The Murder Weapon in Bed’s Clothing

The domestic as we have seen is a vital aspect the sensation novel. It provides the setting in which people should be safe, but is the place hiding the most danger. I noticed that our narrator repeats exclaiming the ways in which the apparatus works in silence once he has discovered its existence: “The frightful apparatus moved without making the faintest noise. There had been no creaking as it came down; there was now not the faintest sound from the room above” (Collins, 40). Something with so sinister a goal would have to show its true intentions. We hate to believe that evil conducts its business in silence and in the darkness where we, as the good individuals of the world, have no access and is beyond our reach. 

Another aspect of this is where we see him finally examining the machine itself. Knowing that it is there allows the narrator to search for how it works hidden in plain sight: “I felt at the sides, and discovered that what had appeared to me from beneath to be the ordinary light canopy of a four-post bed was, in reality, a thick, broad mattress, the substance of which was concealed by the valance and its fringe” (Collins, 40). The true nature of the bed provided for him to sleep is hidden from the vantage point of the average person. It “appeared to me from beneath to be the ordinary light canopy of a four-post bed” showing us that what the average individual saw when they looked at it was different from its sinister reality due to the fringe concealing it as well as the angle that interrupted a comprehensive view. 

In a civilized society, we should be able to roam our world without fear of things we might not see. As individuals of society we would like to believe that that idea is not a reality in our civilized world and that unseen evil is a way of the past, but here we are forced to see the truth. The darkest, most sinister acts are always performed in darkness away from the eyes of good, honest people. This passage highlights the worst fear we can have- the fear of the unknown and the unexpected-is a common theme throughout literature because as must as the reality scares us, the idea of what happens in the dark also intrigues us.

Witchery and Tea: A Lady’s Weapon

This passage describes the act of making tea as an occupation for women. One that allows her to “reign omnipotent” amongst the visitors in her home (Braddon, 222). With this power, the act of making tea also provides for a darker undertone: “The most feminine and most domestic of all occupations imparts a magic harmony to her every movement, a witchery to her every glance” (Braddon, 222). Women are grouped with witchcraft here because they have power in this task and the loss of power is a point of unease for a guest. This passage mentions the “floating mists from the boiling liquid in which she infuses the soothing herbs, whose secrets are known to her alone” which tells us that in drinking what is given to them a guest trusts their host. It is a social act to receive people into your home and to serve them a beverage of your choice. The lady of the house has that power in these situations. She would make the mixture. She would pour the tea into portions of her choice. If one comes into the Lady’s home, she decides how they will be served. In this passage we even see the narrator mention the possibility of the task being given to servants, “ To send a couple hulking men about amongst your visitors, distributing a mixture made in the housekeeper’s room, is to reduce the most social and friendly of ceremonies to a formal giving out of rations” (Braddon, 222). In giving the task to someone else, the entire ceremony of receiving visitors is violently changed. A moment that is meant to be inviting to outsiders would become very formal and rigid without the ease of the Lady of the house making the visitor feel personally welcomed into the space. In handing over power and giving the Lady your trust, a visitor is awarded a sense of personal invitation in which they can feel safe despite their lack of control.