People all over the world practice their own religion or spirituality in their own different way. For many years being able to freely practice religion has been a very long battle. Soldiers and civilians together have died, fought, petitioned, and taken action, time and time again for the same result: freedom and acceptance to practice their beliefs without judgment. In the Victorian Era in England, which took place in 1837 through 1901, the beginning of the era had a high population of Christian believers but as the years went by, that began to change. Religious beliefs and the Church were being questioned and with the industrial revolution on the rise, people became more educated and slowly drifted away from spirituality. In Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, he references this shift in attitudes towards religion. The start of the Victorian era was filled with inspiration for education, research, and writing. Spirituality in the people was increasing and more people started to attend mass services. In fact, Mark Weinert states in his book, “A People of One Book”, that the Bible was the source of the Victorian culture and “that it was a part of the very air breathed by the Victorians, a constant source of reference that saturated their thought and writing.” It was also one of the time periods where changes had a great impact on the society. According to writer David Nixon, in his review, “From Gregorian to Victorian”, he describes one of the first major changes made to the Church was removing its secular authority. It meant that the ties between the Church and the State were weakened and the authority of the Church became more of a “positive affirmation than social compulsion” (David Nixon). This lead to many important figures of early Victorians such as politicians becoming isolated from the Traditional Church. The Test Act was one of the actions. It excluded people from office and people of employment because they could not reconcile to the Catholic Church. Luckily, after the revoking of the Test Act, tables began to turn for the English Church. Everyday normal practices such as giving out communion wafers during mass and the usage of the sign of the cross increased in popularity. Granted, there was a separation from the Georgian Era to the Victorian, but many ideals and elements such as ritualism carried on to the Victorian time period. Specifically talking about the Church, there were many divisions from the effects of social classes. As a matter of fact, there is a book entitled “Life in Victorian England, The Church” by Virginia Schomp that provides descriptions of the impact of religion on the community and how they withstood all the changes of the Church through the years. Inside the Church, the important figures were clergymen. They committed their lives to serve their duties and other people. With the circumstance of the Victorian Era, there was an expansion of better education and practice for future priests. The Church ordained many intelligent men to the clergy even though they hadn’t graduated yet. The new clergymen were very inspired by the revival of the Church that they took action and enlarged their ministries. As Virginia stated, “…clergymen of all denominations would work hard to encourage greater religious devotion among the working classes.” (Virginia Schomp) We can see that religion has evolved for the better throughout this era. Taking a look inside A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens takes a different approach at introducing spirituality in the book. For example, there is a scene in Book the Second that includes Jerry Cruncher and his wife that needs attention. In the scene, Cruncher has just gotten back to his house and when he opens the door he catches his wife on the floor praying or as he calls it, “flopping” and then throws his boot at her. Jerry Cruncher says “What… what are you up to, Aggerawayter?”(Dickens 60) In the context of this book Aggerawayter means annoying or aggravating. His wife responds to him by saying, “I was only saying my prayers…I was not praying against you; I was praying for you”(Dickens 60). Mr. Cruncher was so upset about this because his wife was praying for him and since he had been doing such horrible actions such as grave robbing he feels as if she knows what he has been up to. He thinks it will conflict with his business as a so called honest tradesman. This connects with spirituality because in this case it was not accepted but at the same time there was the theme of resurrection presented in the book so Dickens includes spirituality in two different ways. Overall, the conflicts that arose made religion a powerful strength in the Victorian era.
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