Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jack the Ripper vs. the Gilded Age

The push to industrialization, and thus to a modern world, caused many to become fearful. Fearful of the unknown and unpredictable future, which we see reflected in the graphic novel: From Hell. From the over the top cover up scheme by the Queen to the absurd Gull killings, social excess is a recurrent theme that Alan Moore ties in with the social concerns of the 1890s.

Excess means to surpass proper or specified limits, to over indulge. This was shown throughout From Hell, but no one demonstrated this better than the Queen. Queen Victoria goes to such lengths to protect the crown from being tainted by indecency that she utterly disregards the repercussions of her actions and stops at nothing to obtain discretion. She justifies each action with the need to ensure the credibility of the crown.

The actions of the industrial companies of the 1890s could be easily equated with those of the Queen. Companies like the Standard Oil Company used any means- bribery, connections to politicians, etc- to stop employee protest and gain back hard labor in order to continue receiving profits. The excess lies in the entrepreneurs who decided to pay their workers lower than is reasonable and in the American Dream that promotes such thinking. Industrialization brought about this kind of ideas and it soon became the norm. People became no longer content with living peacefully and within their means; Entrepreneurs we're no longer content with training a few workers and owning a small shop. Rather, society began thinking more along the lines of 'how can I obtain more'? More. That was always strived for with the 'American Dream' motto at its tail.

Queen Victoria instructs William Gull to get rid of the prostitutes who threaten the crown, but what she doesn't know is Gull's has his own motives. The Queen ultimately caused fear and unrest in the people of the UK. The same could be said of the reaction of the people of the 1890s about the transition to a modern society. New inventions and new ways of conducting service left lots people confused and unsure of the fuure as it got more and more out of their hands. Increasing populations in cities caused many to retreat to the suburbs because of lack of morals, sanitation and safety.
The gilded age was basically era of excess because none of our modern society is based on need, more on profit and competition. This was what many people feared because society was ever changing, and so fast, that left people wondering what was in store for the future.

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