How can I judge such a “perfect woman”?

Kitty initially symbolizing high class, grace, and pure beauty would cause me to think quite highly of her. However, this perfection is quickly undone by the return of her soldier and dementia ridden husband, Chris. My sympathy for her turns to judgment as a result of her response to his return. Firstly, West sets the foundation for Kitty’s character up by utilizing Kitty’s outward appearance through Jenny’s narration; “I saw that golden hair was all about her shoulders and that she wore over her frock a little silken jacket trimmed with rosebuds. She looked so like a girl on a magazine cover that one expected to find a large “7d.” somewhere attached to her person” (Page 48). The change of appearance that will result from Chris’ return will demonstrate the identity crisis Kitty undergoes, transforming her from a “angel in the house” to a woman enveloped by childish tendencies and a jealousy that turns her beauty into ugliness. Instead of reuniting with her war torn husband with patience and loving him like a wife of 10 years would reasonably do, she further attempts to exude perfection around him. She is concerned with her social status, and the appearance she gives off to the world. Her obsession with her social status is first evident when Margaret Grey comes to visit.

Furthermore and more significant in my rationale for lacking sympathy for Kitty, after Chris comes home, her reaction is to impress him with her appearance in order to make him fall in love with her and out of love with Margaret. She puts her wedding dress on before their first dinner together, adorned with jewels and perfected hair. However, her image comes off as more peculiar than beautiful. Jenny describes her as looking “cold as moonlight, as virginity, but precious; the falling candlelight struck her hair to bright, pure gold” (Page 66). Kitty thinks that her beauty will make Chris remember his former perfect life with her. However, his love for Margaret is too strong and Kitty’s beauty does not help her. Chris’ “shellshock” has unraveled her identity and life. When she goes up to bed, Jenny describes her as “a child who hasn’t enjoyed a party as much as she though she would” (Page 70). Kitty has become childish because she is frustrated that her life is out of her hands and her idealistic world is now gone. 

You wont give up will you Lady Audley?

By the end of Lady Audley’s Secret, the power struggle and dynamics played throughout the course of the novel between Robert and Lady Audley has come to a close. I believe that her power and ability to wield her power by being a non-stereotypical woman of action is accentuated by the lack of forethought of Robert in addition to her “never surrender, never give up” mentality. Lady Audley not only has the ambition and power to bend people to her own will, but also has the audacity to inflict harm upon others. As she is calculated in her power and carries out evil actions, Robert has positive motives but is simply “Sir Michael’s handsome, lazy, care-for-nothing nephew” (Act 1). For Robert, unmasking Lady Audley will reinforce his existing idea of how women should act and exposing her past will end her agreeable relationship with Sir Michael. Lady Audley’s power is in the fact that she is unmovable and so determined in her plans and ideas. For example, this is seen at the conclusion when Robert believes he must fulfill the typical Victorian male duty and demands the subordination of Lady Audley by exposing her. But, since Lady Audley does not represent the ideal woman–controlled and passive–Robert’s power is ineffective. He then pursues a variety of circumstantial evidence. Ironically, in Robert’s investigation of fraud against Lady Audley, he ignores his own fraudulent actions, which only make Lady Audley more powerful. He pretends to be a barrister even though everyone, including Lady Audley, knows he is too lazy to work. As her juror and in his own attempt to assert his power, Robert leaves only one option for Lady Audley: she must leave Audley Court forever. Lady Audley’s response reveals the terror attached to any thoughts of returning to her previous life of poverty: “What could I do? I must go back to the old life, the old, hard, cruel wretched life—the life of poverty, and humiliation, and vexation…” (Act 3, pg 328). At this point, Lady Audley’s greatest fear is quickly becoming a reality but just when it seems she has been defeated, she demonstrates her wittiness and resilience. As the claims of madness swirl around her, the narrator intervenes to point out Lady Audley is not insane but she “would be mad if she chose to exit the house by one of the main doors” (Act 3, pg 352). Instead, her final display of power comes in her exit of the house which some would interpret to be her defeat. She stealthily chooses one of the less used doors, suggesting she is indeed not insane; rather her thoughts even in the moment of perceived defeat, are deliberate and calculated once again. She cleverly thwarts Robert’s attempts to destroy her. Ultimately, Lady Audley defies gender roles and lashes out at the males who attempt to dominate and destroy her.

Is Clara Robert’s Energizer?

The first time the audience meets Clara Talboys, George’s sister, is when Robert has come to see Hartcourt, George’s father, in order to make him aware of his suspicions concerning George’s disappearance. Although a minor character, Clara plays a key role in driving the plot forward through transforming Robert’s character along with offering a contrast to Lady Audley and Phoebe. Where Phoebe is plain, silent, and reserved, Clara is “handsome”, warm, and, when away from her father’s repressive influence, passionate in her devotion to her missing brother. Her devotion goes to the point of saying to Robert, “I will travel from one end of the world to the other to find the secret of his fate, if you refuse to do it for me (pg 221). She serves the important purpose of bolstering Robert’s flagging determination to follow the evidence to her brother’s killer. She becomes his inspiration, his muse so to speak. And perhaps even more importantly, she makes him feel that he is not alone in his search for the truth.

In addition, Clara is the embodiment of femininity when it comes to appearance as well as her character and behavior. As opposed to Lady Audley, she does not act vehemently or aggressively, but instead, her speech is described as “suppressed passion” and “her resolution was the fruit of no transient womanish enthusiasm…her beautiful features transformed into marble by the rigidity of her expression (pg 222). Although feminine, she rejects the stereotypical passivity of her gender when away from her domineering father. By abandoning feminine passivity, she uses her determination to serve a moral end, rather than to benefit herself like Lady Audley would. Clara is able to motivate Robert again. At this moment, Robert finds his ideal of womanhood: “Her beauty was elevated into sublimity by the intensity of her suppressed passion. She was different to all the other women that he had ever seen. His cousin was pretty, his uncle’s wife was lovely, but Clara Talboys was beautiful” (pg 222). Clara transforms Robert’s previously idle character into one of resolution; she functions to further the plot by being Robert’s stimulation to continuing to seek justice for his beloved friend and her brother, George.

 

Who is Responsible for my Irresponsibility?

Victor Frankenstein believes that through the creation of the Monster, he could rid mankind of disease and death after the passing of his own mother. The idea of familial responsibility a mother innately has for her child connects Victor to his own actions and ultimate failure towards his creation. Was the death is of his mother reason for his lack of nurturing or was it something else? Nonetheless, Victor not only lacked the responsibility needed to nurture and care for his creation like he should have, but he also lacked the fortitude to carry through with the actions that needed to be taken to teach the Monster and ultimately save many lives.

Shelley constantly threads the theme of obligation to one’s own creation throughout. When Victor’s lack of judgment leads him to create a misshapen being, his self-loathing for the results of his act quickly becomes hatred for the monster. After the creature’s birth, “I issued into the streets, pacing them with quick steps, as if I sought to avoid the wretch whom I feared every turning of the street would present to my view. I did not dare return to the apartment which I inhabited” (Chapter 4 pg 85). Shelley uses Victor to show that avoiding the responsibilities of a creator will destroy himself and others as seen most directly in the deaths of William and Justine.

One might wonder exactly what responsibility he had to this creature. Think of a woman’s initial reaction to her newborn baby. They lavish affectionate care on their baby driven by the concern of complete healthiness. It only took Victor one look to turn and flee in disgust, “how can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe” (Chapter 4 pg 83). How horrible and uncertain it must have felt, for the Monster, to be abandoned in his first moments of life and thus destined for a lonely life of rage. It is the responsibility of each parent/Victor to ensure they raise their children/his creation to contribute positively to society. It is unfortunate that Victor may have felt neglected by his own mother but that doesn’t give him reason to abandon his creation. He had every obligation to do his best to ensure that his creation could thrive among mankind, as opposed to making him feel like an outcast from the beginning. Could the murders have been avoided if he had at least known kindness and caring from his creator? It is unlikely the Monster would have ever felt a truly fulfilling life, but if Victor had taken responsibility for his creation, the murders of Justine and William along with Victor’s other loved ones could have been prevented.

How is Justine not given Justice, I Just don’t understand?

The wrongful execution of Justine serves as a symbolic backdrop for the corruption of good. As Justine represents the purity of justice, she is nonetheless coerced and pressured to confess. She mentions to Elizabeth that her confession was out of duress and fear; “…ever since I was condemned, my confessor had besieged me; he threatened and menaced, until I almost began to think that I was the monster that he said I was” (Vol. I Ch. VII pg. 107). Shelley uses Justine’s false confession and the injustice therein, when she states, “I subscribed to a lie; and now only am I truly miserable” (pg. 107), as a way to draw a direct correlation to the death of justice and ideological purity during the French Revolution. Good intentions and aspirations were what fueled the start of the Revolution, with the rise and empowerment of the poor in addition to the goal of securing equality and justice under the law. Just as Justine was influenced by negative outside forces, so was the Revolution itself. While Justine acted out of the condemnation she received for a crime she didn’t commit, the noble ideals championed at the beginning of the Revolution soon gave way to extremist influences, with truth and justice eventually being discarded as seen with the Reign of Terror. Proper truth and justice, and those advocating it, were drowned out by the surge of radicals. The inner core of the Revolution was thus corrupted, much like Justine.

In addition, it is no coincidence that the name Justine and justice are so similar. Justine symbolizes what is true and just, and her death characterizes the absence of these concepts. The Frankenstein’s rely on the system of legal justice to save Justine: “If she is, as you believe, innocent, rely on the justice of our laws” (Vol. I Ch. VI pg. 103). This quote demonstrates and reflects the same simplistic and unwavering belief the in a judicial system that the citizens during the French Revolution shared with the Frankenstein’s. That is, a belief in a system that was straying farther away from truth and justice.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s a Young Woman Supposed to Do?

As Fantomina concludes her first disguise and enters her second as Celia, we see a change in her character dynamics; one from a public display of sexual curiosity with a great deal of naivety to one of private and a much more intimate desire for masculine affection. In her first disguise, a previously unnamed protagonist and “stranger to the world” dresses as a prostitute making her way down to the pit where she is surrounded by a “crowd of purchasers…each endeavoring to outbid the other in offering her a price for her embraces”. She is neither discreet nor shy as a prostitute, but rather she is a young sheltered woman who is driven by curiosity and finds herself in a world in which she “did everything as her inclinations or humors rendered most agreeable to her.” Where Celia is more refined and purposed in her sexual desire, Fantomia is a public figure that has been released from the restrictions of her class and finds a “vast deal of pleasure in conversing with him in this free and unrestrained manner.” Her introduction to the public world of passion and sexuality illuminates her innocence as she reacts with hurt and disgust at Beauplaisir’s attempt to pay her as an assurance of his affection following her being raped. She has either forgotten that she is indeed a prostitute to Beauplaisir or lacks an understanding of the role she is playing. As she dons the much more private disguise of the maid, Celia, Fantomina begins to understand the nature of her “dilemma” and the real dangers to her reputation and her heart. But she now has an insatiable desire to be pursued again “remembering the height of transport she enjoyed…she longed to prove the same again.” Her new disguise as one who has lost her sexual modesty yet more discreet as a result of loss of honor is a desperate attempt to maintain the affections of a manipulative player. Fantomina/Celia is represented as a malleable character with no real personality, with the ability to change into whomever Beauplaisir will desire next. Rather than maintaining an individual identity, she would rather disguise herself as another person, or in this case, a seductive maid longing for connection lost in the world of gender identity.

 

 

Whose Beauty Causes the Slavery?

My Last Duchess is filled with irony and manipulation but the most defining characteristic the Duke allows us to explore is his extreme demand for control. This is illustrated to us via his psychopathic thoughts as a man lost in a world of emotional mayhem. He has an insatiable desire to hold in captivity what he feels is his “object” (line 54). He is enraged that “’twas not her husband’s presence only” (line 14) that filled her with joy and happiness. He cannot come to grips in his own mind with the fact that he was inadequate in the eyes of a woman he set his affection upon but yet, ironically, there is no indication she ever was discontent with him as her husband. He is paranoid that she constantly compared him to other men as “she ranked my gift of nine-hundred-years-old name with anybody’s gift” (lines 32-34). In addition, his desperation for control is clearly evident in his command in which “all smiles stopped together” (line 46). She, now, forever gone yet eternally smiling in a portrait, is minimized to remaining captive behind a curtain that only he is able to draw back in order to greedily enjoy her beauty. At first glance, we could read this dramatic monologue and accurately identify the Duke as a monstrous man caught in the middle of his own psychopathic madness. Or we could look deeper into the mind of a deeply insecure man who murdered the Duchess simply for the reason that “her looks went everywhere” (line 25). The complexity of his mind is further illustrated by his imagination and creativity displayed with the words he uses to describe her beauty. He is impressively charming, both in his use of language and his genial discourse.

As ironic as possible, a remarkably unethical man nevertheless has an exquisite sense of beauty and is well versed in how to engage his listener. He is constantly caught between the mesmerizing imagery he uses to describe her beauty with the fact that he is so intimidated by her. And sadly, his is inept in his madness and completely unaware of the quandary he is absorbed in. Perhaps its his own beauty, not hers, that keeps him trapped in captivity?

 

Why did this have to happen?

Central to the Experience version of The Chimney Sweeper is the dual contrast between the grim realities of the sweepers’ lives and the elated vision of liberty in Tom Dacre’s dream, a newcomer to the gang of “thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack” (line 11). The reality is these young boys lives are subjugated, filled with oppression and surrounded with death “lock’d up in coffins of black” (line 12). The imagery Blake uses is bold and purposeful to more accurately relay the bleak lives of the sweepers. The life of a motherless child who had a “father [sell] me while yet my tongue could scarcely cry ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!”” (line 3). But can we even consider this living? I would defiantly say no and argue the absolute absence of any facets of real life resembling the divine scene described in Tom’s dream. Contrasting all the more, Blake uses a juxtaposition of epic proportions. Tom’s dream illustrates an idyllic if not euphoric paradise where these young, over worked boys are free, “leaping, laughing they run” (line 15). The dream takes place in a pastoral nirvana, “a green plain” (line 15) where there is vibrancy accompanied by colorful pleasure and laughter where the boys can “wash in the river and shine in the Sun” (line 16) to become “naked and white” (line 17). As a result of the imagery used, we as the audience we can almost see filthy chimney soot washing off in the river as the boys giggle and play. But that’s simply not reality and everyone knows it, thats why Blake uses such distinctive imagery. The real world during this time period is colorless and desolate with young boys reduced to mere subjects satisfying the pressures of city life. In an Industrial Revolution and a ravenous capitalist economy where boys are left to simply weep over their degradation and we are left to ask, “Why did this have to happen?”

“Milton, are you the one they call the Messiah?”

The first 8 lines or the octave poses Wordsworth’s angst in response to the selfishness and nationalistic imperialism England had been operating in. Wordsworth immediately makes the cry for Paradise Lost author, “Milton!” (Line 1) imploring for his return to “raise us up, return to us again; And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power” (Line 7). It is clear Wordsworth believes the literature Milton wrote 150 years prior reflected deep personal convictions, a passion for freedom and self-determination. Wordsworth pleads with Milton to come back because “England hath need of thee” (Line 2). Wordsworth has a deep respect for Milton’s 17th century stance addressing the political turbulence of the day in England. It is almost as if Wordsworth states his opinions and anguish in the octave of London, 1802 as one in search of a messiah to come save the day in England and prompt the nation to wake up to the inequity he sees. Wordsworth refuses complacency to accept England as “stagnant waters” (line 3) and he believes if Milton could perhaps return, he could resurrect and refocus England on the ideas of morality and conservatism. Wordsworth holds the opinion that England has stagnated morally by comparison to Milton’s period in the 17th century.

Simply put, Wordsworth’s solution in the sestet is revolutionary in nature; at least in terms of English mentality. Rhetorically, he poses, if the social norm is not morally sound, why must it continue to be followed? Wordsworth uses powerful imagery along with the existing notoriety of Milton to appeal to the English people, ultimately in an attempt to support his proposed solution of integrating Milton’s values to improve the English condition. He uses a powerful yet delightful simile describing Milton’s soul as “like a Star…thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea” (lines 9-10). This celestial imagery used makes me ponder the magnificence or divine power Wordsworth believes Milton could have over the present situation. Perhaps Wordsworth uses this imagery to convince his readers the power of Milton’s values. Milton “dwelt apart” (lines 9) from the crowd, not feeling the urge to conform to norms and thus Wordsworth urges a call-to-action to his readers. Wordsworth further describes Milton as “pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free” (line 11) as a prime example of someone who used their freedom to boldly question the societal norms and values of the time. The moralism and nationalism of the poem occur simultaneously and perhaps are the occasion for a call to overthrow the current social and political order.

 

So you think you can do it on your own, Eve?

With morning dew still lingering from last night’s wet kiss to the Garden, Adam and Eve engage in a conversation Milton will use to illustrate Adam’s passivity and Eve’s desire to prove herself capable and strong enough to withstand the powers and temptations of the foe, Satan, on her own. Milton is characterizing Eve as one with some level of internal struggle. We see Eve comment, “A foe so proud will first the weaker see: So bent, the more shall shame his repulse” (IX. 383-384) showing that she acknowledges her inferiority to Adam yet expresses her doubt that Satan would tempt her because it would be shameful to tempt the weaker figure.

Perhaps she is underestimating Satan in a peculiar way to challenge him to test her?

Milton, on the contrary, characterizes Adam as one who is apt to choose intimacy with Eve over obedience to God even unto the point of passivity. And in this desire, there is perhaps a fear of being alone even for a days work like Eve suggests, “Let us divide our labors, thou where choice leads thee or where most needs…” (IX. 214-215) After all, he was alone before Eve was created and he knew the pain of loneliness. He also remembers the warnings by Raphael of the dangers of the Garden. As Eve efforts to persuade Adam to work apart, Adam offers a feeble attempt to oppose her, “Befall thee severed from me for thou know’st What hath been warned us, what malicious foe, Envying our happiness and of his own Despairing, seeks to work us woe and shame” (IX.253-255). Adam knows full well Satan hates the happiness they are experiencing in unity and peace and Adam knows the risk of being separated and falling into temptation individually, thus destroying their Paradise they are enjoying as couple.

As Eve persuades a persistent at first but an eventual passive Adam to work in the Garden separately, I believe Milton begins to identify subtle but intentional characteristics of each. Adam seeks to be in harmonious relationship as the leader over Eve while Eve has aspirations to test her strength and discover her individual identity. Milton uses one of Eve’s responses to Adam to illustrate; “…by thee informed I learn, And from the parting angel overheard As in a shady nook I stood behind Just then returned at shut of evening flow’rs” (IX.274-278). Perhaps Milton uses Eve’s words here to indicate that she possibly overheard some part of the conversation between Adam and Raphael. And in doing so, she has heard the warning to be aware of passion’s power over free will. Perhaps something she heard motivates her desire to prove herself apart from Adam? Could it be that Eve wants nothing more than to be out from the rule of Adam and show her individual strength in resisting temptation? Its clear Milton has made a very strong case for such.

 

Caliban? Who are you, really?

Up until this point in the play, the audience has had a limited view of the character dynamics of Caliban. Act II, Scene II supports the initial assessment of Caliban’s animosity towards Prospero as it opens with him cursing, “From bogs, fens, flats, on Prosper fall and make him. By inchmeal a disease! His spirits hear me. And yet I needs must curse” (Act II, Scene II, Page 77, Lines 2-4). The audience clearly recognizes Caliban’s disdain for Prospero. However, the introduction of Trinculo and Stephano and their interactions with Caliban offers the audience a closer look at Caliban’s character. It seems Caliban represents nature and although he is Prospero’s slave, he still maintains a sense of freedom to explore and meet new people. His developing relationship with Trinculo and Stephano supports this claim. If Caliban represents nature, then Trinculo and Stephano represent how low civilized men can sink without self-control through their profit minded idea of taking this “monster” back to show off for entertainment in Naples. But while its clear they see Caliban as less than human, they endear Caliban by treating him more humanely than Prospero. “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows,” says Trinculo (Act II, Scene II, Page 79, Lines 40-41), and then crawls beneath Caliban’s cloak in order to get out of the rain.

As the play progresses we see the ridiculousness of this trio. Caliban initially mistakes Trinculo and Stephano for Prospero’s spirits but drunkenness convinces him Stephano is a “brave god” and he unconditionally kneels before him in servitude. Caliban puts his trust in them for all the wrong reasons further supporting the opinion that he is simply powerless as a result of his undisciplined personality. In addition, the audience sees in Act III, Scene II that Caliban has been dubbed a pawn in Trinculo and Stephano’s scheme to murder Prospero. Trinculo and Stephano’s plot which is doomed from the beginning simply demonstrates impotence. Their drunkenness has rendered them ineffective simultaneously being deceived by Ariel as she speaks “Thou liest,” (Act III, Scene II, Page 103, Lines 82) in the midst of their conversations. Ariel causes disorder and stirs up trouble between the three men. In Caliban’s naivety, he has allied himself with buffoons. He is simply powerless to realize that these men would also enslave him if given the opportunity, thus epitomizing his representation as nature. That is, nature is constantly in a state of servitude to man’s needs without little power to fight back.