Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Light vs. Dark between Texts

“The fresh beauty of the following morning did something to efface from our minds the grim and grey impression which has been left upon both of us by our first experience at Baskerville Hall. As Sir Henry and I sat at breakfast the sunlight flooded in through the high mullions windows, throwing watery patches of color form the coats-of-arms which covered them. The dark panelling glowered like bronze in the golden rays, and it was hard to realize that this was indeed the chamber which has struck such a gloom into our souls upon the evening before.” (Doyle 62).

 

When comparing the text of The Hound of the Baskervilles with that of Lady Audley’s Secret through a lens of theme and night/day language, I notice similarities between their depictions of night versus day.  In the night, the atmosphere surrounding the country estate carries a scary, secretive, and murderous vibe. But as the daily cycle continues and the sun rises, a happy vibe accompanies its return.  In Lady Audley’s Secret, darkness and night time cast a shadow over the mysterious Lady Audley’s hidden secrets. But as daytime returns, Lady Audley appears to be a frivolous and happy woman. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, as Watson and Sir Henry approach Baskerville Hall in the night time in the “dark against the evening sky,” they sense a dark and evil atmosphere (Doyle 61). Sir Henry hopes that “things may seem more cheerful in the morning,” just as Lady Audley appears more cheerful in the daytime, but ultimately is the same person in day and night.

A difference between these two texts include the secrets which characters are hiding. Even before we read the first page of Lady Audley’s Secret, we can infer that Lady Audley has a secret from the title.  But in The Hound of the Baskervilles, we know that there are secrets being hidden but we don’t know who is withholding what information. I have suspicions about Dr. Mortimer, who was present the night of Sir Charles’ death.  

3 Comments

  1. thoreauly_written

    October 1, 2017 at 9:49 am

    I agree with your statement that the motif of darkness and light plays a key role in both novels. However, one difference that I find interesting is that in one novel (HOB), an inanimate countryside is portraying light and darkness, and in the other (LAS), a person is, specifically Lady Audley. This gives a much more vulnerable feel to Hound of Baskervilles; unlike a person with morals, emotions, and reasoning, a moor is inanimate and emotionless, thus predicting a totally unpredictable environment for the characters in HOB.

  2. I agree with the binaries that the reader can see in both The Hound of Baskervilles and Lady Audley’s Secret. I think the authors do this to show the extremes that exist in the characters in both the novels. Just like there is this extreme differences between light and dark exist in the setting, extremes between good and evil exist between the characters. In Lady Audley’s Secret Lady Audley herself is a paradox, seemingly moral upstanding woman, but at the same time a murderous. In The Hound of Baskerville however, it is too soon to know who is hiding their true motives, but the difference between light and dark foreshadow that something is hidden.

  3. I also found this trope to be particularly interesting in both of the novels, and I think that it even can be translated over when looking at the weather. For example, in Lady Audley’s Secret, Lady Audley became very frightened of the storm, and in the morning when it was over she was completely herself again: “She had her bedstead wheeled into a corner of the room, and with the heavy curtains drawn tightly round her, she lay with her face buried in the pillows, shuddering convulsively at eery sound of the tempest without.” (LAS, chapter 9, page 78) George even acted in a similar manner: “But the storm had quite a different effect upon George Talboys. His friend was startled when he looked at the young man’s white face as he sat opposite the open window listening to the thunder, and staring at the black sky, rent every now and then by forked streaks of steel-blue lightning.” (LAS, chapter 9, page 75) Like you mentioned, this is similar in the Hound of the Baskervilles when any of the characters describe the area of the moor that surrounds Baskerville Hall: “The longer one stays here the more does the spirit of the moor sink into one’s soul, its vastness, and also its grim charm.” (HOB, chapter 8, page 75)

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