Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Author: Trimble

How Real is Mr. Hyde?

Mr. Hyde is elusive in the fact that he is not well known by anyone, “[he] had numbered few familiars…his family could nowhere be traced; he had never been photographed”(17). By Mr. Hyde’s  unclear family history, he seems to have mysterious origins, similar to a gothic figure. In fact there is no proof of him ever existing, which makes the reader question if Mr. Hyde is even real. However, this may also be a question of sanity. The fact that there are varying accounts of Mr. Hyde is very unsettling, and makes the reader wonder if Mr. Hyde is a figment of an overactive imagination.

One thing is clear and that is his, “haunting sense of unexpressed deformity”(17). Haunting reinforces the gothic and elusive nature of Mr. Hyde. The word deformity is indicative of some sort of monstrous being, or at least some bodily incorrect aspect. There is something unspoken of Mr. Hyde’s presence that defies capture, which can be seen through the word, “unexpressed.” There is no photograph of Mr. Hyde, and from other works we have read, we know that portraits can be revealing, however there are none of Mr. Hyde. “Unexpressed” shows the inheritance of Mr. Hyde’s deformed nature, in that it is not necessarily visible but is simply there, but also that it defies description. As a result the reader knows that at the surface level there is something off about Mr. Hyde. It is beneath this facade of “unexpressed deformity, “ in which the reader will find the true Mr. Hyde.

Sexuality in Goblin Market

Rossetti’s poem, “Goblin Market” demonstrates the danger of overindulgence of sexuality. The Goblins’ fruit is representative of sex or sexual activity in some way, which can be clearly seen through the various ways the fruit is treated, one being Laura’s orgasmic reaction to eating it. Once Laura has eaten the fruit she is totally consumed by it as demonstrated by how she pledges to return the next night to buy some more. She says, “I ate and ate my fill, yet my mouth waters still.” Laura craves the fruit, and in other words she craves sex. It is the only thing that can occupy her mind, yet it is killing her. The fact that her mouth continuously waters for the fruit shows a fear of overindulgence. Laura becomes all consumed with the fruit, which leads to her literally becoming blinded. I think this shows how the Victorians were in some way afraid of sexuality because they believed that it would unleash something within a self. Sex is so taboo, that there seems to be a fear that once someone experiences it, they will turn into a sex crazed person.

After Laura eats the fruit she literally can do nothing else, “She no more swept the house, tended the fowls or cows, fetch’d honey, kneaded cakes of wheat…and would not eat.” It is as if once Laura has this experience she cannot be a good domestic woman. She stops her household chores and her hunger seems to be totally satiated for she ate no more. She only regenerates when she is repulsed by the fruit, “Swift fire spread through her veins, knocked at her heart, met the fire smoldering there and overbore its lesser flames.” It’s almost as if Laura is being exorcised. Her disgust for the fruit overpowers the passion she has for the fruit. And only when she fully recognizes her disgust, is when she regenerates. Rossetti ends the poem by restoring Victorian ideals.

Moral Transgressions in Dracula

At a first glance, the worst transgression of vampires appears to be their physical violence, as seen by the fact that they feed off humans, however their worst transgression is the sexuality they evoke from their victims. When Dracula bites Mina her, “white dress is smeared with blood.” Mina’s white dress is symbolic of sexual purity and the blood is reminiscent of a woman’s hymen breaking when she first has sex. When Harker is finally aroused from his deep sleep, he fears this and repeats, “In God’s name what does this mean?” and finally Mina says, “Unclean, unclean! I must not touch him or kiss him no more.” Mina has just been the victim of a sexual assault, and yet her and her fiance’s first concern is her sexual purity. So despite the physical violence Dracula causes, it was the moral violence against Mina’s soul that is of the utmost importance.

This can even been seen when the four men go to kill Lucy, and Holmwood drives a stake through her heart. The fact is that they kill her, however it is necessary because they must purify her. The cross is an antidote to vampirism because vampirism is a transgression of morality. Jesus is born to a virgin mother, and maybe the sexual purity of Jesus can somehow cleanse the sexual impurity of vampires. Vampires may be dangerous creatures but the danger of them is somehow connected to what they can evoke from their victims. This concept is reinforced in the fact that vampires are very humanesque creatures, and even feed off of humans. The fact that vampires are blatantly sexual creatures may be representative of a hidden part of humans, and one that is clearly immoral and must be suppressed.

Setting at Audley Court and Baskerville Hall

“But behind the peaceful and sunlit countryside there rose ever, dark against the evening sky, the long, gloomy curve of the moor, broken by the jagged and sinister hills”(56).

The settings of Audley Court and Baskerville Hall are interestingly similar, despite the text being very different. The main similarity is that both residences are isolated in some manner, which makes sense considering the gothic trope of isolation. Audley Court however, is isolated in an arguably more deceptive way. The lack of linear time certainly separates it from the outside world, as well as the fact that it is physically out of the way. The court itself,though, operates normally and seems to blend well with the town of Essex. Baskerville Hall,however, is very different in its isolation. It is physically isolated which can be seen in the quote with the juxtaposition of the moor and the surrounding area. The “peaceful” and “sunlit” countryside is juxtaposed with the “gloomy” moor and “dark” sky. There is nothing deceptive about the moor. Its quality as “sinister” is explicitly stated by Watson, and not implicitly inferred like that by the narrator of Lady Audley’s Secret. There is clearly a physical barrier to the countryside in Devonshire and that is the moor, for its peace is “broken” by the “jagged hills”.

In Lady Audley’s Secret there was very much an element of terror from the deception of Lady Audley. She is even compared to a siren several times in the text and she is so frightening because  she looks innocent and harmless but is in fact the opposite. Even though there is a potential for this in The Hound of the Baskervilles based on the escaped convict and Barrymore, I don’t expect the evil to be rooted in the inside because of the potent description of the evil coming from the outside, or the moor, for it is “gloomy,” and “sinister.”

Time at Audley Court

“At the end of this avenue there was an old arch and a clock-tower, with a stupid, bewildering clock, which had only one hand; and which jumped straight from one hour to the next, and was therefore always in extremes. Through this arch you walked straight into the gardens of Audley Court” (7).

 

The description of the broken clock is interesting because it seems to indicate that Audley Court is a world where time is broken, and does not exist in a linear manner, as indicated by the clock always being in “extremes.” Out of all the Audleys, Lucy best demonstrates the notion of “broken time.” Her past is largely unknown to the reader, and even the narrator notes that no one knows her age exactly. She is constantly referred to as “childish,” and exhibits childlike qualities. Braddon hints that Lucy may be Helen in her description of “extreme” time at Audley Court. In Audley Court, Lucy is youthful and childlike, but to the world, where time is not in extremes, perhaps she is “dead,” as Helen is.  

The time also distances the residents of Audley Court from the outside world. Time is a humanly concept that governs life. However Audley Court does not possess time in its usual manner. Perhaps this is why Lady Audley comes here to distance herself from her past.

The clock introduces the reader to Audley Court, in that it is directly above the entrance. It is broken and strange much like the Court itself. At first glance Audley Court seems normal, but because of the clock the reader knows that there is something off and that there is something more “extreme” than what is visible to the eye. Since Lucy is the Lady of the Court, the oddity and depth of it is a reflection of her too, and the reader realizes that there is more to her character than the innocent one being portrayed and in light of “extremes” maybe Lucy is more sinister than she appears.

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