The End of the Fallen Women

Many novels deal with the idea of the fallen woman and her fate. The Mill on the Floss, Lady Audley’s Secret, and Tess of the d’Ubervilles each do just that. While the respectability of the women and their ends differ in each, there is an idea of the woman being replaceable, or at least being unnecessary to the other characters, in all three of the novels. The endings for these fallen women show how they were viewed. While writers garnered sympathy for their characters, in the end they had to be disposed of, and life had to carry on.

In The Mill on the Floss, Maggie is deemed to be a fallen woman after her extended boat ride with Stephen. When she returns, she is rejected by most of society, including her brother. While Phillip, her mother, and others do take her side, most of society sees Maggie as someone to avoid, even though she did not actually do anything with Stephen. However, this is enough not only to gain the ill will of the town she grew up in, but also for her to have to die. When the flood comes, she and her brother Tom die in each other’s arms, their ship sunk by debris in the water. Maggie had to die despite not actually doing anything wrong. In the end, Maggie is dead, and Stephen has moved on to be with Lucy. Life carries on, and while Phillip is sad and alone and Stephen visits her grave, the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care about the fate of this fallen woman.

Things are worse in Lady Audley’s Secret, however. When Robert discovers that Lady Audley is the wife of his friend, George Talboys, he exposes her to his uncle Michael Audley. Lady Audley’s fate for marrying two men is not death like Maggie. She instead gets sent off to a sort of mental institution where she cannot bother either of her husbands anymore. She is just shoved out of the story at the end, despite all the sympathy the narrator tries to make the readers feel for her. While she is not replaced by either George or Michael, she is shown to be unnecessary to either. George lives with his sister and Robert, and Michael has his daughter to depend on. Everyone seems to get along fine with Lady Audley out of the picture, almost as though she never existed at all, save for the melancholy of the men who had married her.

In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, however, the main character is actually replaced, at her own suggestion. Tess is a fallen woman because of what Alec did to her. She keeps what happened to her a secret, however, and by doing so is able to marry Angel. Once he finds out about Alec, he wants nothing to do with Tess, leaving her to fend for herself and eventually to be drawn back to Alec’s side. When he comes back for her though, Tess longs to be with him, murdering Alec so that she can. She is caught and persecuted for this crime, and interesting change from being punished for being fallen. Lady Audley of course did try to kill people, but Tess here is punished solely for her murder of Alec. She too though is replaced, this time by the younger sister whom she told Angel to be with when she was caught eventually. Tess’s death is in line with getting rid of a fallen woman, but the sister getting with her husband, at her own suggestion, is not. Still, however, to most of society Tess was a fallen woman, so she had to die in the end.

Tess of the d’Ubervilles stands out from other novels about fallen women because Tess is killed for a different, though related, crime and because Tess is replaced by her younger sister. Tess being killed for murder shows that the real crime was that she was influenced into taking such measures after all the terrible things that had happened to make her fallen. Her being replaced by her sister shows a form of sympathy for her, trying to have Angel be with Tess, or the closest thing to her, while still getting rid of the fallen woman who has no place in society. So while all these novels deal with fallen women, giving them bad fates and showing that they are unnecessary to the people in their lives, Tess of the d’Ubervilles goes farther, showing that the fallen women are only criminals because of the extreme situations wrongly forced upon them. It demonstrates that, if the woman had not done the one thing that made her fall, she would have been able to have a good life like readers can presume Tess’s sister can have with Angel. The way this novel deals sympathetically with the fallen woman sets it apart from others and makes it a novel truly worth studying.

Neglected Georgey

One of the main concerns for the characters in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s novel Lady Audley’s Secret is that of how Lady Audley left her son and husband to go and start a new life. Little Georgey, however, was not only abandoned by his mother, but neglected by almost everyone he came across, showing how this ideal for women was one that men could ignore without any consequence.

Lady Audley herself admits to not having a connection with her son. In telling her story to Robert and Sir Michael, she states “my baby was born, and the crisis which had been fatal to my mother arose in me” (Braddon 361). Of course, not all mothers are happy to be so when they first become mothers and have to readjust to their new lives, but Lady Audley here never does. She sees her child as “a burden upon [her] hands” and seems to have no trouble leaving the boy with his father, even though she knows that Mr. Maldon has used up her money in going to bars (Braddon 364). She eventually does check up on her son, but only after she is forced into seeing her father by the return of the elder George Talboys. Gerogey himself never knows this woman as his mother, or at least does not remember it, and therefore is neglected by her.

The men in the novel blame Lady Audley for leaving her son, even if it seems to be only an addition to her leaving her husband, but they also neglect the boy. Mr. Maldon does not take great care of the child, as seen by his house being “shabbily furnished, and disorderly, with a child’s broken toys scattered on the floor, and the scent of stale tobacco hanging about the muslin window curtains,” (Braddon 79). That coupled with Maldons repeated sale of little Georgey’s watch to get money proves that this certainly was not the best environment for the child [Braddon 191]. Of course Mr. Maldon is poor and stuck in bad habits, but this does not excuse the fact that he is bringing up his grandson in a poor environment, even if he loves the lad.

The boy’s father, however, does the same. When George gets home from being in Australia, he is stricken to learn about his wife’s alleged death. He does not, however, think of his son until he actually sees him. In fact, at first George is only talking to his father-in-law before little George speaks, and only then does the father call out “my darling! My darling! … I am your father” (Braddon 83). He even leaves Georgey with Mr. Maldon since the boy “is very fond of his grandfather” (Braddon 83). There is no thought of how the environment is bad for the boy. !t is only when Robert, now the boy’s guardian, sees a child’s coffin being carried out of the neighborhood that Georgey is removed from it (Braddon 188). Neither George or Robert are criticized for leaving, neglecting, or otherwise not doing right by the child, however, unlike Lady Audley.

Lady Audley did wrong by leaving her son, especially in the care of her father who vexed her so much with his money issues and bad habits that she herself left. However, George did the same, leaving his wife and son to live with Mr. Maldon. Maldon himself did not take proper care of the lad, even though he did love him, and Robert Audley, the boy’s guardian, did not start protecting him until he realized the lad could die. None of these men are criticized for leaving or neglecting Georgey in the way that Lady Audley is. Only George has to bear some criticism for leaving, but he is often forgive for it mush quicker than she is. In the end, it is the woman who is blamed for leaving while the men don’t concern themselves too much with the needs of the child. Thus this standard of making women and only women in charge of the children leads, through one woman not living up to her gender norms and several men not stepping in to fill that roll, to young Georgey being neglected.The gender norms lead to an innocent child being neglected, and so the novel displays how these norms can be harmful.

Justified Unrighteous Anger

In Mill and the Floss by George Elliot, both Mr Tulliver and his son Tom use the family Bible in order to cast revenge on the Wakems. Neither like the Wakems, the father because he lost his lawsuit to Mr. Wakem, and Tom because of his father’s views and the harm that came to him. In using the Bible in this way, however, both men are breaking with what most would consider to be a Christian way of doing things, especially in the fact that they each have another swear upon the Bible to do something that they may not want to do. Therefore the question that remains is why did the two male Tullivers use God’s Word in this way.

One view of the matter would be that they thought this use of the Bible was acceptable. When Maggie tries to tell her father that what he wanted to write in the Bible was wicked, Mr. Tulliver retorted, “It’s wicked as the raskills should prosper — it’s the devil’s doing.” (Book 3 Chapter 9 Page 291) Tom later agrees to sign his name in the Bible under a statement claiming that he will make Wakem pay if he is ever able to. Neither, therefore, seem to show any sort of repugnance of the act, and indeed seem to find it to be the moral thing to do. Tom, after all, follows his father’s example and makes Maggie swear not to see Phillip again without his knowledge “with [her] hand on [their] father’s Bible” (Book 5 Chapter 5 Page 357). Here we see not only that the men do not mind making vows of revenge on the Bible, but also that they do not mind making family members do the same. This would seem to indicate that they believe that this is something that is not inherently wrong.

Another possibility, however, is that the Tullivers don’t care that their actions are wrong. This would seem to be at odds with their behavior, Tom’s especially, as they both tried to be good and honest men. However, in both cases Maggie tries to fight against this swearing on the Holy Book, and both times she is shot down. The men seem set in their ways, her father saying that he isn’t being wicked, Wakem is, and her brother saying that he doesn’t “wish to hear anything of [her] feelings”, he just wants her to choose (Book 5 Chapter 5 Page 357). This shows how stubborn the men are in refusing to listen to Maggie, and this stubbornness could lead from them being in the wrong. They know they are wrong but are so upset or angry, or devoted to family in Tom’s case, that they are still willing to carry through with the act, nevermind the morality or the consequences of it.

One other reading of this is that neither man actually places much stock on the Bible itself. Obviously the family goes to church, and are at least somewhat religious, but each seems to treat the Bible as more of a tool. Mr. Tulliver has all the names of the family written in the Bible, and uses it almost as a spiritual will when he has Tom promise to get revenge in it. Tom uses it as insurance that Maggie will do what he wants. When Maggie claims that she can swear just not on the Bible, Tom tells her that he can’t trust her and that she must “do what [he] requires” (Book 5 Chapter 5 Page 357). Therefore the Bible here is just a tool to make sure that Maggie keeps her word, nothing more. Of course each shows that there is more significance to God’s Word than other things, as that is what they use as a tool, but they use it as a tool none the less and therefore it could be argued that they do not place much stock in the Holy Book for it’s words, instead valuing it for how they can use it.

Whatever the case may be, it is interesting that both Tulliver men use the Bible in order to force their family to agree to do things that would harm others, specifically the Wakems. This shows that there is some breakdown in thinking or morality, but whatever the case is George Elliot makes this and interesting dynamic in her book The Mill on the Floss.

Accepting Kindness

Kindness is a big focus for Elisabeth Gaskell in her novel Mary Barton. In fact, it is the main point she tries to make, with Job Legh telling Mr. Carson “If we saw the masters try for our sakes to find a remedy… [even if they] could only say, ‘Poor fellows, our hearts are sore for ye;…’ – we’d bear up like men through bad times” (474). Here Job is asserting that all the poor want from the upper classes is kindness and sympathy. Kindness is used in other ways throughout the novel though, with the poor helping each other. In this Gaskell ends up showing that it is just as important to accept the kindness of others as it is to give it out.

Gaskell establishes both John and Mary Barton as kind individuals willing to help their fellow men. When Wilson comes to ask John for money to help the dying Mr. Davenport, John asserts he has no money. After he takes a bit of food to the suffering family, however, he goes and gathers up all the belongings he can spare and “pawned them for five shillings” (98). Even in the beginning when he said he had no money to spare, he was still willing to spare some food for the suffering family. Then, upon seeing the extreme case of the Davenports, he went and sold what he could to help them. This shows a kindness and willingness to help, something that Mary also shares.

When Mary hears about the murder of the younger Mr. Carson, she is distraught mainly because she suspects Jem of being the murderer. On her way home after hearing this, she runs across a hungry boy on the road who asks for food. At first she claims that “hunger is nothing” and rushes past, but then “her heart upbraided her… and she hastily entered her door and seized the scanty remnant of food which the cupboard contained, and she retraced her steps” to go give the food to the boy (296-297). Mary is shown here to be kind of heart as well, but both she and her father have trouble accepting kindness in return.

Job says “John Barton was not a man to take counsel with people” showing that he did not get advice from others (470). He also did not accept money from his union, wishing it to go to other families instead. So when he was the one in need, he did not get help, he just retreated further into himself. Mary has the same inclination. When Jem is considered to be a murderer, she feels that she has to clear his name and that she has to do it all by herself. In this mind set, Margaret offers Mary money to help Jem. Mary does accept it, but reluctantly taking it “for Jem”, but not even taking all the money offered (333). This causes Margaret to expound upon the idea of kindness.

Margaret claims that we should say ‘let others do unto you, as you would do unto them” (333). She asserts that helping others can make one happy and that depriving them of the ability to help hurts them. This shows a bit of where the Bartons have been going wrong. John thinks he has to do things by himself, but that only makes him more irritable and angry towards the world, to the point of even hitting his daughter. Mary runs around trying to save Jem only to end up fainting at his trial from exhaustion and needing to be tended to by strangers. Gaskell seems to be saying that, while the upper class does need to step up and help the poor, the poor also need to accept the help and perhaps even ask for it, if not from the unhelpful lawmakers than at least from their neighbors.

Kindness is shown throughout Mary Barton, and the intricacies of it help to show not only that the poor are kind to each other and that the rich should be kind to them too, but also that they need to accept kindness so that they don’t end up getting hurt in the end.

Learning to Deal with Hardship

There are many ways that Victor Frankenstein and his creation can be compared and contrasted, but one of the main similarities they have is their negative reaction to hardship. Both seem to try to be good and kind when things are easy, but the moment something bad happens to them they become sad or angry, and entirely convinced that their suffering is more than anyone else could comprehend.

Victor himself talks about how he was never made to endure hardship. When he and Henry Clerval are exploring Europe, Victor’s enjoyment of the sites is “embittered both by the memory of the past, and the anticipation of the future” (Volume 3, Chapter 2). He says that he was formed for “peaceful happiness” and was never discontented in his youth. This is key because it shows that as a child, Victor had an entirely happy life. He talks near the beginning of the novel about his indulgent parents who let him read what he wanted, his friends whom he’d known since childhood and always gotten along with, and the happy way he explored the world around him. Child Victor never had to contend with any difficulty.

This changed when Victor’s mother died. He had to go to school soon after this had happened, and even though his going was delayed by several weeks it meant that at least part of his grieving process was done alone. In fact he describes himself as being entirely alone in the new city, and not knowing how to make friends as all his friends from home had been made in childhood. Victor does not know how to overcome challenges such as these and therefore isolates himself to an extreme when he endeavors to make the creature or in other-words to discover the secret of life and death, something that one could argue he is interested in because of his recently deceased mother.

Victor’s ability to cope with bad events only gets worse from there. Every time the creature does something that upsets him, he says he is in anguish and that no one could conceive the pain he had to endure. It is an entirely selfish attitude, much like one a child would adopt upon being injured. Victor does not think anyone can feel the pain he does because he never felt any as a child and imagines all must be as happy as he was then. Pain makes him withdraw, thinking only of himself and discounting the pains of everyone else, including his family who suffer at the death of William and even Justine who has to die for a crime she did not commit.

The creature has a similar progression to that of Victor. He starts out life, as far as he can remember, in the woods and all alone. Here he survives by eating nuts and berries, but he does not seem to be in any major distress. He gets cold, or hungry, but he also is able to experience pleasure, stating that he “was delighted” when he heard the birds and awed at the sun rising in the sky (volume 2, chapter 3). He seems to have a fairly happy life, even if he does sometimes get cold or hungry. There is no major hardship he has to face.

This changes when he meets man. The creature is met with hostility, and then goes into hiding on instinct. He tries to learn, then, how to interact with humans, but when that results in failure he grows angry to the point of burning down a cottage and, upon later being shot while trying to help a little girl, swearing vengeance on all mankind. The creature here has the excuse of never having been taught how to behave at all, but the fact remains that he overreacted, perceiving himself as grievously injured when he failed for basically the first time in his life. After all, he had learned to read and speak and write, could find wood to help the cottagers, knew how to get food when he was hungry, and figured out how to keep warm. He had never yet met with any failure, and upon doing so he deemed himself grievously wronged, even by the end echoing Victor’s statement that his “suffering was superior” to Victor’s just as Victor claimed his suffering was unfathomable to others.

The main opposition to these two is Henry Clerval and Justine. Clerval was the son of a merchant, needing to work hard to succeed in what he did. When he has to convince his father to school and initially fails, he does not give up or despair. He keeps trying and eventually succeeds. When Clerval meets with hardship, he does his best to cope with it healthily, unlike Victor or his creature. Same with Justine. She is composed for her trial, and even when she is about to die because she is accused of killing a child who she loved, she finds it in herself to think of others. She tells Elizabeth “may heaven in its bounty bless and preserve you… live, and be happy and make others so” (volume 1 chapter 7). She is concerned for Elisabeth even when suffering herself, showing that the hardships she faced in being poor taught her how to think of others and stay kind even while in the mist of despair.

Victor and his creature both let the kind compassionate people they want to be die when they face difficult challenges. Victor draws into himself and is full of self-pity, making everyone around him more miserable and yet still being conceited enough to claim that he suffers the most. The creature reacts by getting angry and directly hurting others. One has to wonder how the novel would have been different if they had been taught how to deal with hardships, or learned to react to them in a better way. In the end though, they both deal rather selfishly with difficulties while those who had to deal with them earlier in life learn to do so in a better way, implying that learning how to cope with hardship is an extremely important lesson that must be learnt if one wants to be a virtuous member of society.