Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Author: Lady Audley

The Lady of Shalott’s Power to Break Free

The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson seems to be about the limitations Victorian woman have, but is really about their power to break free.

The Lady of Shalott appears to resemble the confinement of Victorian women. She is trapped in the tower of Camelot, and is restricted to the outside world. The only thing she has is her duties, “There she weaves by night and day” (Tennyson, 2). She doesn’t even have a real window to see the outside world, only a mirror, “That hangs before her all the year, Shadows of the world appear” (Tennyson, 2). The mirror is ultimately an emblem of the confinement, and limited opportunities of Victorian women, because it was a constant reminder to the Lady of Shalott that she could only see the “shadows,” not the light. The mirror reflected the outside world, which implies that Victorian women needed to be protected or shielded from the real world because it was too dangerous to expose them to. This made me wonder, is the purpose of confining beautiful women and hiding them from the outside world to keep their sense of innocence and purity, or to protect the outside world from their power to unlock and become wild?

However, The Lady of Shalott is really about the power Victorian women have inside of them in order to break free from their duties. The mirror, which served to confine Lady Shalott, is the object that cracked and actually exposed the Lady of Shalott to the so desired outside world where the attractive Sir Lancelot was- “The mirror crack’d from side to side” (Tennyson, 4). When the Lady of Shalott was motivated to leave the castle because “Of bold Sir Lancelot” (Tennyson, 3), an internal power was unlocked inside of her – she had the power to break the curse. If women have an internal power to escape, and break free why is it only unlocked when an attractive man motivates them? Does this mean that men are woman’s true powers? Without the sight of a man the Lady of Shalott would not have been able to escape. It is also because of Sir Lancelot that the Lady of Shalott broke the curse and died.

What I am trying to say here is that The Lady of Shalott is really about a women’s internal power that can only be unlocked by the presence of an attractive man. However, a women’s internal power to escape is only useful in the presence of a man, therefore men determine women’s fates by mere exposure. Men are then considered, when it comes to women’s powers, not worth it because the Lady of Shalott died in response. Ultimately, the purpose of confining women is to protect them from the outside world and to keep their sense of innocence and purity.

Demonizing vs. Realistic Approach to Sexuality in Dracula

When looking at Dracula through a lens of Reviews & Reactions of the San Francisco Chronicle on Dracula, I realized that both writings include the linkage to beauty and death, but more interestingly the way they address sexuality is different.

In Dracula and Reviews & Reactions of the San Francisco Chronicle on Dracula they both include the idea of the human-vampire being attracted to beautiful women solely to use them for their blood. It can be inferred that beautiful women resemble beautiful blood, meaning that beauty is ultimately linked to death. Also, the term “human-vampire” (Chronicle, 366) implies that the Count was human on his exterior and a monstrous vampire in the inside. The Count could then pretend to be attracted to beautiful women and lure them in with his human exterior only to “use [the] beautiful women…. and compass the death of many innocent people” (Chronicle, 366). One might question why are the Count’s victims always women? Why not men? I think that women are easier targets for the Count because of his human exterior as a man. He can pretend to be attracted to them and aim for a kiss near a women’s “throat” (Stoker, 75). Similarly, the 3 female vampires attracted Jonathan and lured him in with their sexual attention to his body.

The way Dracula addresses sexuality is different from Reviews & Reactions of the San Francisco Chronicle on Dracula in that Bram Stoker addresses sexuality in a demonizing way. He portrays women as threatening or wicked as their method to lure in men. For example, when Lucy is a full on vampire and was supposed to be dead in her coffin, “she advanced [forward], however with a languorous, voluptuous grace, [and] said: –“Come to me, Arthur” (Stoker, 181). After Lucy called to Arthur, “he seemed under a spell” (Stoker, 181). This made me infer that beautiful women can get practically anything they want, despite how they act. While in the Chronicle Review, sexuality in Dracula is addressed in their opinion as “realistic… one actually accepts its wildest flights of fancy as real facts” (Chronicle, 367). This review made me question how is the way sexuality is addressed in Dracula realistic? Especially if someone who is wicked lures in men? If someone were wicked, wouldn’t that make one want to rebel, and not get drawn in? If human men are so easily drawn to women, why aren’t there more men as vampires in the novel?

Power vs. Limitations of Vampires

Dracula by Bram Stoker seems to be about the manipulative powers vampires have due to their superficial human appearance, but is really about the limitations vampires have.

Count Dracula appears to be invincible because of his many supernatural forms, such as the “thin white mist” (Stoker, 246), “I saw a bat rise” (Stoker, 245), and “stood a tall, thin man, all in black” (Stoker, 246). He can appear and vanish into any three of these forms: mist, a bat or man. Since Dracula can transform into these varied forms he has a greater chance of taking blood from humans by being able to fit into different spaces and situations.

However, there are more limitations to Dracula’s powers. While he can look young and full of life, which increases his chances of luring in women, he can only look this way and have strength with the blood from humans. Dracula, or vampires in general rely on their looks to live. For example, after Lucy had been bitten by Dracula and was considered dead, she looked “more radiantly beautiful than ever” (Stoker, 171) which Arthur began to “loathe” (Stoker, 172). Beauty plays with the human mind and manipulates one.

Also while Dracula could live forever, and has for centuries he has to hide, constantly change location, “the Count may have many houses” (Stoker, 250) and fake his death. In order for him to live he has to constantly mold to societies fashion in each new era. Vampires are also limited to man’s powers from sunrise to sunset, “to-day this Vampire is limited to the powers of man, and till sunset he may not change” (Stoker, 261). While vampires have a superficial human appearance and use it to their advantage, they also are limited by it. Their powers become leveled to actual humans during certain times of the day. It’s interesting because while Dracula has lived for centuries and had the time to gain all the knowledge possible through experimentation, he was still not ahead of human knowledge, “for had he dared, at the first, to attempt certain things he would long ago have been beyond our power” (Stoker, 260).

What I am trying to say here is that while vampires seem invincible, they are not, they have many limitations. Viewers can even emphasize with them because their souls are trapped, and cannot be set free until they are dashed with a stake through their heart.

(Page numbers may vary- Dover Thrift Editions of Bram Stoker Dracula)

Sherlock Holmes vs. Robert Audley’s detective skills

When looking at The Hound of the Baskervilles through a lens of Lady Audley’s Secret, I realized that both novels include a main character as the “detective”, but more interestingly the characters use different methods.

Robert Audley, from Lady Audley’s Secret and Sherlock Holmes, from The Hound of the Baskervilles both try to uncover the mystery presented to them. They use their resources such as letters and people of interest to ask questions. The interesting difference is that Sherlock Holmes is a well-known detective who knows none of the people is his case personally. While Robert Audley is not an actual detective, and his case involved people with whom he was emotionally attached to.

Sherlock Holmes, being the well-known detective said, “the world if full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes” (Doyle, 36). This quote made me wonder, are things obvious to Sherlock Holmes because he has no emotional tie to the case, or because he is a professional, and experienced detective? Does Robert Audley take a while to realize the obvious in his case because he was emotionally attached to the people in it, or because he wasn’t experienced?

It’s interesting because Sherlock Holmes, being the experienced detective uses the word “obvious” a lot, for example, “obvious conclusion” (Doyle, 4), and “obviously” (Doyle, 5). This made me infer that he uses deductive reasoning as his method to uncover the case, because deductive reasoning points out the general information or what is “obvious” and makes more specific or particular claims later. The word “obvious” infers that these things that Holmes notices are easy to observe, while they might not be for others, “things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” I think Robert Audley fits into that category of “nobody by chance ever observes.” Robert Audley, on the other hand has to use his circumstantial evidence in a chronological order to make a claim or theory (inductive reasoning), “1. I write to Alicia…. 2. Alicia writes…”(Braddon, 104).

I think it takes Robert a long time to realize the culprit in his case because he was emotionally attached to Mr. Talboys, Alicia, Lucy, and Sir Michael. I infer that he didn’t want to believe his evidence, and that his judgment was impaired. On the other hand Holmes has no emotional ties getting in the way, he just has the facts, so his judgment is not impaired and he can notice the “obvious.”

Motives for marrying Sir Michael…?

““No more dependence, no more drudgery, no more humiliations,” she said; “every trace of the old life melted away – every clue to identity buried and forgotten — except these, except these”” (Braddon 17).

I found this sentence most strange because it shows Lucy’s main motive for marrying Sir Michael is not out of love or to be rich, but rather to escape her “old life.” Escaping from something and erasing it implies that it has a negative association. However, it then opens up the questions of, what is Lucy escaping from? Why does she want her “old life melted away?” It’s also interesting that these are her thoughts contemplating if she should marry Sir Michael or not because they’re all aimed towards finding safety in a sheltered nest. Since Lucy uses words such as, “every trace” and “every clue” it is apparent that she has something to hide from her “old life.” Therefore, it seems as if Lucy wants to find safety from her secret past. By marrying Sir Michael she would find safety from whatever she is running from or escaping by taking on his name. Therefore she would have a new literal identity. Lucy Graham would become Lady Audley. Lucy even stated that herself as a reason to marry Sir Michael—“identity buried and forgotten.” She then goes on to say, “except these, except these.” Which brings up the question of what is she talking about? What are these things? Why are they so important to keep if they could risk her identity and secret?

This sentence is related to the whole of the novel so far in that the words “every trace” “every clue” and “identity buried and forgotten” suggest that there is something suspicious about Lucy’s behavior. Her exterior is seen as “lovely and innocent” (Braddon 13) whereas her interior, which is expressed in this sentence, is more complex and dishonest.

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