Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

The Murder Weapon in Bed’s Clothing

The domestic as we have seen is a vital aspect the sensation novel. It provides the setting in which people should be safe, but is the place hiding the most danger. I noticed that our narrator repeats exclaiming the ways in which the apparatus works in silence once he has discovered its existence: “The frightful apparatus moved without making the faintest noise. There had been no creaking as it came down; there was now not the faintest sound from the room above” (Collins, 40). Something with so sinister a goal would have to show its true intentions. We hate to believe that evil conducts its business in silence and in the darkness where we, as the good individuals of the world, have no access and is beyond our reach. 

Another aspect of this is where we see him finally examining the machine itself. Knowing that it is there allows the narrator to search for how it works hidden in plain sight: “I felt at the sides, and discovered that what had appeared to me from beneath to be the ordinary light canopy of a four-post bed was, in reality, a thick, broad mattress, the substance of which was concealed by the valance and its fringe” (Collins, 40). The true nature of the bed provided for him to sleep is hidden from the vantage point of the average person. It “appeared to me from beneath to be the ordinary light canopy of a four-post bed” showing us that what the average individual saw when they looked at it was different from its sinister reality due to the fringe concealing it as well as the angle that interrupted a comprehensive view. 

In a civilized society, we should be able to roam our world without fear of things we might not see. As individuals of society we would like to believe that that idea is not a reality in our civilized world and that unseen evil is a way of the past, but here we are forced to see the truth. The darkest, most sinister acts are always performed in darkness away from the eyes of good, honest people. This passage highlights the worst fear we can have- the fear of the unknown and the unexpected-is a common theme throughout literature because as must as the reality scares us, the idea of what happens in the dark also intrigues us.

2 Comments

  1. I agree that the domestic is a large part of this story, and after reading your post I am questioning whether religion was also a question of the story. When you stated that “the apparatus works in silence” it lead me to believe that there may also be a reference to faith here as they cannot see or hear a God. In addition, the gears of the bed being in a place you cannot see and working in silence may also be a symbol of the Victorian question of faith, as they cannot see or hear a God. The uncovering of the gears as a reason for the action of the bed may be representative of an uncovering of reasoning for the actions of what was believed to be a God, defeating the idea of faith with a reasonable explanation.

  2. Reading this post makes me think of the times today, where the things we cannot see are some of the scariest and worst. In the Victorian era they assumed that evil things would be heard or seen and they would know when danger was upon them. In A terribly strange bed it brought to light the idea that things that were silent could also cause harm. I agree that in Victorian era, they believed they should roam without fear of things they cannot see. It is amazing how much times have changed and how technology has changed what we fear.

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