Pronouns, Patriarchy, and Predictions


Passage: “Why, I have seen her under my wretched canvas tent, sitting by my side, with her boy in her arms, as plainly as I had ever seen her in the one happy year of our wedded life”  (26)

George’s description of his and Helen’s son as “her boy” instead of as “our boy” (26) suggests that he has trouble connecting with his son, and doesn’t claim him as his own. Braddon could also be hinting that the child is not George’s, but the product of an affair — which would align with the typical drama of sensation novels. The use of “her” instead of “our” also speaks to the role of women in the Victorian era. Due to separate spheres ideology and patriarchal values, George likely views his son as Helen’s responsibility, since child-rearing was a traditionally female role. I noticed that in ch. 7-13, after Helen’s death, George refers to his son as his own, which suggests a shift in character based either on his perceptions of Georgey or an assumption of responsibility that was only appropriate (based on gender roles) after his wife’s passing. George’s emphasis on their “one happy year” (26) is also significant, as it foreshadows that Helen’s death would prevent the couple from experiencing beyond that year. 

The visions George mentions occurred while Helen was in England and he was in Australia. This might be a stretch, but I have a theory that Lucy is actually Helen, and that Helen never really died. If true, this passage might pave the way for a reunion between George and Helen/Lucy in which George’s apparent sighting of her could be reduced to a mere vision, akin to the kind he had while in Australia. In essence, this passage foreshadows the end of Helen and George’s marriage as well as a poor relationship between George and his son. This foreshadowing is coupled with a nod to historical notions of patriarchy and an early prediction about Lucy’s identity and how that may emerge within the context of the Talboys.

2 thoughts on “Pronouns, Patriarchy, and Predictions”

  1. I think that your theory about George’s paternity is interesting and one that I had not thought of before. I agree that it is strange that George referred to Georgey as her [Helen’s] son and not our son. Since this language was repeated, I have the feeling that this is important. I also think that this could be a result of George not really getting to bond with his son, as he was gone for several years. I also have the feeling that Lucy is Helen, as her actions when Robert tried to introduce George to his uncle Lucy always had an excuse to not be present. Her behavior around George is very suspicious, and I think that Lucy is somehow connected to George if she isn’t Helen.

  2. I noticed similar patterns with pronouns throughout the novel. Not only is Georgey referred to as his mother’s child, as you said, but women are often referred to by men as their property. Such examples as Robert’s referral to his cousin, “My dear, hasty, impetuous Alicia” or “Alicia, my darling…” display that woman are very seldom referred to without a quantifying possessive attached to their names. These realizations further support your conclusion of traditional feminine roles within the home: women being the primary source of pleasantness and joy for working men once they return home.

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