Merely Mad or Mostly Monster?

Braddon begins to establish a sympathetic view of Lady Audley by developing a tone of weakness and tragedy surrounding the main character. Up until this point in the book, Lady Audley has been referred to as child-like and innocent, saying she had the “curiosity of a puzzled child” (Volume 2, Chapter 11: Pg 279). Alongside the narrative of her deceit and mystery, she has been built up as more of a child than a woman which makes it easier for Braddon to turn the readers’ attention to parts of her past that make her situation sympathetic.

When confronted by Robert, she is described as “submissive” and “shivering”, (Pg 280-281). Both of these words lend a view of Lady Audley as weaker than Robert and possibly even frightened. This is turn away from the cool and collected woman who’s escapades we have been reading about until this point. During their conversation, Lady Audley refers to herself as mad and asks Robert “Why have you tormented me so?…Do you know what it is to wrestle with a madwoman?” (Pg 291). This language of Braddon’s helps to turn the tone of the book from mysterious to tragic which provides the reader with a view of Lady Audley that exposes her weaknesses like her weakness of mind and body. Her fear of Robert is one of the scenes that reveal the softer side of Lady Audley and allow readers to relate to her and possibly feel sympathetic toward her.

Another scene that allows the reader to see Lady Audley’s vulnerabilities is her manipulation of Sir Michael. This scene operates with two understandings of Lady Audley; the one where she is purposely lying to Sir Michael, and also the one where she is actually scared and trembling. Braddon shows the reader that up until now, we had only been seeing her actions without the peril that accompanied them. She describes Lady Audley as “trembling”, with “agony” and full of “aguish and terror” (Pg 298). The novel has come to focus on the tragedy that surrounds Lady Audley and how it has been a product of her upbringing and her own actions. Even in her deceit, her feelings were not absent. “It was no simulated grief that shook her slender frame, and tore at her like some ravenous beast…” (Pg 298). Now that the readers have a better understanding of Lady Audley’s weaknesses, possible madness, and how every lie has come at an emotional cost to her, the reader can begin to sympathize with her.

Will this sympathy last through the conclusion of the novel?

Maid or Secret Keeper?

In Lady Audley’s Secret, the character, Phoebe, plays a significant role in the novel. Phoebe’s character development through the beginning of the novel provides thematic development and and insight into another social class. Even though she is a minor character, she gives the reader an important insight into Lady Audley.

The character of Phoebe is described as Lady Audley’s look-alike and shares many memories with Lady before she becomes a Lady. This is important because Phoebe can represent the Lady Audley of the lower class showing that there is no visible difference in the lower and upper classes. When Lady Audley is married, she takes Phoebe with her. Throughout the novel, Phoebe is asked to describe what the Lady was like before she was married. This shows how Phoebe is used as a looking glass not only into the lower class but also into the former life of Lady Audley.

Phoebe, being so close to Lady Audley, is also privy to an abundance of information regarding Lady Audley. She learns secrets and thoughts of Lady Audley that become increasingly interesting as the plot thickens. The most interesting part of Phoebe’s character is that she knows secrets and messages about Lady Audley that even the audience is unaware of. This information makes Phoebe an incredibly important character to Lady Audley and to the readers. The readers might be inclined to feel suspicious of Phoebe and as a result of that, feel suspicious of Lady Audley. Also, because of Phoebe’s rocky relationship to her husband, Luke, the readers could feel increasingly worried for her as the novel progresses.

Who’s Story Is It Anyway?

In Shelley’s Frankenstein, the reader is constantly being fed plot points from many different perspectives and instances of storytelling. All these different stories offer individuals parts of a greater storyline. The problem for the reader to distinguish is who’s story do we believe? Perspective in Frankenstein all lend a piece of the overall story to the reader, like evidence, which leaves it up to the reader to decide who is truthful, who is guilty, and who is good.

Beginning and ending with Walton’s point of view could be seen by the reader as the “creator’s” story. Besides the obvious allusion to God, the alpha and omega, Walton also is offering the only uninvolved perspective of the stories he’s heard. This frame tale I think shows the how the warnings from Victor and the Monster’s stories become important. Much like when God realized the downfall of his creation, Walton is sufficiently warned by his encounter with he Monster at the conclusion of this story that knowledge is in fact dangerous. This is, of course, only one part of the overall story.

Walton’s record of Victor’s story offers only pieces of the puzzle. For example, Victor did not witness the death of his brother so we must get those details from the Monster’s story, told through Victor. Each perspective offers more pieces and more clarity until the climax is reached and Walton encounters the monster. This is where we get one of the final pieces of the puzzle. The monster feels empty without his creator and runs away to die (does he actually die though? That elusive missing puzzle piece.) This calls back into question, who is responsible?

Shelley’s different perspective act like different pieces of evidence. Going with the theme of pursuing scientific discovery, each person’s story gives us a little more evidence for the truth and a little more understanding of each character. Shelley’s creative delivery of the story of Frankenstein has the reader picking parts from each narrative that fit the puzzle and offer the most truthful explanations but also leave some of the ending open for the reader to finish completely.

So What’s Your Story?

Storytelling has a unique interest to both that characters in Frankenstein and the author, Mary Shelley, herself. Seeing as Frankenstein was created through the process of storytelling among Shelley’s friends and fellow authors, the storytelling in the novel is a continuation of that ghost story. In this novel, storytelling and letters were used to create a feeling of sympathy towards the characters in Frankenstein. When thinking of the stories of Victor and The Monster, many parallels appear between their experiences and thoughts. Perhaps they share the motive of warning against the dangers of knowledge.

The similarities of the stories are not unlike the similarities between the friend Walton wants and Victor. Both the monster and Victor talk about their creation. Although the monster’s is much less traditional, the idea of being created is still similar. Victor tells Walton about his family life and how he grew up and the Monster does the same. Both Victor and the monster experience some type of loneliness. Victor says “I threw myself into the chaise that was to convey me away and indulged in the most melancholy reflections. I, who had ever been surrounded by amiable companions, continually engaged in endeavoring to bestow mutual pleasure-I was now alone.” (Volume 1 Chapter 3). The monster also talks about his loneliness and how he feels separated from his neighbors or other people in general. He says “but I knew that I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property” (Volume 2 Chapter 4). Their obsessions, Victors with knowledge of science and the Monster with knowledge of people, have made them both extremely lonely.

Their motives could also share a similar origin. It could be that both of their stories work to get sympathy for their loneliness and also provide a warning against obsessions with knowledge. Both Victor and the Monster hope that by learning their stories, you understand more about their past as an explanation for why they are the way they are or why they do the things they do. Could this be because the both feel so lonely and disconnected from others? Victor has felt lonely in his pursuit of studies and the monster has felt lonely by observing his neighbors. They both realize that they don’t have what many other people have.

This, I believe, is the point of storytelling, not just in Frankenstein but in general. Mary Shelley could be using this novel as a way to build sympathy for a monster, but she could also be using some of the characters as mirror images of her own suffering in order to find sympathy for herself.

What’s Her Name Again?

In Fantomina, the power of control lies in the constant change of Fantomina’s identity. Being able to hold Beauplaisir’s affection through her many different disguises is Fantomina’s way of controlling the relationship when she feels she has lost control and Beauplaisir’s interest. Each of her disguises have their own way of making money, which further asserts her control over the monetary world, which in this time would have been dominated by men. For example, being a prostitute, Fantomina is in charge of handling her own money and her intrigue is capable of holding Beauplaisir’s affection. When she becomes a maid, she is also capable of earning her own money and regains his affection.

The fact that Fantomina decides to change her appearance at all, instead of just whine about the loss of her lover, shows that she holds more power in the relationship. This also shows that she feels more powerful than other women in her time. This control over her exterior translates to control over Beauplaisir’s emotions.

Towards the end of the story, Fantomina has secured herself enough money through the control over her exterior and capability of handling money. She even has enough money to hire two “necessitous men” which in this time would have been bizarre. Just as she has control over the men she has hired. She also has earned complete control over Beauplaisir by earning his affection once again. Even when Fantomina’s life seems out of control, she is able to keep her cool and get what she wants.

Didn’t I Just Say NOT to Eat That?

The Goblin Market by Rossetti chronicles two sisters’ overcoming the greed and mystery that surrounds the creepy Goblin Market. One of these sisters, Lizzie, is able to resist the call of the Goblins. Her sister Laura, however, is not so steadfast.

In the second stanza, both sisters are embarrassed of the Goblins’ calls. “Laura bowed her head to hear, Lizzie veiled her blushes: crouching close together” (Line 34-36). But soon, Laura gives into her temptation. She is no longer listening to her sister’s warnings and strays from Lizzie in order to get a good look at the goblins. “Laura stretched her gleaming neck like a rush-imbedded swan…” (Line 81-82). Soon, looking is not enough. Laura has become more curious than ever and cannot resist the temptation to go down to the goblin market. Her will is weakening.

Since Laura has no money to pay for this creepy food from these creepy goblins, she resorts to cutting her hair in order to pay for it. “‘You have much gold upon your head,’ they answered all together; ‘Buy from us with a golden curl.” (Lines 123-125). She has completely abandoned her belief that these Goblins should be avoided and has become so malleable to their callings that she gives them a piece of herself. Giving her hair shows how much she has given up and how far she has drifted from her sister in the process.

Finally, after being rescued by her valiant sister Lizzie, Laura grows into a wiser sister, wife and mother. “‘For there is no friend like a sister in calm or stormy weather'” (Line 561-562). Laura has made what seems to be a complete cycle through temptation and back to understanding the great strength she has with her sister.

If It’s Repeated It’s Probably Important, Right?

In Thomas Hood’s “Song of the Shirt”, the repetition of words such as “work” and “stitch” contribute to more than just the poem’s basic song qualities. It is also imperative to the “dolorous” or hopeless tone of the poem because it provides the central concept of the poem; endless work and recurring injustice.

The frequent repetition of “work – work – work” and other phrases work two-fold to emphasize the tone of the seamstress’s song. First, it provides a central idea that her life is all work. She is oppressed and has nothing to look forward to because the only task in front of her is work, and more work. This repetition helps to get Hood’s point across of the injustice of slave-like labor and the oppression of the poor by showing that their entire life is dependent on their “work-work-work” to provide for their families. Including this repeated phrase, Hood is describing the hopelessness that this woman feels and how the poor felt under the oppression of the upper class.

Second, it is used to describe the various injustices done to this woman. The seamstress is used to describe the poor, collectively, during this time period. The placement of the repetition in this poem describes the hopeless attitude of the poor and what kind of depression they had to endure. For instance, in lines 9-12, Hood writes “Work -work – work / till the brain begins to swim / work-work-work / till the eyes are heavy and dim”. This describes how the poor worked until utter exhaustion. Another line shows the deplorable pay that was given to the worker. “Work – work – work / my labour never flags / and what are its wages?” (lines 33-35). “Stitch – stitch – stitch” is another phrased used to emphasize the dismal tone of the poem. Towards the end of the poem, the narrator says “stitch – stitch – stitch / in poverty, hunger, and dirt / and still with a voice of dolorous pitch, would that its tone could reach the rich” (lines 78-81). Not only does this line show how this woman worked in terrible conditions, another injustice done to the poor, but it could also show how Hood is asking the reader to stand up for reform of labor laws in order to save the poor from a depression such as this.

The repetition throughout “Song of the Shirt” works to show the dismal and depressing existence of the poor during Hood’s time and how bleak their outlook was on their never-ending work.

Whose Side Are You On?

In William Butler Yeats’ poem, Easter 1916, he  that there are, in fact, two sides to every story and proceeds to blur the line between right and wrong, in his own mind. Throughout the poem, he flips back and forth between criticizing the rebellion of the Irish in the Easter Uprising of 1916 and respecting them for a brave and valiant effort. He struggles with who was right, if anyone was right at all and this is shown through the changes in his tone.

The poem, I think, could follow his own process of thought, beginning when he looks down upon the working countrymen by exchanging “polite meaningless words” and thinking of a “mocking tale or a gibe” to separate himself from them. The tone surrounding these lines is one of patronization and pity, and shows that Yeats may have felt superior to the simple minded, lower class men. This tone is portrayed again in the next stanza where Yeats describes some different people involved in the uprising including a women with “ignorant good will” and a “shrill” voice. Another rebel, Yeats described as a “drunken, vainglorious lout”. Perhaps Yeats didn’t support their rebellion and preferred to separate himself from them in a feeling of superiority. Was he only willing to see his side of the story?

The tone shifts in certain lines to one of understanding and respect for the effort of the Irish who stood up to Britain during the Easter Uprising. One instance occurs in Line 29 where Yeats describes one rebel as having a “sensitive” nature and “daring and sweet his thought”. Does Yeats actually understand the reasoning behind the uprising and able to see the other side? Yeats describes the rebels as having “hearts with one purpose alone, through summer and winter seem”. This line shows that his tone has shifted to one of respect for the bravery of the Irish. He uses a metaphor of an unwavering stone to describe the efforts of the uprising. “Minute by minute they live, the stone’s in the midst of it all” (Line 55-56). Has he, through the task of writing this poem, begun to see both sides of the story as depicted by his changing tone?

Though Yeats presents both sides of this argument, I would argue that he still doesn’t exactly know who, if anyone, was right or wrong. In the final stanza he shows us his own struggle over the Uprising with the question, “and what if excess of love bewildered them till they died?”. His questioning tone could show that Yeats still doesn’t exactly know how he feels about the Easter Uprising of 1916 but has gained some perspective that allows him to become less separated from the rebels and even respect their fight and dedication, despite their failure.

Isn’t it All Just Black and White?

In Mary Robinson’s, The Negro Girl, I understood the most important injustice of slavery to stem from the fact that aside from “tint”, no difference exists between the Blacks and the Whites that is poignant enough to validate the horror of slavery. “Whate’er their Tints may be, their Souls are still the same!” (Line 53-54)

Throughout the poem, Robinson uses Zelma as an example of a black woman who is loving. For instance in the line “The love-lorn Zelma stood, list’ning the tempest’s roar”(Line 6), Robinson evokes a feeling of sympathy for Zelma in her truly human condition while she yearns for her love, Draco. The readers are to understand that Zelma, though she is a slave and inferior in the eyes of her master, exhibits the same feelings and struggles that any human would experience, no matter what race. If both Blacks and Whites feel the same emotions, why is it okay to enslave one race and exalt another?

Robinson goes on to write that “Some, nurs’d in splendour, deal Oppression’s blow, / While worth and Draco pine – in Slavery and woe!” (Lines 29-30). This powerful line demonstrates to the reader that Zelma, who herself has been separated from the Whites by the Whites, refuses to separate herself or her love from any other human. She uses the word “some” and it could be assumed that this means some people. Some, in this statement, could be Zelma’s attempt to unite all humans together and explain that no one human should experience oppression at the hands of another human. Robinson may have used some to equate Blacks and Whites rather than separate them because at their core they are the same. Perhaps Robinson is arguing that slavery is a much more significant oppression because humans are committing this act on other, similar humans.

Zelma is used in Robinson’s poem to unite all humans not only on an emotional level, but also a spiritual one. “Man was not form’d by Heav’n, to trample on his kind!” (Line 66). Robinson alludes to the creation of man in God’s image in order to highlight the most important injustice of slavery. God created man and that includes White men and Black men; He divinely created both in His image and as such, neither one is held higher in the eyes of God. Robinson appeals to the reader’s spiritual connection to show that the greatest wrong done in slavery is that one of God’s equally and divinely made creatures would dare oppress or enslave another.

Is Manipulation or Magic the Strongest Power?

In Shakespeare’s, The Tempest, power is a central, driving force in both the plot and the individual characters development. Prospero is perhaps the most central character to the story of The Tempest and, as such, he serves as a prime example of the different types of power in the play. The audiences first glance at power is during the storm scene, when Prospero’s power of magic is used to start his revenge plot against his brothers. His control over the elements or sea and storm show how a power over things can be used for selfish reasons. However, it is soon discovered that Prospero has used his greater power of manipulation to control a slave, Ariel, to do his selfish bidding. In Act 1, Scene 2 and Line 299-300, Prospero asks Ariel,”Dost thou forget from what a torment I did free thee?”. Prospero throughout this scene manipulates Ariel by constantly reminding him how Prospero freed him from another imprisonment.

Prospero allows the audience to realize that although Magic is an awe inspiring power over objects in this play, Manipulation plays a much greater role in the scheming plot of The Tempest. Manipulation, as a power of other people, allows characters in this play to not only further their own agenda but also do so in a way that separates them from fault or liability. We see this occurrence when Antonio uses the power of manipulation to try and gain more political power. Antonio attempts to manipulate Sebastian into assassinating the King of Naples in order to fulfill his own desires while leaving Sebastian at fault for the whole scheme (2.1.316-340).

Magic, even though it is used as a dark power in this play, does not represent the greatest power because it is merely a power over objects. The greater power truly is manipulation in this play. Manipulation is used by many more characters and is serves a multitude of purposes in many agendas in The Tempest. Especially in the characterization of Prospero, who exhibits both magic powers and the power of manipulation, manipulation proves to be the greater power in his schemes. The manipulation of Ariel as a slave even showed power over magic when Ariel is sent out to do Prospero’s bidding during the storm. This scale of power leads to the question, is Prospero the most powerful character because he holds both the power of magic and manipulation?