Passage: “The wind had has its own way with the Castle Inn, and had sometimes made cruel use of its power. It was the wind that battered and bent the low, thatched roofs of out-houses and stables… it was the wind, in short, that shattered and ruined, and rent, and trampled upon the tottering pile of buildings, and then flew shrieking off, to riot and glory in its destroying strength” (115)
This passage repeats the phrase “it was the wind” 5 times, each time to describe some kind of damage the wind inflicted on the Castle Inn. The language Braddon used to describe the relationship between the wind and the Inn is eerily similar to the language used to describe abusive relationships. I interpret this passage as a metaphor for domestic violence, with the wind representing the abusive partner (statistically, likely a male) and the Inn representing the victim (statistically, likely a female). Under this view, Braddon could have used this passage both to describe the physical deterioration of the Castle Inn and to sneak in a commentary about Victorian gender roles and politics. We know from Browning’s “The Last Duchess” that women were treated more as objects for men’s pleasures than sentient beings in their own right (given the Duke’s strong interest in ownership and control of the Duchess), which is supported by the Longman Anthology’s insight that “The ideal Victorian woman was supposed to be domestic and pure, selflessly motivated by the desire to serve others rather than fulfill her own needs” (p. 1061). Thus, it’s plausible to conclude that Braddon may have hidden a deeper meaning beneath this passage to commiserate the gender dynamics between Victorian husbands and wives. Given Luke’s new role as landlord of the Inn, and his history of threatening and harming Phoebe, the metaphor extends to the novel’s characters, with Phoebe as the Inn and Luke as the wind.
The wind/Inn dynamic could also represent a potential relationship between a ghost and the Audley Estate. The physical properties of wind make it similar to a ghost, and the Inn’s function as a residence makes it similar to the Estate. We’ve discussed some theories in class about some sort of phantom presence surrounding Lady Audley, which this passage may be foreshadowing. Ultimately, the passage goes beyond description of the Castle Inn’s deterioration by establishing a metaphor for abusive husbands and a potential hint at a spiritual presence.