Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

A Terribly Strange Night in A Terribly Strange Bed

In Wilkie Collins “A Terribly Strange Bed, ” many of the fears of the Victorian time period are portrayed. The paragraph that stood out to me was on page 45, when the police explained to Mr. Faulkner how the discovery of the machinery in the gambling house explains the death of many drowned men they have found in the river. In the passage, there is emphasis on how Mr. Faulkner closely escaped his death. As the police reiterate to him “Do I know how many of those men entered the same gambling-house that you entered? Won as you won? Took that bed as you took it?” the Victorian fear of the domestic is displayed. The bedroom is supposed to be a peaceful place to relax, but instead it was the site of many murders in the gambling house. The emphasis on how common it was for so many before him to follow the same routine and be murdered, makes it realistic to everyday life. The repetition of how close Mr. Faulkner was to death brings feelings of discomfort and fear in the readers, and did the same to the readers in  the Victorian era. The sensation novel evokes emotions and thoughts in the readers that cause them to question their safety in the evolving world around them. In addition to the fear of the domestic, this passage also contains the fear of machinery from the Victorian time period. The machinery that had killed so many before him was hiding in the floorboards of a bedroom, integrating the fear of machinery into everyday life and the domestic. This idea that machinery could be in the floorboards and could bring death displayed how the Victorians were fearful of the evolution and advancement of machinery.

2 Comments

  1. A Terribly Strange Bed is able to make the domestic a place of fear but what the story may also be doing is warding off readers from the actions of the character, Mr. Faulkner. Mr. Faulkner is seen gambling extensively and this perhaps was seen as an immoral or frowned upon act especially in a foreign place. This story may be a way to provoke fears into readers and making them believe that if they involve themselves in immoral acts like this then they may find themselves in the same predicaments as Mr. Faulkner.

  2. It is very interesting to point out the Victorian’s fear of the domestic here because it is the first novel we read (at that point) where it wasn’t actually within that person’s home or on their hundred(s) year old family land. Nonetheless though, it was still within a home of sorts, creating what seemed like a domestic space. It intrigues me that the Victorian’s fear, fascination, and obsession with the domestic spans outside of the realm of just their own family home, but even to one that is more of a hotel or gambling house. This “home” right off the bat is not the peaceful or relaxing place that most homes should be, as it was a place to get drunk and gamble, but yet it was still portrayed by the author, like you are saying in your blog, that it was even more terrifying that this happened within a space that resembled a home.

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