The Fallen Woman

In Tess of the D’Ubervilles, Lady Audley’s Secret and Mary Barton, the author writes about the character development of a fallen woman. Each of these texts critiques the society of the time period the author writes in. Within these critiques, there are models for how people of the society should act and also as a counter to the models, the characters that show how not to act. The fallen woman does something that society deems as unforgivable so they are cast from society. Mary Barton’s Ester becomes a prostitute to take care of her baby, Lady Audley represents a fallen woman who keeps a secret and betrays her family, and Tess is raped by Alec which leads complications in her marriage. Each of these fallen women act out of necessity, have a secret to keep and feel ashamed through out the novels.

In Mary Barton, Mary serves as the model woman who is loyal, dedicated and hard working despite the poverty and horror around her. Ester and Mary’s lives parallel. They both work hard to provide for their family because the man in their life left (or is unable to work, in Mary’s case of her father); however, because Ester does so in a way deemed wrong by society, she is cast out. They also both fall for an upper-class man. Marrying a richer man is the only way women have agency in the society. If the man Ester fell for had stayed, her life would have been set. Since the man left her, Ester had no other option and she was forced to act out of necessity to provide for her child. She then flees from her family and keeps it a secret because she is so ashamed. When she sees Mary going down her same path, she desparetly tries to warn Mary. Mary and Ester parallel because any woman could turn into a fallen woman. There are only so many options for a woman. While Ester succumbed to a life of poverty and shame, she was able to warn Mary and help give her a better life.

Similar to Ester, Lucy tries to marry a rich man to get out of poverty, however, her secret comes back to haunt her. When Sir Michael Audley proposes, she tries to refuse and say she doesn’t love him but he persists. Like Ester, marrying rich does not make one a fallen woman. It is what the woman does when something goes wrong that makes her a fallen woman. When Lucy, or Helen’s secret comes out is when she must act of necessity. When George comes back, Lucy fakes her death; when he finds her out, she tries to kill him; and when Robert confronts her, she tries to set a hotel on fire to kill both him and Luke. On top of these acts, she hides another secret: her mother’s heredity madness. All of these things do add up to a fallen woman, so much so, Sir Michael Audley basically flees the moment he finds out. When Ester knew she could not get that life back, she gave up. Lucy fought hard to keep her life in luxury, but it backfired and her real secret of madness came out. Madness is another option for a woman, and in this novel, it seems to be an excuse. The author allows her to die peacefully in a institution despite her actions, and leaves the reader wondering if she learned her lesson like Ester did.

While each of these reasons the women “fell” happened because of a man, the same is true for Tess. Despite her constant decline of Alec’s love, he still rapes her which leaves Tess a tarnished woman. Just as with Ester, society cast her away and she believed it. Tess continues to work, though her self worth is devalued in her eyes, which is why she is distant and removed from Angel, even though she has real feelings for him. When she tells him the truth, he sleepwalks and imagines her as dead. The scene is so obviously how Angel really feels about Tess. Even though he leaves her, Tess is faced with the same problem as Ester and Lucy: marrying a richer man. As we have seen with these two, it does not go well. Tess fights to succumb to the temptation of being taken care of by Alec until he finally convinces her Angel isn’t ever coming back. When Angel comes back, Tess fully surrenders to the “fallen woman” image and kills Alec, though it is out of love of Angel, unlike Lady Audley who does it for selfish reasons. Like Lucy, Tess is able to have a time of peace with Angel where they fall back in love, but unlike Lucy’s death, Tess is taken by the police to face her punishment. Tess battles with temptation throughout the entire book, but with her “moral woman” image being taken from her in the beginning, her fate is set.

Even though, Tess is labeled as a “fallen woman” by society in the very first phase, Thomas Hardy labels her as a “pure woman” before the novel even starts on the title page. This is the difference between Tess and the other fallen women: she is pure despite what she has done. While there are very few options for a woman, Ester does not seem to look very hard before becoming a prostitute. She does not ask her family for help nor does she seek other work. Though it seems she learned her lesson when she tries to save Mary, the author paints a negative picture of her when she implies Ester fleeing is the reason for Mary’s mother’s death. Ester is a fallen woman from the beginning. Several different times the author implies there is something wrong with Lady Audley. The most notable being the dog doesn’t like her. Also, the end of the very first chapter, the author allows the reader to suspect she is hiding something with the description of the lock of hair and locket. Again, from the very beginning, Lady Audley is a fallen woman. Ester and Lucy both act out of necessity but seem to do it easily. The author makes it clear Tess does not love Alec before he rapes her. Tess has preserverance and denies Alec’s proposals many times despite what is happening in her family. Even though Tess eventually succumbs to Alec and then killing Alec, she surrenders to her punishment. She goes willinglingly when the police show up: “I am ready” she says (487). Tess understands what she has done wrong because all along she is a pure woman.

 

The Real Power Robert Possess is Character

In the novel, Robert possess the most power because of the knowledge he discovers about Lady Audley, however, he gives part of his power up to Lady Audley to preserve the Audley name as well as avoid scandal. This would then mean that Lady Audley holds the power, but her mental state forces her to give the power back to Robert. In his refusal to hurt Sir Michael, tarnish the Audley name and staying with Lady Audley, his real power lies in his character.

The knowledge that Robert gains comes from the original motive of looking for George first reveals his character. In the beginning, Robert was lazy, carefree and didn’t seem to care about much. It is not until George goes missing that he becomes motivated and dedicated which then leads him to discover a slew of secrets. These secrets allow him to hold the power though they originally stemmed from a motive of good character. When he confronts Lady Audley near the end, he basically gives her the power because he doesn’t want to hurt his brother or tarnish the Audley name. After he confronts Lady Audley he says: “I would have condoned our crimes out of pity of your wretchedness, You have refused to to accept my mercy…I shall henceforth only remember my duty to the dead” (291). This seems to suggest that Robert will tell Sir Michael about George and her secret identity, but he does not and Lady Audley gets to him first. This is when Lady Audley suggests that Robert is mad by implying “madness is sometime hereditary” (300). Even though Robert has the upper hand in this moment, he knows Lady Sudley’s secret and still refuses to tell Sir Michael. This shows Robert’s as well as Lady Audley’s character. While Robert holds power over Lady Audley, he chooses not to hurt his brother, but Lady Audley goes directly to him in hopes he will turn on Robert. She tells him that Robert is mad because he says George was murdered at Audley Court, which upsets Sir Michael. The author uses exclamation points and dashes to show his exasperation and disbelief: “This Mr. Talboys—a perfect stranger to all of us—murdered, at Audley Court!” While this is something Robert wanted to avoid (302). Her actions could be proof that Lady Audley does use her situation and knowledge for her benefit and power, and does not care about the emotions of her husband. She uses Sir Michael’s ignorance and Robert’s silence to carry the power at this point in the novel, though it is only because Robert basically let to her.

In the ironic turn of events, Lady Audley is the one who has hereditary madness and this forces her to give the power back to Robert. Again, however, Robert simply wants to send away Lady Audley so that the Audley name is not ruined. After Lady Audley confesses to Sir Michael, Alicia does not know what just happened. Robert does not reveal to details which also proves his character: he is not a gossip. This reminds the reader that he did not seek out these secrets or power, he just came upon them and does not wish to involve anyone who does not need to be. This can be contrasted with the scene where Lady Audley complains to Phoebe about Robert tormenting her because she involves Phoebe and even tries to solve both of their problems with a fire. This solution reveals the madness in her mind. Then when Dr. Mosgrave says, “She has the cunning of madness, with the prudence of intelligence… She is dangerous,” Robert still agrees to go with her to the institution (385). Sir Michael leaves immediately after her confession and does not give their relationship a chance or even wait for the doctor’s verdict on her madness. He leaves her with Robert, which shows how much he trusts him, even though Sir Michael may not have the best judge of character. The reader must remember Robert knows how much Lady Audley hurt his best friend, and he still does not abandon her. While he may have other motivations, like finding our what truly happened to George and upholding the Audley name, it still shows his character. It also shows his final power over Lady Audley, he could have killed her or left her to go insane.

The power struggle between Lady Audley and Robert can be disguised as who holds the knowledge, though the true possession of power is held by Robert because of his character. He reveals his good character again and again with his decisions and how he handles the power, which in turn reveals Lady Audley’s character as she does almost the opposite in each instance. His aversion of scandal also shows that he did not dig up these secrets for the fun or drama of it, and the preservation of the Audley name proves he doesn’t want to be taken as something he is not. Robert is the moral character in the story, and this is why he holds the power.

Maggie and Tom

Maggie and Tom’s relationship defines the novel. The beginning of the novel starts with the focus on both Tom and Maggie, even more towards Tom, but by the end of the novel, Maggie is the center. However, despite Maggie being the main focus, she is still concerned with Tom and what he thinks of her. With each fight, comes a tragic event, forcing the siblings to come together thus placing an importance of family by the author.

Maggie always tries to please Tom, and cares heavily for what he thinks about her. Their first interaction in the novel reveals this. When Tom tells Maggie to guess what is in his pockets, she guesses marbles and her “heart sank a little because Tom always said it was ‘no good’ playing with her at those games—she played so badly” (33). This also shows how hard Tom is on Maggie. Marbles should be a game where each person can have fun without caring how they are playing, especially at this age. If it isn’t revealed how harsh he is here, it sure does when she tells Tom she forgot to feed the rabbits. He says: “I don’t love you” and she says, “my heart will break” as she is “shaking with sobs” where he shakes her off. Her burst of emotion does not phase him, and he continues to torture her by listing off certain woes when he is such a good brother to her (36). The toxic relationship continues until they are brought together by the family’s bankruptcy: “They had gone forth together into their new life of sorrow…the golden gates of their childhood had forever closed behind them “ (191). This begins a pattern in the novel. Though Maggie and Tom fight, the author reminds us they are still family and able to come together in times of trouble.

After Tom figures out that Maggie has been seeing Phillip in the woods, he is furious. Of course, Maggie is very conflicted because she knew all along this would displease her father, but more importantly, Tom. He threatens to tell her father if she does not cut off communication with Phillip. Again, he is very harsh with her: “I don’t wish to hear anything of your feelings… Do what I require… I can’t trust you, Maggie. There is no consistency with you” (343). After they tell Phillip, Maggie lashes out at Tom. She says, “Don’t suppose I think you are right, Tom, or that I bow to your will” but with his harsh response, she immediately backs down: “I know I’ve been wrong” (347). Tom is urging Maggie to do what he thinks is the right thing, yet Maggie, knowing the consequences if people find out, still thinks what she’s doing is right also. They are always at odds. At the end of this book, however, they are again brought together by their father’s death. At this point, Tom is fed up with Maggie’s emotions. Tom stresses family loyalty, which leads the reader to believe he is in the right. Though the reader understands both sides, they are again brought together, making them one again, blurring the separation of feelings between the two.

After Maggie goes in the boat with Stephen, Tom has his mind “set” (483). The “worst” has happened — “not death, disgrace” (483). He sends her away from his home, even though she promises to “endure anything” and “be kept from doing wrong again” (485). He is done with Maggie at this point. He is really not heard from until the end when Maggie comes for him in the boat. Then, they are brought together in death— “In their death they were not divided” as written on their gravestone (522). Not only is Tom over Maggie’s emotions, he is now frustrated with her actions. Before when she went off with Phillip in woods, nobody knew, but everybody finds out about the situation with Stephen—which affects him. Before now, Tom has felt that he had a say over Maggie but he has given up because the damage is done. Though Eliot suggests Maggie can recover mentally, Tom cannot. The quote shows this, it is the worst thing that could happen. The only thing Eliot could do is kill them because this is the only way they could be brought together again.

The pattern of Maggie and Tom coming together after what seems to be the worst Maggie has done each time reveals the importance Eliot places of family. Maggie and Tom are never fully separated because they are siblings. Their relationship defines the novel because it is almost as if Eliot writes something tragic into the novel so that Maggie and Tom can be brought together again. This seems to suggest they would not do it on their own, but rather their environment is the only thing keeping them together. Family is the only thing people have as a constant in their life, especially in this time, and each tragic event shows how important it is that they do come together. Since they are always at odds, Eliot has always posed them as opposites, even playing each other’s role (Maggie as having “manly” qualities; Tom as having “womanly qualities”) at times all seems to reveal that they complete each other and need each other, also reinforcing the importance placed on family.

Mr. Carson’s Character Development

Though many characters grow throughout Mary Barton, Mr. Carson’s Bildungsroman is perhaps the most notable. While he is not a main character, his change of heart is the greatest. In the beginning, Mr. Carson is the factory owner and the father of Mary’s fling, Harry Carson, and known for being a cruel and power hungry master. When a fire burns down his factory, he is not worried for “the insurance money would amply pay” and lays off his workers, including Mr. Wilson. Mr. Carson is not concerned with the “deep, terrible gloom” of “no wages to pay for the bread the children cried aloud for in their young impatience suffering” (95). For the rich, no work meant “leisure” that was a “pleasant thing” and meant “happy family evenings” (95). Rich families, including Mr. Carson’s, do not attempt to understand the intense weight of having no money. Rather than compensating for lost time, because the factory workers need it so badly, it is considered a luxury to not work. Meanwhile, Davenport falls ill and Wilson goes to the Carson’s to ask for medicine. Mr. Carson fails to recognize his name and doesn’t “pretend to know the names of the men [he] employ[s],” even though Davenport had worked for him for three years. He is unconcerned with the needs of his workers while in this time period, the people working in the factories need all the help they can get.

Carson continues to be ignorant of the workers’ conditions and needs until it directly affects him in the murder of his son, Henry. After he finds out his son has been shot, he reverts to using his money. He offers a “handsome reward [that] might accelerate the discovery of the murderer” (273). Rather than grieving his son’s death, comforting his hysterical wife or reflecting on how short life is, Mr. Carson seeks vengeance on the murderer: “My son! My son…but you shall be avenged, my poor murdered boy” (277). It is “a speedy conviction, a speedy execution” that “seemed to be the only things that would satisfy his craving thirst for blood” (286). This shows immaturity, recklessness and again a lack of concern for those around him. The death of his son has not so far as changed Mr. Carson but rather encouraged him to use his power and money to further fight fire with fire.

At the trial, Mr. Carson shows glimpses of emotions when he contemplates over his son’s love of Mary. He “abhorred her and her rumored loveliness” and “grew jealous of the love with which she had inspired his son” (402). Instead of pitying her and considering her loss of her “lover,” he felt a “severe” “satisfaction” when she is about to come testify against Jem. The narrator leaves out his reaction when the court rules Jem not guilty, maybe because the reader is not concerned with Mr. Carson at the moment—only Mary and Jem— or because his emotion would bring down the happiness of the reader. It is not until several chapters later that the narrator explores the reactions of Mr. Carson. This is when Mr. Carson has a change of heart and actually considers another person’s point of view: “But suddenly, while he was deliberating, and searching for motives which should be effective to compel him to exertion and action once more…suddenly I say, the thought arose within him that more yet remained to be learned about the circumstances and feelings which prompted John Barton’s crime” (466-7).

He then calls for Will Wilson and Job Leigh to help Mr. Carson understand. Once they explain it to him, the first thing he says is, “Now how in the world can we help it?” (471). Instead of getting angry or blowing them off as he might have done earlier, he asks what he can do. This shows immense growth in Mr. Carson’s character. He allows Wilson and Job to explain John Barton’s reasons and thanks them “for speaking candidly” about “the power, or want of power in masters, to remedy the evils the men complain of” (474). The death of Henry opened his eyes to the hurt, hunger and hate that ultimately comes from being poor and knowing there is nothing one can solely do about it. Yet with the power that Mr. Carson has from being a master and having money, he understands how he is one of the people who can actually do something about it. This development in Mr. Carson is a total change in his character. This gives the reader hope because of this growth. Mr. Carson is not a main character but he is an impressionable character because of his Bildungsroman.

The Emphasis on Nature to Reveal Clues to Reader

In Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, setting is used to reveal the character’s mental state and in some cases nature even goes so far as reviving the characters. While there are similarities between the sublime and gothic genres, there are distinct differences. In Shelley’s writing, the gothic is often used to portray a horrifying or despairing scene while the sublime shows restoration and happiness.

While Shelley uses setting throughout the entire novel with each of the characters, a more specific example is seen a page apart where Shelley uses both the gothic and sublime to show Victor’s emotions. The scene after the monster has finished telling Victor his story and Victor has begrudingly agreed to create him a mate demonstrates how Shelley uses the setting to display emotion. After the monster has departed, Victor walks back to the village as the sun was on “the verge of the horizon” where Victor would soon be “encompassed in darkness” (159). Victor’s heart is heavy as he is overcome with emotion sitting down next to a fountain. Here, Shelley uses the darkness as a metaphor for the emotions of darkness that are taking over Victor. The fountain next to him can be interpreted as the intense feelings of despair wash over him or the tears he wants to cry. Continuing in the paragraph, Shelley goes further describing the “dark pines” and “broken tree” (159). The trees are lingering over him to again show how his thoughts of remembering the conversation with the monster as well as the thoughts of what might happen in the future linger over Victor. He even cries out that the trees and stars are mocking him and asks to be alone in his solitude further proving the landscape as a metaphor for his haunting thoughts. Darkness and solitude are very prominent give-aways when writing in the gothic genre.

On the next page, Shelley then uses the sublime genre to show restoration in Victor. She even references the gothic, the “blackness overcast” to contrast the sublime, the “approaching sunshine” (161). The sublime can be identified by descriptions of nature: “I passed whole days on the lake alone in little boat, watching the clouds, and listening to the rippling waves…but the fresh air seldom failed to restore me” (161). Shelley uses these descriptions to show the change of heart in Victor as he returns to his friends better than ever. A common theme in both the gothic and sublime is solitude. In the sublime scene, Victor takes “refuge in the most perfect solitude” (161). In the scene before, Victor begs to be away from the trees, or nature, but now he finds nature has restored him. Shelley does this to show how much effect nature can have on the characters and the reader. Nature goes so far as being able to restore Victor and give the reader an indication Victor is feeling better. She puts am emphasis on nature as a powerful tool in her novel.

Along with demonstrating how important nature is to the novel, Shelley uses the difference of setting between the sublime and gothic to project how Victor is feeling. Even with the similarity of the two genres, solitude, she demonstrates the difference between the two as well. As previously mentioned, in the gothic scene, the trees are leaning over Victor, while in the sublime scene, the air is open. Shelley takes the solitude aspect of each genre and puts it in two different contexts to further prove setting reflects the feelings of the characters.

Putting an emphasis on nature, Shelley gives the reader a clue into the heads of the characters through her descriptions of setting. Since the point of view in the novel is so distanced from the reader, and we are not put in the heads of the characters, it is important that reader has these clues to pick up on how the characters are feeling and how the reader is supposed to feel as well.