After Mina is attacked by Dracula, Van Helsing brands her with a holy wafer. This while framed by him trying to do good, shows that it was viewed that unfaithful Victorian women were viewed to need to be marked so all could see that they had transgressed, even if not by their own fault. After she screams “she sank on her knees on the floor in an agony of abasement” (Stoker 316). Here we see how even after being assaulted the rest of society treats the woman almost worse for having such a thing happen. She is branded and is double hurt both by the physical branding and also the “abasement” it is after this that she truly loses herself and says, “I must bear this mark of shame upon my forehead until the Judgement Day” (Stoker 316). The issue for her isn’t even the being part vampire it is “the mark”. Every time she starts feeling better, she sees the mark again and goes back to feeling terrible about herself. Even when she is in the foreign country, she has to keep her hat on, or people treat her like a horrid creature for having been assaulted. The assault by the men of Victorian society on her is almost framed through the book as more traumatic but simultaneously as a good thing by the men in her life. This shows just how badly the Victorian men viewed women who were sexually promiscuous even not by choice.
Category: 2021 Blog Post
The duality of monstrous women in Lady Audley’s Secret
My lady crushed the letter fiercely in her hand, and flung it from her into the flames. “If he stood before me now, and I could kill him,” she muttered in a strange inward whisper, “I would do it – I would do it!” She snatched up the lamp and rushed into the adjoining room. She shut the door behind her. She could not endure any witness of her horrible despair – She could endure nothing; neither herself nor her surroundings.
Here we see lady Audley falling apart further as Robert pursues and seeks to uncover the truth. What is interesting is the range of emotions she shows. She is “fiercely” destroying the letter showing anger, but she is also subdued in that she is “muttering in a strange inward whisper”. Then she “rushed” to a different location. She is finally in “despair”. What is so interesting about these emotional words and quick emotional shifts is it shows the extent to which she has been pushed in her life. She has little control anymore because everything that has happened has been too much. The repeated usages of the word “endure” show that the issue is not that any single event has happened but the repeated burden of her own actions and those around her are too much and she has lost control, but she still wishes to keep up the appearance. It shows how the novel seeks to portray women who have suffered greatly as unable to cope with it. This weak portrayal is odd however as it is contrasted with her desire to kill and willingness to do anything to protect herself. It puts lady Audley and Victorian women on the whole in a simultaneous stance of both weakness and power. The emotional lack of control contrasts with the way the she carefully manipulates those around her and portrays women who defy Victorian norms in a very negative light.
Supression and release
At first, there seems to be a contrast between how Jonathan reacted to the three vampire woman compared to how Jekyll indulges in the ‘undignified pleasures’ in the form of Edward Hyde. Whereas Jonathan considered hiding everything in fear of hurting Mina, Jekyll doesn’t have to worry about that since all public scrutiny will be gone once he leaves the form of Edward Hyde behind. Nonetheless, there is overlap between the incoherency Jekyll feels as his public status grew when approaching old age and Jonathan’s shame from his wife; both cases seem concerned with reputation and expectations. A man of Jekyll’s status is expected to be upright and to never consider these ‘undignified pleasures’ in the first place, while Jonathan is expected to have this very sterile attitude regarding sexuality, even in his own marriage with Mina. Jonathan describes his feelings as “a wicked, burning desire that they should kiss me with those red lips”; and the following is then said about those lips: “There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive”. It is up for debate though, whether this repulsion is actually because of the vampires, or because Jonathan feels disgusted at himself for wanting them. Comparing this to Jekyll’s indulgences (and many other instances that could be found in Victorian literature), evidence would suggest that the disgust is caused by the dissonance within the self:
“Jekyll (who was composite) now with the most sensitive apprehensions, bow with a greedy gusto, projected and shared in the pleasures and adventures of Hyde; but Hyde was indifferent to Jekyll, or but remembered him as the mountain bandit remembers the cavern in which he conceals himself from pursuit.”
“Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good qualities seemingly unimpaired; he would even make haste, when it was possible to undo the evil done by Hyde.”
If we try to imagine Jonathan with his own version of Edward Hyde within, then his reaction makes perfect sense. The burning desire is akin to the urge for freedom, or as Jekyll puts it, ‘springing headlong into the sea of liberty. The double living in these men yearns for the fulfillment, and how this double is perceived by the conscious mind is key to understanding Jekyll and Jonathan’s reaction. Despite basically having total immunity from whatever he chooses to do as Hyde, Jekyll still attempts to undo these ‘evil deeds’. It seems then, to be a perpetual cycle of suppressing and attempting to release. Jekyll himself saw that the situation was outside the realm of ordinary law and is even aware of his own conscience relaxing due to this fact, but the need to be ‘upright’ seems to be the real compulsion here, not the other way around. The same could be said about Jonathan, there are even more ways that his situation is outside of ordinary law since there is no other witness but himself and the vampires. Under normal circumstances, indeed it would be hard to detect these compulsions for ‘good’ since it is considered ‘normal’, so these stories go out of their way (whether consciously or not) to create unusual circumstances in order to reveal the questionable nature of why we choose to do anything at all.
Sir Michael’s Marriage
When Sir Michael states that he is deeply in love with Lucy Graham, he goes on to state that he never loved his two previous wives. He states that his marriage with Alicia’s mother was dull. Also, that his first marriage was “too dull to be extinguished, too feeble to burn” (Braddon 12). He goes on to claim that his feelings for Lucy are different.
This passage could mean two different things. It could be to show the reader that Sir Michael is truly in love and is able to feel so weakly about his past marriages because he feels so strongly about Lucy. However, I feel this passage is to show the reader that Sir Michael has never truly been in love before, does not know what love is, and is foreshadowing that Lucy will simply become another wife that Sir Michael will lose interest in once he finds another person that gives him the spark of love.
What I really think this passage is about is to give the reader more insight into Sir Michael’s past marriages and allow the reader to make a prediction on how his new marriage may play out. The way Sir Michael describes both his previous marriages as dull shows that rather than the marriages themselves not working out, it may simply be that Sir Michael loses interest in a marriage once he finds a new person who brings a sense of excitement or, what he calls the spark of love, into his life.
Men not understanding no= issue for centuries
In Christina Rosetti’s poem, No thank you, John , Rosetti writes from the point of view of (presumably) a woman, who has repeatedly rejected and said no to this man named John. John continues to ignore her and continues to try and talk her into loving him. She offers him friendship but makes it clear she does not want a relationship. When he realizes she’s serious, he turns on her, calling her heartless and cold because she does not want a relationship. This poem highlights the idea that women were not allowed to have their own opinions and needs regarding relationship with men. It was seen that they must accept the advances of men and marry whichever man courts her first. While overall, societal expectations have changed regarding women and their (somewhat) autonomy, many men still have high expectations fo women and expect all women to accept their advances. This can be seen in modern day media, an obvious example being Meghan Trainers hit song, “No.” In this song, Meghan Trainer is repeatedly telling a man that she does not want his number and she does not want to interact with him at all, which he seems to be ignoring.
It is interesting that this theme and idea has transcended into centuries and that even today we are witnessing the ongoing effects of negatively controlling and viewing women in modern media and everyday lives.
Xenophobia in “The Goblin Market”
“The Goblin Market” is a poem by Christina Rossetti and is about two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, who venture to a Goblin Market. Laura cautioned Lizzie “not [to] look at goblin men” and “not [to] buy their fruits” (Rossetti). However, Laura falls to the temptation and buys the fruits. This leads to her becoming addicted to them and later her death. “The Goblin Market” is representative of xenophobia in the Victorian Era and the fear of foreign merchants. Anxiety around reverse colonization in the Victorian era caused many people to fear that foreigners would try to invade or harm them. This fear can be seen through “The Goblin Market” because the goblins are symbolic of traveling merchants.
The poem warns readers from buying items from these merchants because they could be dangerous. An instance of this in the poem is when Laura says “Their offers should not charm us, / Their evil gifts would harm us” (Rossetti).On top of this, the way the goblins are depicted indicates racism as well. All of the goblins are different animals, “One had a cat’s face, / One whisk’d a tail, / One tramp’d at a rat’s pace, / One crawl’d like a snail” (Rossetti). This may seem like a way to paint this poem as “kid-friendly” however, having the goblin merchants be animals is symbolic of how Victorians viewed many foreigners as animalistic or uncivilized. Christina Rossetti’s “The Goblin Market” is symbolic of racist views Victorians had toward foreign people and the fear of the harm they could cause.
Red, White & “Femine” Blue
“A Triad” could be perceived as Rosetti’s effort to illustrate the difficulties with love and romantic relationships that Victorian women encountered due to strict norms imposed by the patriarchal society. Although described separately as three different individuals, the three women in this poem serve as the symbolic representations of limited options that women in this era have when it comes to love, yet regardless of their choice, they would always end up being the ones to suffer.
The women in this poem were painted with three different colors that signified their symbolic nature as well as their attitude towards their life and love. The first woman was assigned to the color ‘Crimson’, a color that was often associated with sexual desires and sin in the Victorian era. From this depiction, we could infer the story of a woman choosing to go for the man she loved, and worse, she gave in to lust and gave herself to him without the blessing of matrimony. This reflects the era’s prejudice for women and the shame that they impose on them. As women at this time were not allowed to be sexual or to express her desire for lust, by doing so, she lost her dignity for not preserving her purity. The second woman was portrayed with the color white, which suggested the idealized image of woman’s purity and virginity, the traditional women in the society. The vivid depiction of “grew gross in soulless love” painted a picture of a loveless marriage that the woman complies with. Compare to the first story, she followed the norms, and yet, she still ended up being the “sluggish wife”, stuck in the illusion of a happy ending that society convinced her to obey. Lastly, the color blue, a rarely seen color, was associated with the third woman. When described with the word ‘famine’, the portrayal of this woman appeared to be lifeless, suggesting illness or even death. Like a harpstring that had worn out, the woman had grown tired of looking for love as she chose death over the life of an unmarried woman.
These stories might be a bit of an exaggeration, yet they emphasized how women in those days were restricted to beings with the sole purpose in life was to get married and be wives. Thus, not abiding by those norms would cause them to be shamed and undignified. The poem’s final phrase, however, suggests that regardless of the choices, not each, but all “are short of life.” The ambiguous description does not only characterize a woman in vain pursuit of love but also insists that even “after love” — a supposedly satisfactory experience — the woman remains unfulfilled and unhappy.
Fear of the Foreign
A prominent theme in many of the texts that we have read this semester is the Victorian fear of the foreign: whether it’s foreign people or animals. Often, this manifests itself in making whatever is foreign something that is dangerous and can harm the protagonists of the plot. This fear of the foreign is seen in Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market”. This poem revolves around two sisters who are trying to resist the temptation that comes from these little goblin men and the fruit that they sell. One of the many reasons that the sisters try to not give in and buy the fruit is that they say that they don’t know where the soil that grows the fruit has been, they fear this unknown. Early in the poem Laura tells Lizzie “We must not look at goblin men, We must not buy their fruits; Who knows upon what soil they fed Their hungry thirsty roots?” (Rossetti). In these lines, the fear of foreign and the unknown that comes with foreign things can be seen. While the goblins inhabit the orchard, they are creatures that are not from the area, making them foreign to others. The fear of the foreign is evident when the sisters are wary about the growing conditions of the fruit. If the fruit was being sold by some non-foreign person, I bet that the sisters would not have fears about what the fruit was grown in, but since these goblins are foreign creatures, they have doubts.
The fear of the foreign and foreign places can also be seen in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dracula travels from Transylvania to England and unleashes chaos onto the unsuspecting British people. Not only does Dracula have physical characteristics that differ from other “non-foreign” characters, Dracula acts as a symbol of the “threat” that foreign influence may have on British people and society. When Harker is staying at Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, Dracula tells Harker, “We are in Transylvania; and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things” (Stoker, 28). Dracula openly admits that his ways are foreign to Harker, and while Harker is unaware of it at that time, Dracula’s different ways are more sinister than Harker could imagine. When in England, Dracula’s foreign ways causes chaos and death. This causes fear within those who experience the horrors that Dracula brings and reinforces the idea that foreigners will only harm British society. At a time when the idea of the foreign caused great fear within Victorian England, the fear and anxiety that was felt manifested itself in works of literature.
Power or Fear?
The text’s from Dracula and Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization has many similarities with the drive of the empire and the fear of progress towards the society. When looking at the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization I think about how power and the fear of being feared are related to the empire and society becoming stronger and upgrading many sources. Having the power to control the outside world is what Dracula always wanted. He wanted the control of Jonathan in which he followed his rules and had the needs he needed when visiting Dracula. I think this relates back to the rise and fall of the empire and military conquest because it symbolizes the meaning of who gets the power in certain situations. As the three women were crawling over Jonathan and ready to attack, Dracula comes out of nowhere and has the power to save Jonathan from being eaten alive. “Back, I tell you all! This man belongs to me!”(9). This desire for power and being able to come in action to use the sensation of himself is something I think Dracula showed here. He did not have to save Jonathan but he wanted to continue the power he had to keep Jonathan alive. This force of power Dracula wants to pursue forces him in the unfearful direction.
Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization have a major role in the claim of the power of Dracula. “Vampires are intimately linked to the military conquest and to the rise and fall of empires”(627). This quote from the text I think shows the readers how Dracula is relating back to the empire and Military circumstances. It draws back to us that the forceful power Dracula can also use on the outside world because of the Victorian age. The sexual power, the fear of power, and the fear of overpowering or respect I think is why Dracula is so obtained in his own power system. I think this because he rather shows someone his power rather than have someone be fearful of him. He shows this in many ways when he wants to move to Europe. At that time, Europe was at the center of its most powerful empire. For Dracula to move there he would succeed in his powerful ways. Moving to Europe would also mean he would not be feared because of the outside factors going on in the world.
Dracula shows the power of being feared which concludes him not wanting what everyone else wants. Continuing towards his sensation allows him to create many paths of being on top of what is in front of him.
My love life is still good, but only when I’m dreaming
“Echo”, by Christina Rosetti, is a poem with passionate and evocative language that deals with the emotions of death and dreams. The speaker has obviously lost a loved one years back and chases an “echo” or memory of that person through their dreams. The “slow door that opening, letting in, lets out no more” seems like a somber metaphor for death as the speaker knows that the dreams are limited because the loved one will never come back to life. There is also a strong presence of alliteration , such as “speaking silence of a dream” and sunlight on a stream.” Along with this, Rosetti uses a ton of repetition throughout, with each stanza having their own repetitious pattern usually with he first word of the lines. The use of alliteration and repetition offers a very pleasing and sweet sounding flow, but at the same time is so explicit that it is very dark and somber. The speaker seems to be fond of their loved one and completely obsessed in my opinion. Although, the more deeply emotional thing for me is that I think the speaker is depressed and cannot survive day to day life without their ability to dream and pretend that their loved one is still alive in some way, which is a terrifying reliance. Expressions such as “pulse for pulse” and “breath for breath” embody the things that allow for life to happen, and I think offering to give that to their loved one portrays the serious dependance that the speaker has. I would assume the speaker has very distressing and bleak days, counting down the hours until it is nighttime so they can revive some sort of “echo.” Dreams, in this poem, signify the past life of the speaker and their loved one and there is an inverted dynamic here of dreams offering more life and color to our speaker than actual life does.