Who Belongs Where?

Upon viewing Jean-Paul Jamin’s engraving, “Tragedy of the Stone Age” many different themes come to mind. However, what I think is most interesting about the image is that it suggests a deeper meaning and relationship between man vs. nature, one that reflects the natural world as stronger than man. The lion in the image has clearly claimed the woman as his own and will not give her up for anyone or anything. The placement of the lions paws upon her hip and neck is a clear depiction of its dominance over the woman and is also highly sexualized. Upon discovering this scene the male within the engraving is exclaiming in horror and shock, as his face suggests in addition to his hands that are extended as he is dropping the instrument he was holding. The shock of the man when he sees his partner in jeopardy compared to the calmness and power of the lions face illuminates a moment when man cannot outsource the natural world. While the man had a successful hunt as the dead deer he is holding suggests, he ultimately cannot dominant all animals as he has been successfully doing. Additionally this animal-human paradox is translated within “Alice and Wonderland” many times as Alice discovers that she is often less knowing than the animals around here. Wonderland is a place that includes much more intelligent and powerful animals in compared to the world that Alice comes from. Despite Alice being new to Wonderland she at many times forces herself in spaces where she doesn’t exactly belong, for example the scene where she immediately sits at the table with the other animals, and is even questioned as to why she has sat down. However, through the context of the engraving one may ask themselves whether the lion has trespassed into man’s cave, or whether man trespassed within the lions den? With this in mind I am forced to question the relationships between Alice and the animals… Who is overstepping personal boundaries? Is anyone naturally given there own space? Can humans be considered animals? Why? Why not?

Benefiting From Sexual Objectification

Upon viewing Gaujean’s etching, “The Apparition” the Victorian Femme Fatale comes to mind. The sensual depiction of Solome is one that can be paralleled to the Femme Fatale as described by Jan Marsh[1], “She allows that artists gazed, fascinated but repelled, at women of a curious frigidity, cold but sensual, erotic but invulnerable.” Solome’s “cold but sensual” stance and searing gaze at St. John is one that fully embodies the Femme Fatale, as she is depicted standing erect with her hands reaching out to posses St. John. Additionally, Solome is portrayed as “invulnerable” because she holds the most power out of everyone for having just summoned St. John’s head on a platter. However, Solome defies Marsh’s “boiled down” Femme Fatale. Discussed by Marsh, “Women are rendered decorative, depersonalized; they become passive figures rather than characters in a story or drama… Women are reduced to an aesthetic arrangement of sexual parts, for male fantasies.” The depiction and story behind Solome is not one consistent to Marsh’s definition. Solome’s dance that she performs in order to be granted a wish, St. John’s head, not only fulfills the male desire but it also fulfills her own desire. Yes, Solome is sexually objectified as she uses a dance to coax her stepfather, but she does it knowingly so. Her sexual objectification is not used solely to fulfill “male fantasies” but fulfills her own desires as well. Additionally, Solome’s intense gaze at St. John, rather than at the viewers observing the etching, protects her own authority over her own self and body.

The story behind the etching displays a kind of sexual advocacy not seen before. The fact that Solome utilizes societal objectification of her body in her favor is very interesting. I believe that this image could have really inspired Victorian women to cultivate their sexual influence over the patriarchy.



[1] http://www.victorianweb.org/gender/object.html

Walter Hartright, aka the pretend feminist

The character of Walter Hartright presented within the novel is one who forces the reader to believe that he is a man exceptionally different from Sir. Percival and Count Fosco. The reader is brought to believe that Walter is different from the other men due to the fact that he is an advocate for the women within the novel, rather than an oppressor. This image of Walter as an advocate for woman and possibly even a feminist is explored throughout the novel because of his actions. Walter is the only male character who actively assists the women in their quest for justice, trying to attain Laura’s true identity and ruin Sir Percival and Count Fosco for their wrong doings. When Walter runs into Anne Catherick on the road to London he points her in the right direction, “We met very late, and I helped you to find the way to London…..Take time to recover yourself-take time to feel quite certain that I am a friend. (pg95-96)” The reader, as well as the women within the novel are lead to believe that Walter is a friend, a trusted male individual who sets forth the best intentions for the women.

However, upon reading Perkins and Donaghy’s, “A Man’s Resolution: Narrative Strategies In Wiklie Collins’ The Woman in White” one can determine that Walter is no different from Fosco and Percival as Perkins states, “Walter proceeds to make Laura even more haze and less individualized…” Alike Fosco and Percival, Walter has a hidden agenda and casts a veiled patriarchal oppression towards the women within the novel. Walter does not help the woman or advocate for them solely because he believes they deserve justice, but because he wants to be the hero for these women, he wants to hold power over them just as much as the other men within the novel, but he approaches it in a different way. Walter’s oppression towards the women is initially overlooked due to his actions and words that projects him as a friend and advocate for the women. Upon revisiting the text through the lens of Perkins and Donaghy, Walter’s sensationalized reaction towards Anne Catherick is a moment that highlights him no different from the typical Victorian male. Despite Walter being a ‘friend’ towards Ann and leading her in the right direction towards London he is shocked at her discovery. When he first sees her he is dumbstruck because of the sight of a woman alone in the middle of the night is something unnatural for a woman within this time. Therefore Walter is perpetuating female oppression because he is so bewildered at the sight of lone Anne Catherick.

Trusting the narrator

One particular moment within the text that grabbed my attention and made me even frustrated with the novel was on page 338. The moment Mr. Fairlie’s narration begins he takes it upon himself to declare, “I will endeavor to remember what I can (under protest), and to write what I can (also under protest); and what I cant remember and cant write, Louis must remember, and write for me. He is an ass, and I am an invalid: and we are likely to make all sorts of mistakes” (336). Here Mr. Fairlie states that he as a narrator cannot be trusted. The fact that Mr. Fairlie is openly claiming within the beginning of his narration that he cannot attest to the absolute truth within his writing forces us to read this section of the novel with great scrutiny, as we readers simply cannot fully trust what is being said about the events in any way. How are we to know what is being withheld and what is correct? The declaration of this that Mr. Fairlie openly states about himself not only forces the reader to question his validity, but it also forces the reader to wonder why Marian, a strong and intuitive woman, is able to trust Mr. Fairlie to help out Laura amidst her engagement troubles. If Mr. Fairlie cannot be trusted as a narrator, how can he be trusted as an advocate for Laura? Not only does Mr. Fairlie force the reader to question his trustworthiness and accountability throughout the story, but Laura also shows moments when she does not seem to be ‘remembering’ the full truth, as seen within her conversation with Marian after she speaks with the woman in white down by the boat house. The fact that the narrators at times show signs of forgetting or openly claiming that they may not be writing the full truth is very problematic, because it forces the reader to question the authenticity of all that is said and happening.