George MacDonald and Victorian Society

  • Jeffrey Wayne Smith

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis approaches the ways George MacDonald viewed and represented Victorian society in his novels by analysing select social issues which he felt compelled to address.

    Chapter One introduces the thesis. It contains a review of critical commentary on MacDonald’s work, as well as discussions on his non-fictional texts and essays, industrialism, and the great rural-urban divide of the nineteenth century.

    Chapter Two concentrates on MacDonald’s representations of the city in Robert Falconer (1868), The Vicar’s Daughter (1872), and Weighed and Wanting (1882) by underscoring parallels between Octavia Hill’s housing and environmental schemes and situations which he experienced firsthand.

    Chapter Three examines the influence of Nature on MacDonald’s theology and social views. Special emphasis is placed on Wordsworth and the development of MacDonald’s unique pantheism in his texts, such as the short story, ‘A Journey Rejourneyed’ (1865-6), Guild Court (1868), Wilfrid Cumbermede (1872), What’s Mine’s Mine (1886), and Home Again (1887).

    Chapter Four uncovers MacDonald’s involvement with the animal welfare movement during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Discussions on vivisection, vegetarianism, hunting, animal abuse, evolution, and degeneration are provided with a wide range of MacDonald’s texts, such as Alec Forbes of Howglen (1865), Paul Faber, Surgeon (1879), The Marquis of Lossie (1877), A Rough Shaking (1890), and Heather and Snow (1893).

    Chapter Five offers a short summation of the thesis. It affirms that MacDonald was deeply troubled by certain social issues that were raised within his society and would use his fiction to express his concerns. The conclusion also offers a few suggestive topics for ongoing research in the field of this thesis.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDavid Robb (Supervisor)


    • George MacDonald
    • Nineteenth-century literature
    • Octavia Hill
    • Victorian anti-vivisection Debate
    • John Ruskin
    • Victorian philanthropy
    • Nature and the city

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