Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

The Underlying Fears of Victorian Era in A Terribly Strange Bed

“The frightful apparatus…in all its horror.” (Collins 40)

Within the passage on page 40 of A Terribly Strange Bed, as Mr. Faulkner observes the movement of the bed that was close to suffocating him, there is an unavoidable emphasis on the silence of both the bed and the room. The bed is described to move with “the faintest sound”, “no creaking” and the room develops a “dead and awful silence”. These descriptions easily induce sensations of fear and danger to readers because the story is occurring within a realistic place that readers often find themselves in, a bedroom. The passage induces these emotions in readers not only by describing the environment but by also describing the reactions of the characters. In the passage, Mr. Faulkner states “I could not move, I could hardly breathe” which are reactions that readers may incorporate and express while reading the story. This is important to notice because this is what the sensation genre does; it presents a story to the reader that brings to life underlying fears of society and induces sensations of terror and fright. The sensations of fright are easily reproduceable in readers because, prior to reading the story, readers already carry the fears that the story is simply bringing to life in the text. A fear that this sensation story is bringing up is the fear of machinery as the Victorian era is incorporating more industrial achievements into its communities. Victorian societies feared the unknown that came with machinery and this short story is giving readers a terrifying and outrageous possible outcome to a fear they already have, as the sensation genre does. Essentially this solidifies the fears and emotions the Victorian Era was feeling during its changing times.

2 Comments

  1. I would like to stress the importance of the line “And in the civilized capital of France” and correlate a common theme of sensation novels, fear of disorder in civilized places. The fact that this story takes place in place in Paris would intensify Victorian people’s anxieties because Paris was a considered an orderly place not much different from the cities of Britain. If this monstrous device was located in an isolated place like that in of Hound of the Baskervilles if may have been less shocking. Collins chooses to set his story in one of the most prestigious cities in the world Paris, and this was simply because it ignited emotions among its readers.

  2. John H. Watson, M.D.

    October 10, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    Collins’ emphasis on the bed is especially interesting to me. I think the bed reflects Victorian anxiety about sleep and the implications that come along with it. A person is perhaps at their most vulnerable when they are sleeping and unconscious of what is going on around them. Furthermore, one cannot control their thoughts when they are asleep. Dreams defy Victorian repressions, and reflect a person’s innermost wants and desires. This is an object that is out of Victorian control, and is therefore strange to them.

Leave a Reply

© 2018 Monsters & Madness

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑