Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

The Description of Victorian Women Through the Male Gaze

In the two very distinct novels “Lady Audley’s Secret” and “The Hound of Baskervilles”, the representation of women, especially in their introduction, is strikingly similar. The narratives of the two stories differ greatly; “Lady Audley’s Secret” tells the story of a man’s plight to figure out the disappearance of his good friend and the true identity of the titular lady, while “The Hound of Baskervilles” follow the famed detective Sherlock Holmes to investigate the supposed supernatural death of a Sir Charles Baskerville through the eyes of Holmes’ friend Dr.Watson. The obvious similarity of the two novels is the investigation of a death, but a subtle similarity that struck me was the description of the female characters. In “Lady Audley’s Secret”, Lucy Graham first is described as having ,”…soft and melting blue eyes; the graceful beauty of that slender throat and drooping head, with its wealth of showering flaxen curls; the low music of that gentle voice; the perfect harmony which pervaded every charm…” (Braddon 12) This very detailed description of Lucy is almost uncomfortable in its tone and specificity. In “The Hound Of Baskerville”, Watson gives a very similar description of Miss Stapleton in which he goes into detail about her skin, hair, face, mouth, and eyes.(Doyle 70) The description of the women focused more on their physical attributes, and this type of narration of the women continue throughout the books. It should also be noted that these physically detailed descriptions both come from men, one being Sir Michael Audley and the other being Dr.Watson. The depiction of the women in both books put primary focus on their physical appearance while the ones of men do not. I think that the image of women in the stories shows how the females characters were meant to serve as something for the male characters to consume rather than be rounded characters.

1 Comment

  1. I agree that the physical description of both female characters is in some ways demeaning, as it focuses on women as being objects and not people. However, I also believe that a lot of the description of Lady Audley was meant to show the reader how deceptive beauty can be, and the true evil of deception. With Ms. Stapleton though I have to completely agree with you. Another similarity worth noting through your observation is that description is important in both novels and gothic novels as a whole.

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