Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

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The Goblin Market

Close Reading of Goblin Market:

Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market is an incredibly sexualized poem, even though she openly wrote this for children. The depiction of the change that happens when the goblins find out that Lizzie wants to take the fruits to her sister in hopes of curing her becomes very climactic. The goblins early on in the poem were portrayed as being very happy “chuckling, clapping, crowing,” “hugged her and kissed her, squeezed and caressed her.” For some reason, this changes as they become increasingly evil and violent. In both cases, the goblins comparable to animals, however, the comparisons are vastly different. When Lizzie and Laura first meet them, they are “wagging” and “purring” like other animals, later on when Lizzie encounters them, they lash their tails, bark, and become more vicious. The goblins represent a binary; they embody both innocence and corruption. When the goblins attack Lizzie, the text makes it appear that their intentions are most likely far worse than we were lead to believe though. The goblins “held her hands and squeezed their fruits against her mouth to make her eat.” The fact that they held her down and “squeezed their fruits against her mouth” suggests that this act was performed without any consent and was the use of brutal force. Along with that, the goblins “tore her gown and soiled her stocking” which to suggests that she was violated in some way by the goblins. The author includes this scene to make a statement about the evils of men and how this affects women in the Victorian era.

Sexuality in Dracula

Dracula as a story may be seen as a classic horror tale of a bloodsucking monster who dines on the blood of the living, an embodiment of Satan himself getting the weak to bow down to him. But an underlying meaning of the character and what he represents is what I feel Bram Stoker was genuinely trying to get across to his readers, the hope to display woman as having the same desires as men through sexuality in his writing. Stoker, by pointing out the sexual repression of women during the Victorian era was hoping to display how during the period they were expected to be pure until marriage and not show or perform any seductive or flirtatious acts around men. An example of how Bram Stoker was attempting to get this message across can be seen in this quote. “In a sort of sleep-waking, vague, unconscious way she opened her eyes, which were now dull and hard at once, and said in a soft, voluptuous voice, such as I had never heard from her lips, “Arthur! Oh, my love, I am so glad you have come! Kiss me!”(Stoker, 70-71). The context of this quote is from Lucy attempting to seduce Arthur Holmwood in an attempt to kill him to escape what is her apparent demise. The relation to the new woman and this quote is that while Lucy is turning into a vampire, she becomes overly sexualized. Like other vampires around Dracula, her repressed sexuality is finally noticed, and she becomes the sexual aggressor instead of having men flock to her in attempts to gain her hand in marriage.

This piece of text taken from Greg Buzwell’s article Dracula: vampires, perversity, and Victorian anxieties, ties well with what I believe Stoker was hoping to get across, “Some critics have argued that Stoker uses the character of Lucy to attack the concept of the New Woman – a term coined towards the end of the Victorian era to describe women who were taking advantage of newly available educational and employment opportunities to break free from the intellectual and social restraints imposed upon them by a male-dominated society.” These “new woman” were trying to change the game and become the ones who were going after men, or at least add a balance that was unseen before this time. To summarize the main point, I believe Stoker is promoting not primarily sexualization of woman, but the ability to let women feel and do as they please instead of leaving themselves to do what men decide is ok for them to do within this era.



The sisters

The passage I chose establishes a link between the monster and human aspects of mortality with both the vampires and humans perspective being on opposite ends of the spectrum. From sexuality to social norms the length that we know both will go to or have tried to go to in order to obtain their desire and who they will risk differing greatly from not just each other, but from what was acceptable in this time period. I see the Stroker as trying to embrace woman as being able to be the monster just as men were, while also keeping their innocence which is found on the other end of the spectrum.

The vampire sisters seduce Harker and then make an effort to drain his blood while keeping him in a vulnerable situation. “I was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The girl went on her knees, and bent over me, simply gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck, she actually licked her lips like an animal. . . . Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and chin and seemed about to fasten on my throat. . . . I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited—waited with beating heart.” (Stoker). The quote can also be seen as a comparison between Mina and Lucy, pure women who are ideal models of the Victorian woman who one would assume wouldn’t be capable or even think of doing such an act to another human. Comparing this to the three sisters who are complete opposites. Woman of the devil who wants nothing more than to ravage and harm a man’s body. The overall control the vampires had on Harker had him in a vulnerable position that would not have been accepting of this time period, the females could be seen as dangerous regardless if they were vampires.

The Supernatural

“‘There is a realm in which the most acute and most experienced of detectives is helpless.’ You mean the supernatural?’ ‘I did not positively say so.’ ‘Since tragedy, Mr. Holmes, there have come to my ears several incidents which are hard to reconcile with the settled order of Nature.” (Doyle, 24)

While reading The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle with a lense of Lady Audley’s Secret, the books share aspects associated between the sensation fiction literature genre. We learned of several characteristics or tropes that work as figurative language or symbols to represent something.

A trope found within both novels that are more aligned with the sensation fiction genre is the thriller/Tragedy trope. Within Lady Audley’s Secret, we think we see a crime being committed by one of the characters even if it is never directly stated.

In The Hound of the Baskervilles, the story is focused on a murder chain of a mysterious creature. The detective Sherlock Holmes works to find the culprit and solve the mystery much like Robert did in Lady Audley’s Secret.

A second similar trope of the sensation fictional literature that can be pulled from the two texts from this quote can be families/domestical complications. The complications in LAS are all taking place from a select group of people from the Audley household, with a close family friend involved. The HOB has a murder spring revolving around the Baskerville family, which is yet to be solved. These similarities to me, show that a family drama is very compelling as the family unit was a topic of dispute around this time in England as HOB was published around when divorces were becoming legal.

A trope the books do not share though to contrast them is the gothic trope of the supernatural. The Hound of the Baskervilles revolves around a supernatural being that has yet to be identified but is the source of drama in the novel. In Lady Audley’s Secret, there is no supernatural force within the novel and the drama comes from a real person performing the supposed murder.


“Oh yes, you will though,” answered Luke, with quiet insolence, that had a hidden meaning. “You’ll make it a hundred, my lady.” Lady Audley rose from her seat, looked at the man steadfastly in the face till his determined gaze sank under hers; then walking straight up to her maid, she said in a high, piercing voice, “Phoebe Marks, you have told this man!” (Braddon 113)

From the first appearance of Lady Audley, I have questioned her motives towards the Audley household. Obviously, we all question if she is who she says she is, along with guessing the meaning of the ring and strands of hair she keeps with her. But what else she could she be hiding, and what caused her to share such secrets with Phoebe?

Lady Audley had presumed that what she was doing was a good deed by offering Luke money to drop the presumed marriage between him and Phoebe. She did not expect that he would be aware of her secret, or that Phoebe would go behind her back to tell him. The overall conflict had Luke demand more money and silently hinted at blackmail. The big question to be taken from this is, what is Lady Audley’s secret?. Is it so bad that it would allow someone to extort her for money?

The passage reverts back to the main questions we have all had about the novel so far. What is Lady Audley hiding? This passage only deepens curiosity about what she may be hiding. When Lady Audley confronted Phoebe about why she told, all phoebe had to say was, “He forced it from me, or I would never, never have told!” How Luke even knew the secret was questionable. Phoebe telling him possibly out of her own will may be an abstract thought, but may just be possible as there are some inconsistencies within the story.

Overall, I see this short text as another form of drama arising due to Lady Audley who seems to be inciting it with her sketchy past and questionable motives towards her choices of becoming Lady Audley.

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