Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Author: n8

A Safety Poem

Almost all the Victorian authors we have read challenge gender roles. Bram Stoker allowed Dracula to be the most powerful character in his story, but also painted him as one of the most feminine characters, Mary Elizabeth Braddon made her most beautiful character, Lady Audley, the most treacherous one, and finally Christina Rossetti, who in No Thank You John addressed the idea of saying no to a marriage, so that someone may wait for love. While these three authors may have presented new ideas to challenge Victorian social norms, they all reinstall the normal with their endings or a less radical piece. As I mentioned in my former post “Beating the ’95 Bulls Without Michael Jordan” Stoker allowed the finally battle of Dracula to be fought without Count Dracula, Mary Elizabeth Braddon kills Lady Audley, and writes a short chapter reassuring her readers that the story was fictional and apologizing for any fright she may have given them, lastly Christina Rossetti wrote less radical poems too, ones that didn’t seem to challenge any Victorian Norms like “A Triad”.
A Triad expresses 3 different women, who are character types of how women could live their lives and view marriage. Rossetti describes the first women in a lustily manner. With lines like “Crimson, with cheeks and bosom in a glow” here she is described as a whore, the crimson red represents an impurity, similar to the voluptuous red lips, Lucy and the three female vampires had in Stoker’s Dracula. The second woman is the ideal Victorian lady. She is described as singing “soft and smooth as snow” a direct contrast to the first lady, the second is compared to white snow to show how pure and innocent she is. The third singer married but married the wrong person and now lives desolate life. This poem does not give Victorian women many freedoms, if they choose to live a life expressive life of any kind they will end up dead like the first woman. They could strive to be like the perfect second women, but if they choose the wrong husband by they may end up as a lonely spinster. By giving the audience such bleak options Rossetti may be pointing out how unfair women’s choices are, but overall I find this to be a poem to calm the masses. Rossetti presents no radical claims she rather states the truth.

Beating the 96 Chicago Bulls Without Michael Jordan

In Stoker novel Dracula is an extremely powerful character. He possesses superhuman strength, immortality, hypnosis and even the ability to disappear in an instant. As the book comes to an end, tensions mount as the vampire hunters slowly close in on Dracula. Preparing for the final battle between our heroes and Lord Dracula, which shockingly never occurs. Stoker never gives Dracula a chance to utilize his incredible powers in battle. Instead, he allows his Victorian characters to take advantage of one of Dracula’s few weaknesses, the daytime. The hunting party outsmarts the far more powerful vampire, reinforcing the idea that Victorians can defeat any individual by using more adept ways of thinking.

Like Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Stoker uses the final pages of his novel to reset all of the troublesome events that occurred. In the final battle, the five men defeat Dracula’s team of gypsy’s fairly easily, and the only protagonist who died was the American Quincey Morris. While this was sad, it would not have had a huge emotional effect towards the Victorian readers, because Quincey was American. Stoker created Dracula to be so powerful, that if he fought against the men, it would be unrealistic for them not to endure extreme casualties.  By defeating Dracula so easily English dominance is reinserted into the story, the threat of the foreign invader is vanquished and Mina’s purity is restored.  All of these things calmed the nerves of his Anglican readers but in reality, Stoker created a villain far too powerful to be taken down with brute force, so he allowed his characters to use their superior intellect to beat them.

 

The Idea of 3

The number three is significant in so many aspects of Victorian and in modern life. In the Hindu, Buddhist, Christianity faiths the number holds great importance, on top of this, every sect of the Christian faith believes that three symbolizes the Holy Trinity. On a more secular level, the number can represent the three acts of existence birth life and death. While Dracula is riddled with allusions to the Bible and the Christian faith, Stoker uses the idea of three to also reinforce Victorian gender roles. The symbol of three first presents itself in Dracula on page 44 when we encounter the female vampires. Even though these characters are introduced in an attractive and sexual manner, Stoker quickly characterizes them as the monsters they are. At the end of chapter IV on page 61, Harker even states that “They are devils of Pit!”. At this moment, the Vampires begin hunting for Jonathan, as they want to drink his blood and take his life. Just three pages later Stoker introduces a foil of the lady vampires, the three men who propose to Lucy. While the vampires look to take lives by draining the blood of their victims, these three men do the opposite. Each time Lucy’s blood was drained by Dracula they voluntarily give up their own blood to regain her own health. Even though Jonathan was attacked by three vampires he still managed to escape with little to no help that we know of. Jonathan did not accept his fate, he was not a feeble victim, some of his last words were “I shall try to scale the castle wall farther than I have yet attempted… I may find a way from this dreadful place.” Jonathan is able to evade the female Vampires alone, Lucy on the other hand, is depicted helpless. Dracula can easily control her and she stands no chance alone, Lucy’s only chance to survive comes from her male companions. Stoker contrasts Jonathan and Lucy, Jonathan is able to escape from three female vampires, while Lucy stands no chance against one male vampire. This not only highlights the differences between John and Lucy, but also the difference in strength between the male and female vampires. Reinforcing Victorian beliefs that men were more competent than women.

The Night He Risks It All He Also Risks His Life

“Just as I frequented ball-rooms and opera-houses — because they amused me, and because I had nothing better to do with my leisure hours. But on this occasion, it was very different–now, for the first time in my life, I felt what the passion for play really was. My success first bewildered, and then, in the most literal meaning of the word, intoxicated me. Incredible as it may appear, it is nevertheless true, that I only lost when I attempted to estimate chances, and played according to previous calculation. If I left everything to luck, and staked without any care or consideration, I was sure to win–to win in the face of every recognized probability in favour of the bank. At first some of the men present ventured their money safely enough on my colour; but I speedily increased my stakes to sums which they dared not risk. One after another they left off playing, and breathlessly looked on at my game”

This passage jumped out at me when I first read because of Collins’s interesting use of stream of consciousness. His writing gives the readers a unique way of seeing exactly what the speaker is thinking. Faulkner’s thoughts are short and sporadic. They are often detached from one another, but never straying from the focus of the passage, Faulkner’s game of Rouge et Noir. There is a constant repetition of the words I, My and me. He speaks of the game as though it is his, using possessive words such as, “my colour” “my game” “my success” (Collins 32). The speaker is so self-infatuated that he becomes oblivious to his surroundings. This passage takes place before he is drugged but he still states that the game, “in the most literal meaning of the word, intoxicated me” (Collins 32). Collin’s early references to the speaker’s disorientation and intoxication foreshadows his later on intense experience with drugs. Another passage that reveals Faulkner’s self-infatuation is when the man painting him comments on his appearance, “I shall see your natural expression on your face if I can only get you to talk about that adventure”. At this moment, not only is Faulkner so enthralled with his story that he has forgotten about modeling but also his story is so self-oriented that he would be showing his true self while telling it.

You Can’t Ask Too Much of Me

On page 16 Lucy responds to Sir Audley’s proposal. Her speech caught my attention because the raw emotion she exhibited.  Which, allowed me to better undertsand and relate to her character.  Braddon chose to start off this paragraph with emotional words that also revealed the importance of the passage, such as passion, agitated, shrill, piercing, and distinct. These words allowed me to better undertsand what Lucy is going through and how imperative her statements are to her beliefs and actions in the novel. After, Braddon adds statements of doubt that show Lucy’s lack of confidence and foreshadow her having a dark past. Lucy’s states that “There are women a hundred times my superiors in beauty and in goodness.” This surprised me because the pages leading up to her speech talked so much about her beautiful outward appearance. Lucy then repeats the 3 times that “you ask too much of me” (Braddon 16.) At first, I was confused by Lucy’s doubt, but then I realized that her Lucy’s appearance was not the only thing she was worried about. Braddon foreshadows that Lucy’s previous actions are also are also stopping her from being a worthy wife. Lucy then reveals the struggles of impoverished past, she explains that “Her father was a gentleman; clever, accomplished, generous, handsome – but poor.” (Braddon 16). This juxtaposition shows that Lucy understands the importance of wealth, Lucy says all these redeeming qualities about her father but finishes off with “but poor” potentially indicating that in her wealth trumps everything else. Lucy finishes of her speech by saying “I cannot be blind to the advantages of such as alliance” (Braddon 16.) This again shows her understanding of what wealth can do, but may also explain her thoughts on the marriage. Lucy calls her marriage an alliance, hinting that she is not in it for love but rather the benefits it will give her.

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