The Unknown Contradiction of Women

The passage I am choosing to analyze is a rather long one. Since there were no breaks in the paragraph, this passage starts on the bottom half of page 207 and takes up most of page 208, and is captivating throughout. This passage was so attractive to me because the narrator sets up everything by asking several general rhetorical questions, but then goes on an unexpected rant about the power of women and why calling them the weaker sex is “to utter a hideous mockery” (208). The language used to describe the complexity and ambiguity of women is very gothic and dramatic throughout. While the narrator is quoted saying “I hate women” at one point, there is also a deep adoration and sense of bewilderment declaring that women are the “more self-assertive sex”, they are the “Cleopatras and Joan of Arcs”, but most importantly, they are “never lazy” compared to many men (208). The connection between the text’s form and content is an important one because the author uses a more passionate and direct tone of voice to explain women’s capabilities to the reader, but also conflicted these praises at the same time. This passage is entirely contradictory because while the content is mostly commendations and praises of women and wives, the underlying theme and the ultimate message of this whole section is that women commonly cause destruction and devastation with this ability. The narrator uses George as a direct example, and how marrying his wife tarnished his relationship with his father, then the death of that wife left him utterly depressed, and lastly how he was never seen alive after going to a women’s house. All things related to women. I believe this whole incompatible passage isn’t about George, his disappearance, Clara Talboys, or even women in general, rather It is about Lady Audley and her complex personality. The anonymous author doesn’t help with this claim, but we have seen both Robert and George’s obsession with Lady Audley and how she harmonizes with this argument of having great power, beauty, intelligence, but also has the capability of such evil, dark and devious deeds such as murder.

 

Women's Fashions of the Late Victorian Era – 5-Minute History

just guys being dudes

Robert’s feelings towards George were not strictly heterosexual. “It’s comfortable, but it seems so d***** lonely to-night. If poor George were sitting opposite to me, or—or even George’s sister—she’s very like him—existence might be a little more endurable” (Braddon 160). Throughout the novel, we see how obsessed Robert is with George’s disappearance. Grief and anger overtake Robert’s usually laid-back demeanor. Robert compares everything to how things were with George, and is frequently disappointed. The only woman he seems to feel strongly about is Clara, who—shocker—reminds him of George. I think Mary Elizabeth Braddon purposely crafted her story so that it was not overtly homosexual but used subtext to suggest that Robert and George’s relationship was not heterosexual. Robert and George reflected the male relationships Braddon observed in her own life, exemplifying how hypocritical Victorian high society was.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say many relationships between aristocratic Victorian men went far beyond platonic. Of course, homosexuality was considered a scandalous, promiscuous sin at the time, so coming out was almost unheard of. I believe there was a ton of internalized homophobia going on. People lived by strict social rules that decided what behaviors were acceptable or not. If you weren’t caught and followed Victorian social norms, you were assumed heterosexual. It’s like they thought homosexuality was just a bunch of flamboyant deviants running around with uncontrollable lust and low morals. This stereotyping and engrained heteronormativity allowed men to get intimately close with one another while maintaining good social standing. They weren’t gay, they were just realllllly close. At least, that was how they justified their behavior and minimized cognitive dissonance. This way, men could fulfill their social needs and not feel bad about it.

Ghost!!!!!! Ghost!!!!!! Ghost!!!!!!.?

When Robert Audley returns to Audley Court after receiving a letter from Alicia describing Sir Michael’s sudden illness, he remarks upon his sinister surroundings as he walks the path to the mansion: “The over-arching trees stretched their leafless branches above his head, bare and weird in the dusky light. A low moaning wind swept across the flat meadowland, and tossed those rugged branches hither and thither against the dark grey sky. They looked like the ghostly arms of shrunken and withered giants beckoning Robert to his uncle’s house. They looked like threatening phantoms in the chill winter twilight, gesticulating to him to hasten upon his journey. The long avenue, so bright and pleasant when the perfumed limes scattered their light bloom upon the pathway, and the dog-rose leaves floated on the summer air, was terribly bleak and desolate in the cheerless interregnum that divides the homely joys of Christmas from the pale blush of coming spring – a dead pause in the year, in which Nature seems to lie in a tranced sleep, awaiting the wondrous signal for the budding of the tree, and the bursting of the flower” (Braddon 213).

At first read, this passage seems to be yet another obnoxiously detailed account of the spooky lime tree walk, which is so beautiful and bright during the day but dark and evil in the nighttime hours. Indeed, Braddon does use this moment as another excuse to emphasize the dual nature of the infamous lime tree walk, but this time she takes a step deeper into the mystery. The vocabulary used in this paragraph evokes an atmosphere that is not just dark, but eerily haunted. Words such as “bare,” “withered,” “bleak,” and “desolate” are familiar descriptions of wintertime, but new words such as “moaning,” “ghostly,” “phantoms,” “tranced,” and “dead” conjure a truly ominous image. The lime trees are not just dark shapes casting shadows upon the hidden path, they are ghosts reaching out to whoever passes by, guiding them on their way. An interesting aspect of the syntax in this passage is the repetition of the phrase “they looked like…” The third and fourth sentences both begin with the observational words and continue to describe the spectral appearance of the trees. The two sentences are very similar, as they both paint the image of the trees “leading” Robert along the path to the house.

Ghostly imagery has been teased at in other points of the book, and their egregious use in this moment leads the reader to imagine there may be some supernatural aspect to the story. Perhaps the phantasmal trees are moved by the spirit of the lost George Talboys, and it is no coincidence that it was from the lime tree walk that he disappeared. Perhaps the trees are “beckoning Robert to his uncle’s house” and “gesticulating to him to hasten upon his journey” to hurry him forth on his quest for truth and justice. At the beginning of the novel, it is insinuated that countless secrets have been divulged and kept under the shadow of the lime tree walk, so perhaps there are more spirits than just poor George haunting the pathway. Throughout the story, Robert makes several references to an unknown hand guiding him along his journey. These sentiments largely seem to be in reference to God, but perhaps this helping force is a different sort of spirit. To take it one step further, I would make the claim, however far-fetched, that it is this omnipotent spirit, either of George in particular or of every spirit wronged at Audley Court, who narrates the novel.

Clara is NOT Like Other Girls

Page 200, “‘Then I will do it myself…my brother’s murderer?'”

This passage portrays Clara Talboys as very stubborn, independent, and strong-willed.  It is an excellent example of her characterization, in which readers realize how much she loved her brother and how resolute she is about finding him, to the point of telling Robert “shall you or I find my brother’s murderer?” (Braddon 200).  In the Victorian era, such brash behavior by a woman would normally be seen as unacceptable, but to Robert, it’s actually appealing, as it is for a just cause.  He thinks that her passion makes her even more beautiful, and that she is unlike all of the other women in his life because of it.  This leads me to believe that the author is attempting to push the idea that strong, self-sufficient women should be the norm over typical Victorian women who are complacent with their role as a man’s accessory.  Mary Elizabeth Braddon is unsatisfied with the treatment of women for that time period, and portraying Clara as the most atypical yet attractive female character is her way of speaking on this.  However, this passage also reveals that Clara can only act this way because of her wealth.  She tells Robert “I have money left me by one of my aunts,” so she can hire people to help her search for George.  It is made clear that in this era, a woman can only have power, or act without a man, when she is rich.  This point goes back to what the author is trying to prove, adding that it is unfortunate that in the Victorian era, women can only flourish and be their most attractive when money frees them from dependency.

Opposites

Dislike and love. Audley frames the two as opposites asking lucy first “Do you dislike me?” (16) Then asking her, “Is there anyone whom else you love?” (16) Audley frames the entire affair as an emotional one. He seeks from her to show some sort of emotional engagement with the matter of his proposal in either a positive or negative fashion. However, she seems to be unable to give him a clear stance on how she views him romantically. To her the issue cannot be separated from the material gains she would get from marrying him.

She does however show emotional investment in others way in regards to the issue. She gets upset that he wants her to not consider the value she would get. in addition, “she laughed aloud at his question” when asked about if she loves anyone (17). However Audley seems almost perturbed by these reactions. To him there is something fundamentally off about how she is reacting. There is a clam to her reactions regarding the emotions Audley seeks to be invested in, and a lack of calm in regards to emotions and feelings which to him are not relevant to the matter.

The differences here seem to almost be an establishing matter of who they are, fundamentally opposing one another. Going into the marriage it seems like a reasonable stance to question if they will ever truly be on the same page emotionally or just always opposed to one another. This opposition is made clearest when the marriage is framed as a “bargain” (17). It is a transaction. A deal in which both sides give something and get something. It is not the sort of endeavor they are diving into headfirst, but an almost mercantile interaction from which neither loses, nor fully wins. This seems to be a passage which will set up the dynamic between the two moving forward.

A hidden world

“Lucy Graham was not looking at Sir Michael, but straight out into the misty twilight and dim landscape far away beyond the little garden. The baronet tried to see her face, but her profile was turned to him, and he could not discover the expression of her eyes. If he could have done so, he would have seen a yearning gaze which seemed as if it would have pierced the far obscurity and looked away—away into another world.” (Chapter I)

“The girl still sat with her face averted from her lover, her hands hanging listlessly in her lap, and her pale gray eyes fixed upon the last low streak of crimson dying out behind the trunks of the trees.” (Chapter III)

Throughout the novel, the theme of hidden faces and expressions repeats, first appearing in chapters I and III. In both examples, a connection can be drawn to the theme of shadow/light, as well as the similarity they have to the secretive lime-tree walk. The lime walk is scarcely 20 paces from the house, yet it remains elusive and hidden, much like how the girls’ expressions are hidden from their lover despite being right next to them. There’s an entirely different world of secrets hidden motivations right under their noses. In a way, Luke and Sir Michael are sheltered by this, like how the oaks shelter the house from light. Allegorically speaking, the shadows (or the hidden truths) are keeping the men safe and contented. To some extent this can be applied to Alicia Audley as well, with the sheltered life that she has been living. Ignorance is bliss, and while it’s true that someone would remain in comfort for as long as they can, the fact that Michael realizes that something is wrong or that Alicia starts speculating about Lucy’s secrets shows us that the shadowy veil will soon be lifted.

 

 

 

 

Sickly society

” ‘Do you know, Phoebe, I have heard some people say you and I are alike?’ ‘I have heard them say so too, my lady…but they must be very stupid to say it, for your ladyship is a beauty, and I’m a poor plain creature.’ ‘Not at all, Phoebe…you are like me…it is only colour that you want. My hair is pale yellow shot with gold, yours is drab…Why, with a bottle of hair dye, such as we see advertised in the papers, and a pot of rouge, you’d be as good-looking as I any day, Phoebe.’ “(Braddon 60)

While both the surrounding environment of the outdoors/ house and other characters vividly described with multiple colors, Phoebe Marks is introduced as a stark contrast. Most notably is the pattern of drained colors: the lack of physical vibrance and life significantly dampen her features that would otherwise make her beautiful. However, you would never guess Phoebe was intelligent and hungry enough to try and blackmail Lady Audley simply because she has the image of an unhealthy lower class person. But Lady Audley herself mentions that Phoebe is similar in appearance to herself. So what if this passage is about Phoebe being an exception to Victorian social class?

It becomes more evident through the continuing chapters that Phoebe is capable of placing herself at the same level as an aristocrat. By this I mean that she defies the emphasis on desirable physical appearances (we see repeated throughout the book) that differentiate upper class from lower class. Gold hair, bright blue eyes, a dazzling smile, the most prized women are all upper class and have bright, glowing, and angelic-like faces.

 

 

*pop* Goes your Bubble

This Passage is from page 22/23 of the text, where we find George Talboys talking to Miss Morley on the ship back to London and we see George’s bubble burst. Miss Morley’s own doubts about coming back to London, slowly at first, starts to affect the mood of George. He asks her “why do you come and try to put such fancies into my head” (22), because he is realizing that he has been naive to believe that after 3 and ½ years of being gone without explanation – his wife could be ill, spiteful, or even worse dead. These are dark and dangerous thoughts for George because as his bubble pops, he has 3 years of anxiety and bad thoughts rushed into his head all at once. 

This passage changes the tone of the novel quickly. Before this passage, or this chapter, the author describes the beauty of Audley court and shows us a pretty romantic engagement speech. But this passage acts as a tone shift to the novel and contrasts against the light of the first chapter, with a dark and looming realization and thought pattern in this passage. George’s new doubts of his marriage affects him greatly, as well as adds conflict for the reader. “My pretty little wife! My gentle, innocent, loving, little wife! …. why her faithful husband had deserted her?” (23). Continues to add new information for us, and give us more about why his bubble popping shakes George up so much. This passage seems to be pretty important because in our first meeting of George he changes drastically. From a happy go lucky lover, to very sad and distraught. I believe this passage will create more problems than the mental distress George is under.

Consider the Calm After the Storm

The passage I chose can be found on pg. 77, and describes the bright, natural beauty surrounding the estate after a dreadful storm. The passage can be found to use multiple different dichotomies that we have discussed as a class, but in particular the idea of light/dark, and using nature to facilitate an understanding of what is secretly happening within the lives of those so close by. The emphasis on nature is an objective passive way of making commentary on the lives in the estate. This could be connecting to current issues, or foreshadowing for the future of the text. There is not only descriptive imagery, but also usage of certain colors that evoke a specific emotional response. For example, the commentary on the color of the corn is more for the reader to see happiness or positivity will soon be following after a storm, inferring a conflict. This conflict could be within the self or interpersonal, but regardless the same point is illustrated. Using this same imagery of the bright corn, their stalks also lift high to the sun after missing it dearly in the storm, being battered by the elements. This might be a little crazy, but potentially the stalk is supposed to represent how the the “core” or inner self is seeking a greater good, is yearning for a newfound brightness in life, but also “brighter” qualities. When light and dark are brought up as a theme, this can be seen typically as a conflict between the two, but I’m challenging that in the instance of the Audley estate, the two actually exist in a parallel fashion. that although there may be calm in one aspect, there is a brewing storm in another. The “so what” of this is that it further bolsters the idea that the author using nature as a reflection of what is going on with the characters of the text.

Lady Audly’s Secret

The passage I selected begins with “I do not think that throughout his courtship the baronet once calculated upon his wealth or his position as a strong reason for his success…” (13). There is the constant repetition of words that indicate that money is important in the victorian era and in the novel when concerning marriage and love. Furthermore, there is a noticeable repetition of words and phrases that are indicative of the patriarchy. The baronet had hoped that Lucy’s life had been one of “toil and dependence” (13). This suggests that family structures are very much important in the victorian era. This passage foreshadows the conflict to come between Lucy and Sir Michael Audley’s daughter because of the power struggle to become a lady of the house and thus household decision-maker. It is one of the few responsibilities women with status are able to achieve through marriage to a rich man.

Lucy wishes to “captivate a rich man” which entails she is likely in an unfavorable financial situation (13). In addition, there is very little known about Lucy Graham, thus there is a lot of mystery surrounding her intentions to marry a man that did not even initially interest her. Moreover, the apparent gender roles that Lucy must fill and take away from Audley’s daughter, in addition to the fincnacial drive, forshadow future conflict and jealousy between Lucy Gram and Audly’s daughter. There will also likely be scandals concerning Sir Audley given it seem that Lucy is only interested in the money and status, as well as, the fact that not much is known about her.