She’s a Liar

“The World”, a sonnet by Christina Rossetti, features, what seems to be, a clear statement about how a person is “wooed” by a female character. This sonnet features the comparison between a woman during the day and during the night, but as the poem reads on the speaker seems to slowly accuse the woman of showing erotic desire. This can be seen in lines five and seven of the sonnet, where the speaker states, “By day she wooes me to the outer air…but through the night, a beast she grins at me…”(Rossetti 45). Going from line five to line seven, there is a drastic shift in the diction that the speaker chooses to use. This shift draws attention to the comparison between the woman at day and at night. More importantly it draws greater attention to the way that the woman presents herself in the public eye compared to the way she is when the two are alone. It is suggested that in the outer air the woman simply shows a playful love, however at night the speaker sees the “beast” that resides within her. Normally the thought of a beast would spark the image of a ugly, unwanted being, however, in this scenario the speaker is not describing a being but desire. Further into the poem – lines nine and ten – the speaker seems to make an even stronger accusation of irrational erotic desire by stating, “By day she stands a lie: by night she stands in all naked horror of the truth…”(Rossetti 45). Likewise with the other lines, the speaker starts off by talking about the female character in the day as now being a liar. By utilizing “lie” as a descriptor of the woman the speaker leads a reader to view their temptress as a monster in a pretty dress, but at night this dress metaphorically slips off. Furthermore, the speaker goes on to describe the women as revealing the “naked horror of the truth”, which once again is the comparison to the person the woman is by day. By the time that these lines are utilized, what is seemingly a comparison turns into the same thing as the woman is actually a monster by day and night. What is being said here by the speaker describes the way that women in this time period could be viewed by society. 

Rossetti’s sonnet at face value describes the stigma that surrounds the sexual desires of a woman and how her partner views these desires. This translates to the time period that this novel was written (1862) as it quite possibly could be how Rossetti herself viewed the world around her. It is no shock that this time period caused women all over to jump through hoops and tip toe by taboo topics that would cause the public to frown upon her. This sonnet not only describes the judgmental gaze of a sexual partner but describes the struggle to differentiate between normal sexual desire and sin. This sonnet exists simply because of how women were made to feel watched in their sexual lives. Evidently, society at this time oftentimes tried to pry the door open to expose the normal desires that lurked in the depths of the minds of women. Despite the fact that this poem is a reflection of Rossetti’s time period, it can also be applied to society now. Many people would like to agree that nowadays we do not give an unwelcoming glance to those who we deem to lack steady morals with their sexual choices, however, still today women feel this everlasting gaze peering over their shoulders. What I am really trying to get at here is the comparison between women at day and night is simply a way to describe the struggle of women in society when sexual desire is the topic. Rossetti captures this message through the voice of a speaker who gradually makes this comparison until eventually it ends up not being a comparison at all and instead a statement. 

Sources Cited:

Christina Georgina Rossetti. Goblin Market and Other Poems (1865). 1865. Whitefish, Mont., Kessinger Publishing, 2009, p. 45.

The Dracula Effect in the Real World

Chapter 22, of Bram Stoker’s Dracula reveals the anxieties of the time period that Bram Stoker lived in. Through the entire progression of the Dracula text Bram Stoker shines a spotlight on the fear of the unusual. Despite the fact that unusualness is what fuels a horror novel, it is the unusualness that follows one of the main characters, Dracula, throughout the novel. Stoker writes, ”And now, my friends, we have a duty here to do. We must sterilize this earth…”(Stoker 317). In this scene from page 317 Dr. Van Helsing is telling the others about the need to eliminate Dracula. At base level this excerpt seems to only be about the removal of a monster that goes against the beliefs of the church, however, with knowledge of what Dracula is a symbol of the meaning changes. Dracula is a symbol of fear of foreigners. Dracula’s character drives the fear that makes this novel a horror novel not through gore and blood only but by playing with the internalized fear of Europeans in this time period and reverse colonization. 

Bram Stoker’s utilization of the words “duty” and “sterilization” have more meaning than what can be seen on the surface. At face value “duty” means a job and “sterilization” means to destroy or get rid of completely. The utilization of this diction with regard to the killing of Dracula puts emphasis on an almost “clinical” side of the group’s view on Dracula. Dracula is foreign to the group, and in this time period the idea of foreigners also brought the idea of disease into mind. Not only does this bring in the idea of disease into mind but specifically the spread of foreigners like a disease. The idea of Dracula colonizing England through his bite is parallel to the fear of reverse colonization in England at this time. Dracula’s actions have the effect they do on a reader of this time period as they target a fear of the normal becoming abnormal.

Sources Cited:

Bram Stoker, et al. Dracula. London, Penguin Books, 2019.

Lucy’s Battle for Independence of Thought

Dracula by Bram Stoker was written in a time period of uncertainty. Written just before the horizon of the 1900s, Dracula is an attempt by Bram Stoker to make several comments on the time period and setting that the villainous monster Dracula and his surrounding pupils reside in.  On page 146 of the novel, there is a short excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s diary that describes her trouble sleeping with and without the presence of Dr. Van Helsing. Lucy composes, “ I have a dim half remembrance of long, anxious times of waiting and fearing…”(Stoker 146). This excerpt describes Lucy’s interpretation of what her nights of sleep were like before the presence of Dr. Van Helsing. Looking further into these descriptions, it is evident that there is a strong negative connotation that goes along with the diction that is present within this section of Lucy’s diary. As we look further into this diary entry there is a mood change that very abruptly takes place. Lucy writes, “ Since, however, Dr. Van Helsing has been with me, all this bad dreaming seems to have passed away… I go to bed without any fear of sleep”(Stoker 146). Once again the diction of this excerpt seems to have a very strong connotation; this time being positive. This mood change within this diary entry not only shows a change in Lucy’s physical well being but it has an underlying message that correlates with the time period. What I am really trying to get at here is a claim about the relationship between men and women in this time period.

Bram Stoker does not immediately come out and say that men are the comfort to the lives of women, however, he implicitly describes this relationship through the dialogue and diary of Lucy Westenra. In this selected diary entry this relationship is channeled through Lucy’s sleep. Taking a personal aspect of someone’s life, like sleep in this instance, and turning it into a struggle that can only be fixed by a man leads readers to believe that the daily activities of women in this time period could seemingly only be fully completed or gone through with the help and watchful eye of a man. This claim is much larger than what is happening in this specific journal entry. In the late 1800s it is no surprise that women were seen as fragile compared to their male counterparts. Stoker throughout his novel as a whole employs Lucy as a mouthpiece, despite her actual sex, for men. Many times throughout the novel Lucy becomes so captivated by the way that men play a role in her life that she almost dehumanizes herself; similar to how women were treated by men. In this sense Bram Stoker, being the writer behind Lucy, may have done this to recognize the words and actions of the women who surrounded him. It is likely that the setting in which his life took place was a template for Dracula.  In this way it is understandable that not only does Dracula serve as a thriller of the century but a comment on the century. At base level Dracula is just a horror novel but it is thoughts that women like Lucy have that drive one of the underlying themes that runs throughout the novel and is a direct reflection of the period in which Stoker wrote this piece of literature. 

Sources Cited:

Bram Stoker, et al. Dracula. London, Penguin Books, 2019.

Dr. Grimesby Roylott’s Hellish Characterization

Excerpt taken from: The Speckled Band

“A large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun, and marked with every evil passion, was turned from one to the other of us, while his deep-set, bile-shot eyes, and the high thin fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey”(Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 140).

Page 140 of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary work titled The Speckled Band gives an elaborate description of Dr. Grimesby Roylott as he enters the door to meet both Holmes and Watson. Roylott is described in such a way that brings a negative connotation to anything that relates to him. Doyle describes Roylott’s face as being “seared with a thousand wrinkles”(Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 140) and furthermore, “burned yellow with the sun”(Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 140). Doyle’s usage of the words “seared”(Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 140) and “burned”(Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 140) allow for Roylott to be compared to the flames of a fire. From any common knowledge, it is apparent that fire always carries a negative connotation whether this originated from the story of Prometheus or simply comes from the known destructive nature of it. Doyle’s diction further into the selected excerpt draws a parallel with the fiery description of Roylott as he describes the man as being “marked with every evil passion”(Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 140). Fire and evil being used to describe Roylott indicates that Roylott is seemingly a being of hell. While some may say that this take is extreme, this idea fits well into the time period. Roylott is a white male who owned land and abused his power. Roylott scared anyone who walked in his way and was constantly avoided by anyone who dared be in a close enough radius of his arm; he was hell on earth. Not only does Roylott’s character speak for the time period but he carries the message of abused power. Doyle’s writing portrays Roylott as being the stereotypical controlling male of the time period. While not all men at this time were like Roylott, there were enough that Roylott’s character is used as a lesson to society that abused power is negative, and when one’s power becomes abused they may go as far to even become the embodiment of hell on Earth. 

Sources Cited:

A Conan Doyle. The Speckled Band. Copenhagen, Easy Readers, 2014.

The Conflict Between Men and Women in Lady Audley’s Secret

“‘I hate women,’ he thought, savagely. ‘They’re bold, brazen, abominable creatures, invented for the annoyance and destruction of their superiors. Look at this business of poor George’s! It’s all woman’s work from one end to the other. He marries a woman, and his father casts him off penniless and professionless. He hears of the woman’s death and he breaks his heart—his good honest, manly heart, worth a million of the treacherous lumps of self-interest and mercenary calculation which beats in women’s breasts. He goes to a woman’s house and he is never seen alive again. And now I find myself driven into a corner by another woman, of whose existence I had never thought until this day’”(Braddon Chapter 24).

Chapter 24 features a description of Robert Audley’s thought process towards the character of women. The text reads, “‘They’re bold, brazen…”(Braddon Chapter 24), these words portray women at first as being leaders who have no shame in what they do, but shortly following, Robert Audley’s thought process wanders off into adjectives like “abominable creatures”(Braddon Chapter 24) and “annoyance”(Braddon Chapter 24). This shift in diction indicates a conflicting description of the positive and negative attributes that women, according to Robert Audley, possess. Further into the passage is a description of the struggle that women inflict upon men. The text reads, “He hears of the woman’s death and he breaks his heart…”(Braddon Chapter 24). Not only does this describe a struggle between men and women but it targets women as the figures in a man’s life who inflict the most pain. Robert goes on to describe his own conflict with George’s sister. He portrays her as not a human, but instead a trap or obstacle to his everyday life. He feels as though this woman has appeared in his life and he has been stopped in his pursuit of his investigation.
This thought process not only can be used as a comment on Robert Audley’s character, but it is also a potential comment on the time period in which this book was written. The repetitive examples of women impeding on the endeavors of a man illustrates the inevitable gaze of a male. It supposes that the male gaze is the fault of a woman, and when this gaze is caught a man cannot help being caught up in the women which in turn distracts him from his very own life. This has a direct connection to the lustful tendency of men at the time period when it came to women. Helen Talboys’ death affecting George Talboys the way it did is made to seem as if it is her fault for having a grip on him with her love. This example alone sums up the view on women in this book, specifically from Robert Audley’s point-of-view, that women are viewed as mysterious and bold obstacles to the endeavors of men.

Sources Cited:

Braddon, Mary Elizabeth. “Lady Audley’s Secret.”, Jonathan Ingram, 13 Feb. 2012, Accessed 15 Sept. 2023.