Life in the Times of Victoria:
Expectations of a young man.
By:
Delphinius “J.C.” Tucker

The life of a young man is complex. With the impositions of society weighing down on his shoulders, tearing him apart at the seams, and attempting to mold him into what it feels he should be, whether that be moral or not. The prominent themes in what a young man should act like, treat others like, and become have changed greatly over the last hundred years. From society raising the gentleman to the highest and making him most desirable, to today’s view of “the bad boy” these themes have also shown what society is becoming. In this contrast we will compare the current expectations with the expectations of a young man in Victorian times, and show just how this change has lead to some small problems in modern times.

The biggest of all differences are those of conduct. In modern culture and society a young man must preserve his honor. He must be big, he must be able to rebut, and above all he must keep his reputation high. He has to be able to score with the women, and he has to be able to party hard. This is, usually, attributed, and rightly so, to the prevalence of the drugged up punk/rocker/rapper position in society. These people managed to get famous, and they have a big face, and they glamorize sex, drugs, and partying. It’s almost as if the Hollywood aristocracy is intentionally trying to do this. In such a society where defending yourself, and being heard, is the most important value, ego is more than likely going to become a large factor in the equation, and it seems that the more the Hollywood society invades the rest of the western world, the larger this ego factor becomes. It’s a society of money and greed.

This is almost the exact opposite if the proper conduct of a young man in Victorian times. Go back, roughly, a hundred years, and find yourself in London, one of the great pop-culture Meccas, where gentlemen, and the other big names, were kind, small, unwanting of conflict, and more focused on helping others than himself. Along with Paris, and perhaps New York, these cities set the trends in fashion, design, entertainment, and the expectations of conduct. With these cities being, still, fixed on the aristocracy, it was unlikely that the trend would be anything less than gentlemanly conduct.

Much like little boys today want to be Batman, or other such characters, when they grow up, children in this time wanted to be like their great literary heroes, the great Allen Quartermain, and Sherlock Holmes, who were gentlemanly, intelligent, and, mostly, polite. These traits were exactly what the young men needed to become to keep society flowing smoothly; the proper treatment of others, politeness, being gentle, all of these ever important things that faded over time causing people to distrust, hate, and inflict so much damage to each other, for no other reason than a difference in sub-cultural opinion. The expectation of a young man to defend himself and his pride, has become one that has shaken society at it’s very core, and may very well help to bring about the downfall of society. But more likely, with hope, is the emergence of a new kind of person. The kind of person idealists dream of becoming now: The Gentleman. The kind, helpful, faithful, desirable, and polite man that once was, and is now just a dream in old books, and, dare I say, romance movies.

Perhaps this is a bit romantic of me. We know that there weren’t as many gentlemen as books and history would have us believe. There was obviously an abundance of people that held other ideals, or the ideals prominent in today’s culture would not have become so important today. But the ideals, the expectations, and the etiquette, were all there, being taught, hoping to be learned, and applied. Even more amazing, though, is the fact that those etiquettes still exist, just waiting to be used, waiting to be learned, waiting to be applied, and with some hope, people will start listening, people will start learning, and people will start acting to make this world society a better place to live. The SteamPunk movement has attempted to create this progression. By bringing these ideals back to life, in essence, it’s as though instead of putting emphasis on punk, as one that pushes the system, we are a subculture that, along with a snazzy dress code, push for a betterment of the world society, and try to bring back the ideals of the gentlemen.


Further Reading:

http://www.victorianweb.org/history/gentleman.html
http://www.victorianstation.com/gentle.html