Within the world of Wonderland, things are weird and normalcy is almost nonexistent. Even the dynamics of the characters, especially those perceived to be in authority, are odd and interesting to analyze. When looking at the royalty throughout the novel is we can see that the suit of hearts is the ones in the position of power. In card games, the suit spades are the most important suit, so it is odd that hearts are in charge. The novel could be maybe playing on the other associations with the word and imagery of the word heart. Another thing that doesn’t fit is the way that although visually the characters are closer in reference to cards, the power dynamics of the characters are much closer to those of the game chess. For example, the queen appears to have much more power than the king, as she is the one who sentences others to be beheaded for minor offenses.
The queen also uses her power to make the court do seemingly nonsensical activities such as croquet with live animals. There are no rules in the game that make sense to Alice and the others there are only playing to appease the queen. In the Novel and the Police, it states that “once a power of social control has been virtually raised to the status of an ontology, the action becomes so intimidating that is effectively discouraged”(31). Wonderland could be outlining how the concept of fear in those in power is one that is ridiculous, as the people in subjugation are the ones who place them in power. The queen of hearts is a figure everyone fears but as we can see, and hear from the Gryphon, “they never executes nobody, you know”(76). This outlines the way that the people of the kingdom are blinded by the appearance of punishment from the social norms.
The Moonstone opens with a short prologue describing an account of how a gem known as the Moonstone was stolen. The narrator of the prologue contemplates the ideas of morality in relation to stealing as well as the difference between evidence and moral evidence. The narrator witnesses his cousin take part in the murder and the stealing of the precious jewel. While he tries to process this information, he gives his cousin multiple chances to explain to himself what happened. However, his cousin chooses not to come clean and the narrator doesn’t press the issue. They just decide to “turn my back on him; and we have not spoken since”(15). While the narrator confesses that he has only moral evidence, throughout the entire prologue he seems to be unsure of himself and the consequences that his recollection of the events could lead to. They also choose not to be proactive in trying to find justice for the killings or the stolen stone. Instead, they are content with letting the curse of the Moonstone do its own form of justice.
The speaker heavily focuses on the morals of stealing the Moonstone but doesn’t appear to question the morals of colonization in the subsequent death of the native people protecting the stone. This is an interesting concept because the stolen stone seems to be the drive of this whole novel and no characters consider that to break the curse the stone should be placed where it once was as the myth stated. Instead, the characters choose to try to break the Moonstone to stop the curse. Within the novel, there is an odd juxtaposition between colonization and destroying the native’s culture, while at the same time believing in the religion enough that they believe in the powers of the Moonstones curse.
In chapter 27, Jane makes the difficult decision of leaving both Mr. Rochester and the comfortable life she lived as a governess at his estate. To stay and live with him, the way they wanted together, goes against her morals and values. Jane’s reply to Mr. Rochester, where she explains to him her reasoning on why she can not stay with him, is one that uses a lot of religious metaphors and reasoning. She states, “I care for myself… If at my individual convenience I might break them (laws given by God), what would be their worth?“(331). This scene may appear to show Jane’s religious devotion but it could also arguably be about the strength of Jane’s character. Throughout the novel, we see Jane’s character thought the ways she stands up for herself. While Jane still may love and forgive Mr. Rochester for the deception surrounding his status as a bachelor, that does not mean that she is okay with continuing their relationship and with everything going back to normal. The decision she makes to leave Mr. Rochester without a plan or money exemplifies this. She could have taken gifts from Mr. Rochester and sold them but she chose not to, emphasizing her choice of righteousness. Jane chooses to “flee temptation”(314) instead of continuing to pursue a relationship with Mr. Rochester in a marriage all but in name. The recognition that to do so would be morally incorrect, shows her mental strength and character. Jane’s individualism and trust in herself that she can make it on her own show her mental strength. In a world where women were almost always forced to be dependent on others, Jane’s desire for her independence and righteousness is both admirable and strong.
Society is a big theme in the novel Daisy Miller and most of the characters seem obsessed with where they are placed within it. Winterbourne offers a unique perspective on both American and European societies as he has experience within both of them. The last scene highlights the novel’s message, the emptiness of high society.
Daisy has an obsession with society and mentions it multiple times she talks to Winterbourne. She wants to be ‘exclusive’ but as we see from her actions, she does everything to exclude herself. While Winterbourne is invested in her and tolerates her laxness of social rules, others within society are quick to outcast her. He goes back and forth within the novel believing her to be either a “little American flirt” or an innocent and unknowing young lady. The back and forth narrative creates uncertainty and paints him as an unreliable narrator. This hints that the lesson the novel tries to portray is not realized by Winterbourne.
At the end of the novel, we see Daisy become sick and die. No one seems to care except Winterbourne. After her death, the next summer in Rome, “in the interval Winterbourne had often thought of Daisy Miller and her mystifying manners… it was on his conscience that he had done her injustice” (James 64). The novel suggests that Winterbourne only thinks of Daisy when he visits Rome. He dismisses Daisy from his mind and only brings her back when his guilt is too much for him to bear.
The dismissal of Daisy as a person highlights how those who hold value separate from society suffer. The novel’s pointless upper-class affairs show the inhumanity in the culture of gossip. Winterbourne only comes to the conclusion that he was wrong about Daisy so he could cope with the guilt of caring for someone he should not have. After confronting his guilt he forgets Daisy and returns to his old life with no change in his character. The novel ends as it begins with Winterbourne in Genova studying devoted to a mysterious ‘clever foreign lady’. Daisy Miller highlights the way society treats people who do not belong.
In chapter 40, Nancy confesses to Rose about Oliver’s true identity and the danger Monks wishes to put him in. At the end of the chapter, Rose begs Nancy to stay away from the people who put her in a danger and Nancy’s reply to her was deeply complicated. Dickens uses Nancy to talk about the social and physical environment people live in and how it affects their actions.
Both Rose and Nancy have positive qualities, such as being loyal, but the response to these traits is treated differently. Nancy states, “Set our rotten hearts on any man, and let him fill the place that has been a blank through all our wretched lives, who can hope to cure us?… for having that turned, by a heavy judgment, from a comfort and a pride, into a new means of violence and suffering.’’(229). Nancy because of the circumstances of her situation, reached out and formed connections to people who surround her such as Fagin. She has loyalty for men who would not treat her the same. Nancy’s loyalty is treated with ungratefulness and becomes the source of her pain and struggle. In turn, these characters helped shape her behavior and actions. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Rose, who was surrounded by a good family, shows love and kindness and it seems to only bring those feelings back to her.
People in the streets who have a conscience like Nancy feel like they can never atone for their sins and view themselves as tainted and tied to their past. Nancy explicitly states to Rose that she is too far beyond redemption. She states, “if you could take my life at once; for I have felt more grief to think of what I am, to-night, than I ever did before, and it would be something not to die in the hell in which I have lived”(229). Nancy’s horrible life circumstances are something she feels responsible for. She even believes that she is so fundamentally tainted that she prays she won’t be tortured the same way in hell. She won’t atone for sins because she feels guilty for and tied to her past. Dickins is using her as a metaphor for how people who want to become better have a very hard time being able to change because of both their past and the people they are surrounded by.
Nancy believes that her positive traits and morals, which led her to do the right thing by Oliver, will become another source of her suffering. By telling Rose, Nancy has a lot to lose from the consequences of her kind of actions and in the end, it leads to her death.