some history of how the area related to The Child of The Jago. It was very interesting to actually visit the setting of one of the stories we read. Although the area looks much nicer now, the old photographs and descriptions helped me imagine what it must have been like living there. Despite the West End having a bad history, the modern day West End seems to be the place to be if you like vintage items, art, and South Asian food.

I was very impressed by the street art in the area. Each piece of art was colorful and unique in its own way. They each seemed to tell a story as well. I was also intrigued by some of the shops we passed, such as the café that only served cereal, the chocolate shops, and the vintage clothing stores. After our tour, we spent a couple of hours at Spitalfields Market. It was a great place to buy vintage items and clothing, great food, and awesome books. It’s amazing that the market is still running after all these years.

The day ended with a wonderful cruise on The River Thames. It was great to have such a great view of London’s artifacts and scenery.

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Women and Imperialism

Today we visited the Tate Museum, the Victorian and Albert Museum, and Wilton’s Music Hall. Although I wish I could have spent a bit more time at the Tate, I still had a great time. I gained knowledge about the Victorian Era through paintings and sculptures. I love making connections to time periods through artwork because the art truly speaks for itself. At the Tate, a few paintings displayed the role of women in the Victorian Era. As you can see below, women were there for three main reasons; to comfort, to be a companion to a man, and to be mothers and guides. Our tour guide thoroughly explained and interpreted each painting to us. In one of the paintings, we can see that the woman’s physical position determines her character. She is pictured leaning on the man, which symbolizes her support for him and her dependence on him. These paintings can be interpreted in many different ways, but that was what I ultimately took away from them in regards to the role of women.

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The Victorian and Albert Museum was much more interesting than The Tate. It included artwork, sculptures, and artifacts from different countries, which were obtained through imperialism. I was particularly interested in the beginning of the tour as our tour guide spoke about British imperialism in India. I noticed that she seemed to be avoiding the term imperialism and using less harsh words to describe Great Britain’s involvement with India. It was very interesting to see how much influence India truly had on Great Britain. I especially enjoyed looking at the Indian artifacts and the Indian influence in the clothing we saw. Despite the horrors of imperialism, I really loved that the museum had multiple sections to display Indian history and culture.

 

My day ended with a trip to Westfield mall, where we went bowling and had dinner.

Dickens Tour and Museum

Today was filled with a ton of information. It started out with a Dickens walking tour and ended with an amazing time at The Charles Dickens Museum. The walking tour gave me a better understanding of London’s history. Our tour started at Somerset House, which gave us an amazing view of the Thames River.

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After walking around The City of London, seeing King’s College campus, and visiting a church, our next stop was The Charles Dickens museum. Touring the Charles Dickens museum gave me a more personal connection to ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Great Expectations.’ It was amazing to see part of the environment that inspired such great books. I felt very immersed in Charles Dickens’ life. It’s one thing to watch documentaries and to see pictures, but being in his home made me feel like I knew him. Not only was I able to get a glimpse of the rooms in which he wrote Oliver Twist, but I also gained a deeper connection by visiting the bedrooms and seeing personal belongings, such as hair brushes, pocket knives, and even locks of hair.

My favorite section of the house was the bottom floor. It was recreated with props to imitate what the setting would have looked like. Touring this floor reminded me of when I participated in my high school’s version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” It truly made me feel like I had time traveled to the Victorian Era and relived my role in the play. After taking in all the new information I learned today, I must say I have a new perspective of Charles Dickens and Victorian London. I’m looking forward to developing more personal connections throughout this trip.

 

 

Kew Gardens

Unfortunately,  we weren’t able to visit Spitalfields Market, which would have given us more  of  a visual representation of where Arthur Morrison drew his inspiration. We look forward to visiting on Thursday to get more information on the area.  As for The Royal  Botanic Gardens, the landscape was one to remember.

As we entered the garden, we were greeted by beautiful hues of violet and yellow flowers. As we dove further into the gardens, we approached a beautiful body of water, located in the center of  a plant observatory, Palm House and Kew Mansion. The plant observatory was nothing short of amazing. As we entered the doors, we were shocked to feel the cold temperature transform into a humid, rain-forest like atmosphere. It felt as if we had entered an entirely new world.

 

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Throughout our readings of Dickens, we encountered this romanticized idea of the country. Dickens’ rhetoric of the country in Oliver Twist makes it sound almost paradise-like.Keeping Dickens’ history in mind, The Kew Gardens remind us of the beauty and goodness that can still be found in Victorian London. For Oliver, London was Kew Gardens, with his young, innocent mind, providing a veil for the real world he soon encounters.