“A Pause of Thought” wonderfully portrays the internal conflict people had in relation to the social and political unrest of the 19th century. It could speak to numerous issues, such as marriage and social status, but one that was most apparent was the struggle in the search for faith and truth behind religion. This poem opens with the line of “I looked for that which is not, nor can be”. It then goes on to say how they waited and searched for this, but in vain. Though critical of the idea, they never lost sight of it and seemed as if they were disappointed in themselves that they could not. I interpret this thing or being that the author is searching for to be God and faith in her or him.
During this era of revolution, many people found themselves to be uprooted from their stable, traditional values they held dear. Many things were left to the unknown and societal norms and morals were in question. Confusion rose and so did the question of faith. People wanted to find answers to transform their beliefs into concrete facts, but something like spirituality and religion is difficult to prove. Frustration in the search of answers consumed the thoughts of those who found themselves in this state.
A differing factor that led to the question of God and religion was the fact that many other things were also being questioned, tested, and in a state of unrest. People have the tendency to find someone or something to bring blame upon when something they see as negative is happening outside of their own control. It has seemed that God was often this scapegoat. Though many attributed all good things to God and the glorious wonders brought about through her or him, they are also quick to blame when something goes wrong. Because of this philosophy, the issue of unrest in other areas very well could have led to the questioning of faith.
Whether it be from the search of the unknown or the overall turmoil of this time period, the faith in God was in great question at this time. Though many people were not able to outwardly express their doubts because of social or legal repercussions, the issue is extremely prevelent in many works during the 19th century.
Many uncertainties and concerns were coming about in this new age of social, political, and technological revolution. Although quite fascinating, many people found these new technologies to be frightening and unnatural with their immense capabilities. An example of this fear being portrayed through the writing was when Van Helsing was attempting to convince John Sweard of Lucy and other things that he may not, or choose not to, understand. In this passage he said, “Let me tell you, my friend, that there are things done today in electrical science which would have been deemed unholy by the very men who discovered electricity – who would themselves, not so long before, have been burned as wizards.” (Stoker, 204) This quote exemplifies the concern and question of religious faith aligning with the innovations being created. Words such as “unholy” and “wizards” create many emotions such as anger, fear, and anxiety among people. These emotions also seem to align with the thoughts and feelings about the overall new revolution at that time. For example, with new medical technologies, doctors were able to help people live longer and healthier with their innovations in medical procedures and medicines. Although this was beneficial to the overall health of the population, some were very against it because they saw these practices as interfering with the work of God and his plan for every single person. Interfering with God was especially distressing at this moment in time because a lot of persuasion used to get people to believe, and continue to believe, in God was fear based. Consequences like His wrath and burning in Hell were common themes for people who do not seem to abide by His holy ways. Because of this, people did not want to be seen in any association with something that could be deemed “unholy” by other people, the church, our God Himself.
“Perhaps in that retrospectove reerie she recalles the early time in which she had first looked into the glass and discovered that she was beautiful: that fatal early time in which she had first begun to look upon her loveliness as a right divine, a boundless possesion which was to be a set-off all girlish short-comings, a counter-balance of every youtful sin.” (Braddon 293)
In this passage, beauty is depicted as a tangible, powerful object, something that can and will be used. The term “boundless possession” specifically stood out for the reason that it shows how the attainment of beauty has no limits as to what someone can accomplish with it. This concept is not foreign to Lucy Audley. She has used her pretty face and deceitful nature to successfully carry out numerous ploys and instances of minipulation. She knows how easily she can influence the mind of Sir Michael Audley, along with others, as shown throughout the past few chapters of the book. She is confident in her ability to persuade Michael to believe that Robert has gone mad and does so with ease with her intense expression of emotion and the facade of a childlike innocence and ignorance. Robert recognizes this and in turn starts to generalize the category of women as a whole of doing this action. He sees this “power” that women hold as a danger to others, almost in protest to the increasing social power that women are gaining at this time in history. The book continuously builds on the idea that men are perceived to hold the power in social and romantic relationships while, in reality, women use their high emotional intelligence to gain power over situations and people. This way, they are easily able to manipulate for their own benefit. This idea is expressed through other female characters as well, such as Clara Talboys. Robert Frequently thinks back to her plea for him to continue searching for the truth of her brother’s “dissapearance”, a plea that he could not refuse. The fact that he could not say no to Clara angers Robert because he is then burdened with the responsibility that comes with the answers he is looking for. He is also angered at the fact that he could not say no because of her emtional power over him as a beautiful woman.
“… he freely owned that he had no talent for whist, and that he didn’t know a knight from a castle upon the chess-board. Indeed, Mr. Talboys was by no means too learned a gentleman.” (Braddon 34)
In this description, George Talboys is not at all ashamed of his lack of higher education and status. In fact, he even goes on to laugh at and mock the woman he was speaking with on the ship at her interest in things like poetry and fashion. He finds them to be silly and of no real use. Diving deeper into the psychology of Mr. Talboys, this seeming resentment towards anyone and anything that could resemble higher status could stem from the resentment he has towards his own father. Since he had married a woman of a lower status than he, George’s father had discontinued his allowance that he had been given for many years. This had set them up for poverty later on, which is the reason he had to be away from his wife for over three years in the first place.
The abandonment of his father in his life, the later loss of his wife while away, and the lack of relationship between him and his son has resulted in Mr. Talboys’ struggle with intense psychological issues. Depression, for example, has been expressed in numerous ways throughout the book so far. It stated how George will often skip meals if not reminded and often has “gloomy fits” (Braddon 85). What seems like typical despair of a heartbreak then would quickly be classified as depression in today’s society. His passive attitude and often yearning for solitude may also help explain why he left Robert without a word so easily that day while fishing.