The Isolated Youth of the 19th Century


   I have chosen to write about Illman & Sons’ The Greek Maiden. The engraving depicts a somewhat young-looking woman alone, staring off either into the distance or simply zoning out—it’s difficult to tell where her gaze is directed. Either way, she does not seem to be engaged in the current moment. The woman appears almost unaware of the artist. Her solitariness gives off a sense of isolation. Perhaps, because of this isolation and the somewhat melancholy look on her face, she feels as though she does not belong in the society in which she resides. This may be what she is thinking about—the cause of her miserable expression. The location she sits in may be the spot she escapes to to have some alone time.

   This woman reminds me of Carroll’s character Alice. Alice, being rather strange, does not seem to fit in with what the youth of the Victorian era was expected to be. However, this may have been a common occurrence for 19th century children, for kids are often not naturally born prim and proper. I can imagine that nearly all youth felt isolated in the Victorian era, not yet respected as fully functioning members of society until their superiors felt they were mature enough. Alice and this Greek maiden, like many children, feel out of place in their environment. Alice does not fit into Wonderland either.

   This Wonderland may have been a way for Alice to rid herself, even for just a few hours, of her strict and possibly unfulfilling life. Although Alice was unconscious during her escape, this may be what the Greek maiden is seemingly lost in—a daydream. Both pieces might speak about the pressures youth and women felt and still feel today, as well as the temptation to get away from it all.

The Woman in White (The Musical)

   I have chosen to write about the musical version of The Woman in White by Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Zippel. Although I was unable to find the entire musical online, I was able to find bits and pieces, as well as read the summary, reception, and more. Putting aside the fact that the writers had to edit out many parts of the novel in order for the musical to be of acceptable length, I want to address what main parts they did leave out, as well as what the writers changed. First, the entire storyline regarding Pesca’s history with Walter, as well as his involvement with Fosco’s demise is completely omitted. More importantly, Fosco’s death does not even exist in the musical. This lessens Fosco’s involvement in his and Glyde’s manipulation of Laura and Marian, as well as his involvement in the entire storyline as a whole. Second, Glyde’s secret is completely altered. Instead of being a bastard child, it is revealed that he had raped Anne and then drowned the child that was created from the act. This creates Glyde to be more despicable than ever, because there is practically nothing more terrible than killing children in the eyes of the public. These two substantial changes portray Glyde as the true villain in this interpretation instead of Fosco.

   This causes a decreasing importance of Fosco’s character, as well as depicts him as less dishonorable than his character in the novel. Perhaps the sole purpose of these deletions and adjustments were simply to shorten the story, but most likely they were also to simplify it. It appears that having two antagonists, one obvious but the other more subtle, is too complicated for a modern audience. Back in the Victorian era, people were expected to know others’ names without asking, as well as memorize family trees and ties of those around them. These social expectations are no longer in place for our generation, but even so, what does that say about society today if we can’t even keep a storyline of a classic novel the same for our own convenience?Woman_in_white_2004

Goblin Market

She cried, “Laura,” up the garden,

“Did you miss me?

Come and kiss me.

Never mind my bruises,

Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices

Squeez’d from goblin fruits for you,

Goblin pulp and goblin dew.

Eat me, drink me, love me;

Laura, make much of me;

For your sake I have braved the glen

And had to do with goblin merchant men.”

“Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti, lines 468-474

    In Christina Rossetti’s poem, “Goblin Market,” she interprets sisterly love. On the surface, the poem tells the story of Lizzie and Laura’s strong bond of sisterhood and how it conquers anything. However, just below lies the sexual language shared between the two characters. After getting covered in fruit juice, Lizzie runs home and begs her sister to drink it off of her body so that she may hopefully be satisfied. “Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices / eat me, drink me, love me” (Rossetti 468, 71). Here, Lizzie lists all the different ways Lizzie could attain the fruit juice from off of her body. These action verbs are very demanding, giving off a sense of desperation. Lizzie, desperate to save her sister’s well-being, demands that Laura drink. This idea that Lizzie would do anything for her sister is what children are supposed to learn from this poem. However, the language Rossetti uses is overtly sexual. Because of this sexual language, readers get the idea that perhaps Lizzie and Laura cross the line between sisters and lovers. Due to earlier language—as well as the subject matter of the poem in general—about forbidden fruit, a famous tale from the Bible comes to mind. These Biblical themes include sin, and, if lovers, Lizzie and Laura would be breaking multiple rules. Incest, pre-marital sex, as well as sex with the same gender are all considered sins. This theme of blurring the line between sisters and lovers is common among Victorian literature. Perhaps this says something about this particular time period’s desires, repressed so much by popular culture that they think about taking them out on other close members of their lives.

Marian’s Concern for Her Sister’s Relationship

“Any woman who is sure of her own wits, is a match, at any time, for a man who is not sure of his own temper.”

From this passage, we can infer than Marian is suggesting the necessary, submissive role of a wife in the Victorian Era. First, she writes, “Any woman who is sure of her own wits”, which has two main ways for interpretation. These two interpretations could also be put together to form one, which is what I believe is the most plausible. It may simply mean an educated woman, someone who has had access to books and teachings. It may also indicate a woman who talks back, or is more clever than a woman should be. Then, she states, “a man who is not sure of his own temper.” Here, readers can infer that she means a man with a bad temper who is unaware of it—-until brought out by his wife. The whole quote put together by “is a match, at any time” implies that Marian is fully aware of a woman’s place in this time period. A clever woman will be put in her place by her husband, possibly by use of violence. Marian is also saying that educated, clever women get beaten more, because they feel superior to most wives—-they may even be smarter than their husbands. Marian’s tone seems rather calm about this matter, but even so, this passage implies that Marian is hinting at her concerns about Laura and Sir Percival’s relationship. It appears that she is worried that Sir Percival is beating Laura behind closed doors, or perhaps even using sexual violence, to get her to obey him. As readers have seen throughout the novel, Laura is a smart, educated woman, but one would not expect her to talk back. However, something tells us it probably does not take much for Sir Percival to lose his temper.