Robert and the Amazing Technicolor Dream-Court

 

“In those troublesome dreams…” (Braddon 244)

This strangely allegorical dream cements Robert’s belief in both the righteousness of his cause and its otherworldly issue. Robert’s “troublesome dreams” are surprisingly supernatural breaks in a sensational but otherwise worldly novel (244). Although spirits and monsters have been invoked before, they have been the object of ridicule – typically by Robert himself. Now that he is stricken by the same sentiments, Robert does not blame indigestion or behave like “some ghost-haunted hero in a German story” (260). Robert instead acts as a biblical Judge called upon by “some hand greater than [his] own” to mete out godly justice. Much like the reluctant prophet Jonah, Robert is reminded of a (in his mind) divine quest whenever he attempts a return to his once mundane life. Robert was not swallowed by a great fish, but instead forced to answer to – or else compete with – the enigmatic Clara in his search for the truth of George’s fate. In addition to strengthening his promise to Clara, the dreams also provide valuable insight into Robert’s unexpressed thoughts. He sees “Audley Court, rooted up.. standing bare and unprotected… threatened by the… boisterous sea” as if it were a boat and Lady Audley as a “mermaid, beckoning his uncle to destruction” like a tempting siren (244). Robert sees it as his duty to steer his uncle’s estate away from the perilous rocks at the expense of Lord Michael’s dignity like Odysseus being bound to a mast. Robert is a dutiful nephew, but his actions are not entirely selfless. As heir apparent, Robert has a clear interest in steering his uncle’s estate and the Audley reputation away from the shores of peril. Lady Audley’s connection to the ocean goes far beyond her childhood home, in Robert’s dream she becomes the primordial darkness of the ocean with her “pale face and starry…” sea-green eyes surrounded by looking out from the sea’s “silvery foam” as light and lustrous as her curls (244). This comparison is part of the lasting tradition of giving feminine character to ocean storms: long periods of calm equilibrium interrupted by punctuations of brief but intense violence. The “dismal horizon” of the dream storm is defeated by a single “ray of light” parting the troubled sea (244). This biblical conclusion and the contrast of white light and dark sea reinforce Robert’s image of Clara as a seraphic beauty in complete opposition to Lady Audley.

One thought on “Robert and the Amazing Technicolor Dream-Court”

  1. I like the idea of comparing the Audleys to Odysseus and his crew. Especially as you point out the similarities to Robert’s dream, they seem more obvious and intentional. The comparisons between Lucy and sirens also hark back to Alicia and Robert’s discussion about the supernatural, when Robert tells Alicia to not “be German”. Perhaps that conversation and retrospective reflections on the pre-Raphaelite portrait had some sway over Robert’s dream? He is also, at certain times, as lost as Odysseus in the Aegean sea, with Clara awaiting news of George as Penelope waited for Odysseus’ safe return.

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