Darwin’s writings profoundly affected thought and one’s perspective, in England; as such, his ideas would certainly influence English writers. The nineteenth century was a period of turbulence for traditional ideas; Darwin’s writings added to the skepticism of old beliefs regarding humans’ place in the world. For the first time, many began to consider taking the perspective that, perhaps, humankind’s origins lie with the beginnings of all other animals, as Darwin suggests. Such ideas were problematic for religious institutions, as they contradicted the Bible’s explanation of the creation of the universe. While on his voyage, in an attempt to explain why the birds were so docile, Darwin states: “[fear of humans] is not acquired by individual birds in a short time, even when much persecuted; but that in the course of successive generations it becomes hereditary” (Darwin 1272). This quote illustrates the inspiration given to Darwin by the voyage for the idea of natural selection, as he compares the birds he encounters to the birds in England, which do have fear of humans (Darwin 1272). Darwin implies that the laws of natural selection apply to humans, as well: “Nature by making habit omnipotent and its effects hereditary, has fitted the Fuegian to the climate and the productions of his miserable country” (Darwin 1267). Darwin sees the differences between himself and the Fuegian people; he sees how they evolved differently from himself to adapt to their environment. Whereas many once believed humankind to be separate from the rest of the animal kingdom, Darwin’s revolutionary ideas rendered those ideas null to the open-minded people of English society. As Darwin’s ideas influenced English thinking so much, understanding them and the conflicts they created is important in comprehending the writings of writers of the period.
Both the content and technique of BLAST are revolutionary. The graphics of the magazine are certainly abnormal for the era; rather than focus merely on getting the information on the page, the designers of the magazine used different fonts and sizes to emphasize certain words. The industrial revolution’s innovations in regards to printing certainly aided in the decision of the designers to attempt something so revolutionary. As more became possible with printing, the people composing BLAST decided to take advantage of opportunities unavailable to past magazines by experimenting with graphics.
The content of BLAST was just as revolutionary as the design. “We do not want to change to appearance of the world, because we are not Naturalists, Impressionists, or Futurists … and do not depend on the appearance of the world for our art” (BLAST 7). Essentially, they say that they do not mind if their works have no significant impact on the world; they do not allow the world to influence their works, either. This sentiment seems revolutionary in that most, to this point, would create works which were either based in reality or aimed at affecting reality; their aim seemed to be to do neither.
Wordsworth’s use of the concepts of time and nature in “Tintern Abbey” makes it a revolutionary poem. In fact, the first line of the poem relates to time, as the narrator states that “[f]jve years [had] passed” since his last visit to that spot in nature (Wordsworth 1). The purpose of the author using time in his poem is to demonstrate how moments survive time and change, through memories; this seems appropriate as the author lived in an ever-changing Europe. After recollecting on previous trips, the narrator describes how “in this moment there is life and food / [f]or future years” (Wordsworth 65-6). The narrator infers from his nostalgia at this moment that he will have the same nostalgia in the future.
However, as the years have passed, the narrator observes nature differently than he used to; he learns “[t]o look on nature, not as in the hour / [o]f thoughtless youth, but [to hear] oftentimes / [t]he still, sad music of humanity” (Wordsworth 90-2). The narrator no longer views nature and humanity as entirely disconnected. One can infer since the author describes hearing the “still, sad music of humanity” within the wilderness, Wordsworth believes there is a bond between humans and nature that has been forgotten by most (Wordsworth 92). As humans of Wordsworth’s period furthered themselves from nature, Wordsworth emphasized the importance of a continued relationship between nature and humans; his poem is revolutionary in this sense. People of Wordsworth’s period failed to remember their origins in nature; Wordsworth insinuated humankinds need to remember their origin. As the narrator feels nostalgia upon reconnecting with nature, the whole of humanity will too.
Written during a period of revolution and uncertainty in Europe, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft argues for drastic change in British society to end the suppression of women. The most revolutionary component of Wollstonecraft’s writing was her objection to the sentiment that people should follow the orders of others without thought. She argues that “every profession, in which great subordination of rank constitutes its power, is highly injurious to morality” (Wollstonecraft 294). Correlating to the previous argument, she creates the example, along with others, that “a standing army … is incompatible with freedom; because subordination and rigour are the very sinews of military discipline” (Wollstonecraft 294). In the conclusion of her argument, she states “that the character of every man is … formed by his profession” (Wollstonecraft 295). Additionally, because of this “society … should be very careful not to establish bodies of men who must necessarily be made foolish or vicious by the very constitution of their profession” (Wollstonecraft 295). Through being molded by their profession to take orders without thought, men of those types of professions would never question why their society was oriented in its state; in a state that suppresses women and many others. A non-violent revolution for women’s rights could not succeed with the majority of the populous accepting society for how it was and viewing change as a danger to their way of life; with them never wondering if or how: society could change to become more inclusive for women, and what benefits may come of such a shift. If people refuse to change their worldview, no significant changes can be made in any society.
The sentiment of following orders was more detrimental to women during Wollstonecraft’s time than it was to men. Referencing her previously mentioned example regarding the military: “Like the fair sex. The business of [officers’] lives is gallantry.—They were taught to please, and only live to please. Yet … they are still reckoned superior to women” (Wollstonecraft 298). Wollstonecraft views the actions of military personal and women in English society as similar in that both are meant to satisfy their superiors; however, she opines men are not seen as lesser for following orders while women are. Wollstonecraft’s piece is revolutionary in that it urges people to consider why their society is in its current state, and to understand there is no fundamental difference between men and women that would prevent women from making a significant contribution to English society.