Grab “The World” by Her Horns

The poem “The World” by Christina Rosetti, compares the world, as seen by the poetic voice, to a woman of a seemingly polarized nature. The woman is described as a being of beauty and light during the hours of the day, but a gruesome and devilish creature once the sun has set. The poet illustrates the paradoxical seduction of life in its tendency towards beauty seen in the light of day and its true malevolence that is revealed in the darkness of night through vivid imagery and personification.  

At the heart of the sonnet, the poet spends time describing the physical differences of the personification of the world that she has created to shed light on the juxtapositions of life itself. She says “by day she stands a lie: by night she stands in all of the naked horror and truth with pushing horns and clawed and clutching hands.” The “she” being referred to is the woman that represents the world and it’s interesting that the poet views the world as seen during the day to “stand a lie” when most would assume that it is the light of day which typically reveals the truths of the world. This perception is one that the poet goes against with her belief that the true essence of life is that which is shrouded in the darkness of night and “pushing horns and clawed and clutching hands”. The binary of light and dark provides its own connotations of evil being in the dark which would imply that this poet believes the truth of the world is its immorality. This point is driven home through the depiction of the horns and claws of the woman that create a monstrous image of the world in its true form giving the audience a visual aid to better understand the world’s evil through “her” outwards appearance rather than simply providing examples of why the world is so bad. Through these conjured images, I believe that the poet is able to better communicate her perspective.  

I Know He Might Be Dying, But Do You Think He Likes Me??

Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” effectively utilizes the gothic tenant of the uncanny to urge his readers to reflect on the value they place on their own domestic lives. Following Mina’s reunion with her now recovering fiancé, Jonathan, she enquires about his health to the nurse who has been looking after his treatment.  

The nurse’s immediate reaction is to her questioning is to assure Mina that Jonathan has remained faithful to her while she was abroad saying “you, as his wife to be, have no cause to be concerned. He has not forgotten you or what he owes to you. His fear was of great and terrible things, which no mortal can treat of” (114 Stoker). Her first comment is a direct reference to the domestic of Jonathan and Mina’s relationship status, emphasizing his loyalty through the allusion to the marriage laws of the time period with the statement “he has not forgotten you or what he owes to you” (114 Stoker). By doing this, the nurse asserts that not only has he remained faithful, but his illness will not impede their plans for marriage as he has previously pledged to carry out. This is then used as a backdrop for the following phrase of “his fear of great and terrible things, which no mortal can treat of” (114 Stoker). The escalating language of “great and terrible” being used to describe his experiences abroad, paired with a reference to the presence of the supernatural in this moment with the description that “no mortal” can help his malady. The use of the phrase “no mortal” implies the existence of other worldly forces at odds with Jonathan. The juxtaposition of the concern over Jonathan’s fidelity and his terrifying experiences with the supernatural is almost comical. The readers know that Jonathan has just been through a series of traumatic events and yet his partner is more focused on his loyalty to her than his wellbeing. This comparison draws attention to the real-life domestic’s concern with seemingly trivial subjects in light of such a situation. I believe that Stoker is using this moment to point out societal unrelenting focus on interpersonal relationships even in the chaos of constant change that typified the Victorian era.            

A Mermaid’s Glimpse into the Future

Passage: “In those troublesome dreams…safe and firmly rooted to the shore.” (pg 244) 

In this passage, Robert is having a disturbing dream about the fate of his uncle’s manor and the sheer amount of figurative foreshadowing in this excerpt is startling. Foreshadowing is a process that we see throughout the book, but in this instance, it is very clear. The narrator describes the oncoming wave as the embodiment of destruction, saying that it aimed to “crush the house he loved” (244). In his real life he fears a force coming to figuratively destroy what he has come to recognize as home. This obvious danger is juxtaposed with the beauty found in that same wave which he describes as having a “starry face looking out of the silvery foam” (244). This phrase does not inspire the same feelings of anxiety as much as it does create an image of something very serene with the use of the word “starry” (244), which also promotes the idea of Lucy looking celestial in some capacity, or at the very least other worldly. The idea of a force with such capabilities of ruin looking so lovely is a direct reference to Lucy’s beauty, which Robert believes, she uses as both a weapon and a disguise. In describing her as “a mermaid”, the narrator summons the concept of sirens who lure men into the water with their beauty and then drown them. With this reference, the author implies that Lucy is mimicking this behavior in her marriage to Michael. There is a twist in this dream sequence when “a ray of light streamed out upon the hideous waves” (244) and the wave retreats. With all of the other references to things that are happening at that very moment in time, we are led to believe that, in continuing that pattern, this metaphorical “ray of light” (244) is fast approaching. I theorize that this “ray of light” (244) serves to symbolize Robert’s own involvement in the situation in that he will be the one to thwart Lucy’s scheming and preying on Sir Michael. Either way, this beacon of hope has to stand for something, as everything else in this dream sequence does.  

Possession in Sin

Pg 15, Paragraph 3 

“I scarcely think there is a greater sin, Lucy,” he said, solemnly, “than that of a woman who marries a man she does not love. You are so precious to me, my beloved, that deeply as my heart is set on this, and bitter as the mere thought of disappointment is to me, I would not have you commit such a sin for any happiness of mine. If my happiness could be achieved by such an act, which it could not–which it never could,” he repeated, earnestly–“nothing but misery can result from a marriage dictated by any motive but truth and love.” 

In this passage, Michael is in the process of proposing to Miss Lucy Graham and his use of language caught my attention because he primarily uses possessive pronouns that refer to himself. He refers to his potential fiancé only in terms in reference to his own person using phrases such as “you are so precious to me” (15) and “my beloved” (15). Through his word choice, the reader is able to receive an insight into Michael’s character. By doing this, we see that his perspective of his and Lucy’s relationship is centered on him alone. That being said, he also puts all responsibility for his own feelings into Lucy’s hands saying that if she does not truly love him, he will be unable to “achieve…happiness” (15). Michael sees marriage as something that purely affects him but is unfortunately in the hands of Lucy who as all of the power to hurt him.  

He explains that he believes marriages made for any other reason than “truth and love” (15) were destined to end sadness. He explicates this concept with several references to the hypothetical “sin” of the situation. Michael uses “sin” to describe the act of Lucy marrying him out greed, power, or any other motivation, rather than out of her love for him. In doing this, he brings into question his own religious beliefs and his willingness to push them upon Lucy at a moment of great importance. The images brought about are ones of fire and damnation of hell as a consequence of Lucy’s future actions. This religious motif is one that continues throughout the book whether as a result of the cultural mindset of the period or in an effort to emphasize the sinful behavior of the characters of the book, is so far unclear.