Thursday, October 27, 2011

Societal Excess in the 1890s

In From Hell, Moore and Campbell provide a presumably accurate commentary on the dangers of societal excess during the Gilded Age. Though details about Jack the Ripper remain unattained, the story of the Whitechapel murders have proven historically relevant to the growing class disparity and lack of concern for the well being of others that was common during the Gilded Age. While the industrial and economic boom of the 1890s appeared beneficial, beneath the surface the societal excess of the time proved detrimental to the development of the lower class.

During the 1890s, both the United States and Europe experienced a rapid economic growth due to improvements in technology and industry. While these improvements greatly benefitted big businesses and the upper class that owned and operated them, the lower class experienced a steady decline in quality of life. Members of the lower class were forced to work the difficult jobs that made industrialization possible, while making little money and living in poor conditions. Though they enabled the rich to live comfortably, members of the lower class were unable to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Being surrounded by societal excess while lacking ability to enjoy it drove members of the lower class to desperate measures. For example, many women were driven into prostitution to support themselves or their families. Furthermore, men became alcoholics to escape the trappings of a lower class existence. Such activities often subjected lower class individuals to a certain amount of danger. Self-endangering activities coupled with run-down living conditions often subjected the lower class to violent crimes. Illustrated through the actions of Jack the Ripper, From Hell portrays how members of the lower class were killed without cause and without repercussions for the killer. Members of the upper class were not concerned with deaths in the lower class, so crimes often went unsolved. Though this tragic pattern continued on for decades, the injustices against the lower class eventually caused them to fight for equality.

From Hell portrays the gruesome tale of Jack the Ripper, a fictional character based on the real murders in Whitechapel. Although the setting is different, From Hell accurately interprets the consequences of class disparity caused by societal excess in the 1890s.

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