A Mermaid’s Glimpse into the Future

Passage: “In those troublesome dreams…safe and firmly rooted to the shore.” (pg 244) 

In this passage, Robert is having a disturbing dream about the fate of his uncle’s manor and the sheer amount of figurative foreshadowing in this excerpt is startling. Foreshadowing is a process that we see throughout the book, but in this instance, it is very clear. The narrator describes the oncoming wave as the embodiment of destruction, saying that it aimed to “crush the house he loved” (244). In his real life he fears a force coming to figuratively destroy what he has come to recognize as home. This obvious danger is juxtaposed with the beauty found in that same wave which he describes as having a “starry face looking out of the silvery foam” (244). This phrase does not inspire the same feelings of anxiety as much as it does create an image of something very serene with the use of the word “starry” (244), which also promotes the idea of Lucy looking celestial in some capacity, or at the very least other worldly. The idea of a force with such capabilities of ruin looking so lovely is a direct reference to Lucy’s beauty, which Robert believes, she uses as both a weapon and a disguise. In describing her as “a mermaid”, the narrator summons the concept of sirens who lure men into the water with their beauty and then drown them. With this reference, the author implies that Lucy is mimicking this behavior in her marriage to Michael. There is a twist in this dream sequence when “a ray of light streamed out upon the hideous waves” (244) and the wave retreats. With all of the other references to things that are happening at that very moment in time, we are led to believe that, in continuing that pattern, this metaphorical “ray of light” (244) is fast approaching. I theorize that this “ray of light” (244) serves to symbolize Robert’s own involvement in the situation in that he will be the one to thwart Lucy’s scheming and preying on Sir Michael. Either way, this beacon of hope has to stand for something, as everything else in this dream sequence does.  

2 thoughts on “A Mermaid’s Glimpse into the Future”

  1. Robert’s dream projecting Lady Audley’s “otherworldly” looks onto a siren of myth (244) is especially interesting in the context of The Odyssey. Odysseus knew of the siren’s danger but insisted on hearing their song so that he could hear its beauty while his crew plugged their ears. When within earshot of the sirens, Odysseus had to be tied to the mast to prevent him from madly steering the ship into the rocks. Much like Odysseus, Lord Michael expressed concern about his own siren’s manipulative intentions (his “corpse of hope”) before being overcome by her fey beauty and requiring rescue.

  2. I agree with your observations. Another thing about sirens is that they are actually hideously ugly, but use their powers to appear irresistibly beautiful to their victims. Lucy is superficially beautiful and otherworldly, but her true self is quite ugly and off-putting. In a sense, she is using her beauty to create a perfect illusion to lure in people and manipulate them. Michael is just one of her victims. The fact that Lucy kills George by pushing him into a well, something that holds water, calls back to the original siren legend.

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