Love and Hope

“He had very little pleasure in returning to the stately mansion, hidden among sheltering oaks and venerable beeches. The square, red brick house, gleaming at the end of a long arcade of leafless trees was to be forever desolate, he thought, since Alicia would not come to be its mistress. A hundred improvements planned and thought of were dismissed from his mind as useless now…all these things were now so much vanity and vexation of spirit” (Chapter 16)

“The shadows of the early winter twilight, gathering thickest under the low oak ceiling of the hall, and the quaint curve of the arched doorway…he could see no shadows when she was by” (Chapter 16)

Although a passage about a less important character to the story, I found it striking due to its similarities to the overarching plot points. Considering the circumstances of other relationships in the story, a great deal of hope (or more accurately, an expectation of how things should be) accompanies these feelings of love; whether it’s Alicia wanting a certain kind of care and attention from Robert, Sir Michael expecting a different response when he proposed to Lucy, or George expecting his wife to be alive when he arrived at London. In all these cases, the “victims” of love are blinded by this delusion that their hope gives them. I think a compelling connection can be made to the theme of light and dark, as it appears shortly after the text is done talking about Harry Towers; and how we’ve established that the theme of light and shadow represents the line between truth and delusion. It’s also important to note that Lucy is also in this passage, drawing a parallel between Harry Towers and Sir Michael’s condition. Despite being a very small addition, the quote “he could see no shadows when she was by” is rather important. Considering this statement when evaluating other relationships in the story, we can see this hope in love is rather comforting, if not obstinate. The characters could be comfortable with their own imagination of reality like Alicia, or they could ignore the truth and choose blissful ignorance instead like Sir Michael; despite noticing that something is clearly wrong when he proposed to Lucy, Michael instead chooses to be happy that she agreed to marry him. We can clearly see Harry Towers suffering when his ego and hopes were crushed within a day, which is foreshadowing the miseries ahead when the bubble of delusions about Lucy Audley is inevitably popped.

A hidden world

“Lucy Graham was not looking at Sir Michael, but straight out into the misty twilight and dim landscape far away beyond the little garden. The baronet tried to see her face, but her profile was turned to him, and he could not discover the expression of her eyes. If he could have done so, he would have seen a yearning gaze which seemed as if it would have pierced the far obscurity and looked away—away into another world.” (Chapter I)

“The girl still sat with her face averted from her lover, her hands hanging listlessly in her lap, and her pale gray eyes fixed upon the last low streak of crimson dying out behind the trunks of the trees.” (Chapter III)

Throughout the novel, the theme of hidden faces and expressions repeats, first appearing in chapters I and III. In both examples, a connection can be drawn to the theme of shadow/light, as well as the similarity they have to the secretive lime-tree walk. The lime walk is scarcely 20 paces from the house, yet it remains elusive and hidden, much like how the girls’ expressions are hidden from their lover despite being right next to them. There’s an entirely different world of secrets hidden motivations right under their noses. In a way, Luke and Sir Michael are sheltered by this, like how the oaks shelter the house from light. Allegorically speaking, the shadows (or the hidden truths) are keeping the men safe and contented. To some extent this can be applied to Alicia Audley as well, with the sheltered life that she has been living. Ignorance is bliss, and while it’s true that someone would remain in comfort for as long as they can, the fact that Michael realizes that something is wrong or that Alicia starts speculating about Lucy’s secrets shows us that the shadowy veil will soon be lifted.