How setting is applied with a different purpose in Frankenstein, Lady Audley’s secret and Tess of the D’urbervilles.

In every novel setting is one of the key aspects. Not only because it gives us a picture of where the action is taking place on the story, but it also contributes to the narrative in other aspects the author wishes for the reader to take in account. In Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein for example the setting is mainly used as an escape; a place of conflict and reflection for the character. In Lady Audley’s secret the setting establishes the mood of the story; and on Tess of D’urbevilles the author unites the setting with Tess, who is the main character, to discuss societal and human notions of nature, industry and the essence of humanity.

I must mention that Frankenstein, Lady Audley and Tess of D’ubervilles share a characteristic of their setting, and that is the foreshadowing quality they have. In Frankenstein as Victor went home for the first time in ages after the death of his little brother, there is a description of a terrible storm in which Frankenstein narrates the feeling of being stalked, specifically by the monster. Later on we discover that this storm not only demonstrates that the monster was actually there, but it foreshadows the first talk Frankenstein has with his creation. Not only does the monster acts like the storm itself, by bringing with him a terrible fate for Frankenstein, but he also explain the storm of bitterness that resides within him. Lady Audley’s secret also features a storm, and in its aftermath George Talboy’s mysteriously disappears. There Robert’s life is turned upside down, and now he must assume the role of detective to solve the storm that later we see Lady Audley has caused. In Tess, the dark foggy night when she and Alec where lost in the wood was enough to warn us, of course with previous evidence in earlier pages, that something bad was going to happen, and quite effectively we learned that Tess is pregnant in the next book.

However, there is a main difference with Frankenstein, Lady Audley and Tess D’urbevilles, and said difference is that they share a separate goal aside from foreshadowing and event. In Frankenstein, the author seems to use the setting as a place of self-reflection: “ I looked on the valley beneath; vast mists were rising from the rivers which ran through it, and curling in thick wreaths around the opposite mountains, whose summits were hid in the uniform clouds, while rain poured from the dark sky, and added to the melancholy impression I received from the objects around me. Alas! Why does man boast of sensibilities superior to those apparently in the brute; it only renders them more necessary beings.”(p.124) In this paragraph we see that the natural scenery brought Frankenstein an assessment of himself, which we had not seen earlier in the book. Now that  the setting has changed from the confinement of his quarters, Victor was able to meditate before the monster appeared. The setting, particularly the natural settings, tend to go hand in hand with conflict. It was in nature that the monster felt and also reflected of the meaning of his life for the first time, and it was in nature that he was rejected by the humble family of the cabin. It’s also in the glaciers that Frankenstein begins his story and also where he dies.

In Lady Audley the setting is used more to set the feeling of the story. For example, from the beginning the Audley Mansion is described as “sheltered”, “hidden” (p.44) “a place in which a conspiracy might have been planned”, “a house in which no one room had any sympathy with another” (p.45), “The principal door was  squeezed into a corner of a turret at one angle of the building, as if it was hiding from danger and wished to keep itself secret” (p.44). As one reads phrases like these used to describe the place in which all of the story will unfold, one perceives from the start that this will not be a happy story. The setting gives a sense of mystery and horror to the reader, and sets the stage for a story about murder and madness.

And finally, in Tess D’urbeville, the setting is often used parallel with the character’s journey of life to give the reader a chance to reflect on societal topics that the author is trying to convey. For example, on Phase the first. The Maiden, there is a portion in which Tess begins to criticize her mother for her child-like intelligence and for bearing so many kids, then we see that Tess left school to help with her little brothers and quickly learned to do many farm tasks in which she is excellent. Then we have a description of the property of Alec’s mother: “It was more, far more; a country-house built for enjoyment  pure and simple, with no acre of troublesome land attached to it beyond what was required for residential purposes, and for a little fancy farm kept in hand by the owner, and tended by a bailiff.” Further along the description continues with “Everything on this snug property was bright, thriving and well kept, acres of glass-houses  stretched down the inclines to the copses at their feet. Everything looked like money” In a way this description is parallel to the way Tess’s parents were treating her. The part in the description that alludes to a place “built for pure enjoyment” talks about Tess’s mother because everything was happy though they were struggling to maintain all their kids healthy and alive. Then the description in which they allude to money, talks about how the financial burden of Tess’s household was now placed upon Tess. Furthermore these contrast between the lifestyle of the poor and the setting used for the rich, conveys how farmer must struggle to get something out of nature, while the rich subdue nature and take it all purely for pleasure. This would moreover be a parallel with industrialism and naturalism, in which the rich mold nature to their own desire.

How does the gothic help the novel of lady Audley’s secret

Among the many genres of literature in Lady Audleys Secret, the gothic genre is the most distinguishable and most present of all,  but how important are the gothic elements in this particular story? I believe that without the gothic, the novel wouldn’t produce such an impact. The reasons are, because it sets the mood, the contrasting themes of this genre help with the realism of novel, the messages and hints evoke more emotion in the reader thanks to the gothic, and the attempted crime itself would lose its potency if it didn’t have the gothic to frame it.

The beginning of our story starts with a gothic description of the Audley estate. Audley court is described as “sheltered”, “hidden” (p.44) “a place in which a conspiracy might have been planned” (p.45), it has a history, and the description often personifies the objects and the house itself in a disturbing way: “a house in which no one room had any sympathy with another” (p.45), “The principal door was  squeezed into a corner of a turret at one angle of the building, as if it was hiding from danger and wished to keep itself secret” (p.44). One of the main elements in gothic literature is often a faraway house or manor that has a history and has qualities that make it seem unusual and dangerous. In this case the danger lies in its secrets. By using the gothic to position and describe this house, the author is painting a canvas in the reader’s mind of a story that is not pleasant, and at the same time its evoking in the reader a sense of alertness of peril in the novel. If the author had just given a happy and beautiful description, perhaps it would have lost the attention of the reader, and the abrupt change in tone and mood that comes later in the novel would have been too sudden and unexpected.

Then, another element of the gothic that is ever present in the novel is the subject of change. The novel gives us the message that things we thought completely harmless have an unknown side that is dark and dangerous. The most important example is Lady Audley herself. When looking at her portrait, the description and contrast between beauty and malice, and the unification of both inspires a feeling of unease and fear in the reader because now every face could hold a dangerous secret. The description of the portrait goes: “to give a lurid lightness to the blonde complexion, and a strange, sinister  light to the deep blue eyes. No one but a pre-Raphaelite could have given to that pretty pouting mouth the hard and almost wicked look it had in the portrait” (p.106) Then it continues by saying that the portrait “had something of the aspect of a beautiful fiend” (p.106). Perhaps Mr. Robert deemed these aspects of the painting as an exaggeration from the painter, but this particular description, personally as a reader, struck anxiety for Sophie and Lord Audley in my heart.

Furthermore messages and hints like these, wouldn’t have enough potency to elicit anxiety to the reader if the gothic description didn’t follow: “There was something in the manner of the dog which was, if anything, more indicative of terror than of fury, incredible as it appears that Ceasar should be frightened of so fragile a creature as Lady Audley”(p.137) This is one of the most subtle but distinct hints in the whole book about Lady Audley. The supernatural aspect of the dog being not territorial or cautions around a new person, like most dogs do, but being completely afraid of them makes us even more suspicious of Lady Audley and especially since around her an aura of malice is perceived by both the painter and the dog.

And finally, the overall crime wouldn’t have caused that much of a shock if the gothic was not present. The interesting aspect of this particular novel is that the gothic seems to be inversed, causing a more realistic and terrifying emotion in the reader. As I mentioned before, this inversion of gothic focuses on the darker side of what we consider normal around us. The fact that a seemingly innocent, angelic role model of a wife would have tried to murder people must have been shocking to a person, but the addition of insanity, which is a sort of an uncontrollable force that none of us can stop gives the crime and the book a whole new and more horrific meaning: “People are insane for years and years before their insanity is found out. They know that they are mad, but they know how to keep their secret; and, may sometimes keep it till they die” (p.301) and the message exposed here, is that we could all end up insane like Lady Audley as much as we could end up almost killed like George. Both things are out of our control, and one of the biggest elements in gothic is lack of control from the characters, usually lack of control over supernatural or unpredictable things. Without these gothic elements in this message, it wouldn’t instill emotion at all.

Are gender roles the central theme of Mill on The Floss?

Among the many themes in the book “The Mill on the Floss”, the one that seems to be more prominent is the one about gender roles of the 19th century. One might even consider this book to be a social critique about how these imposed gender roles affect both boys and girls. The author tells us through Maggie and Tom’s example how gender roles go against people’s nature, that they are extremely exaggerated and narrow, that they are unreasonable and, how they have the capability to enhance negative traits and to change people for the worse.

In the novel one can see many examples on how the gender norms and expectations seem to go against both Maggie and Tom’s desires and personality. We have many instances where Maggie is forced to quiet down her opinions even though they are morally correct, like when the family decided to curse Mr. Wakem in their Bible and when she pleaded for them to stop she was reproofed with a “Quiet down Maggie.” From Tom(P.291). Tom on the other hand is often described in the novel as being awkward and he often has difficulty expressing himself like Maggie. When he grows up, the pressure of the house is set on his shoulders upon the sickness of his father, and he is expected to behave and act accordingly like the man of the house. However, his lack of confidence and the pressure of this duty only made him miserable because he had to force himself into that role: “One day was like another, and  Tom’s interest in life, driven back and crushed on every side, was concentrating itself into the one channel of ambitious resistance to misfortune.”(p.297)

The author also makes these gender notions seem exaggerated with phrases like “she’s twice as ‘cute as Tom. Too cute for a woman I’m afraid”(p. 56) perhaps to make the readers of those times realize how silly the gender role expectations truly were. Likewise she makes these norm seem unreasonable like in the case of Mr. Tulliver who chose his wife “ ‘cause she was a bit weak, like; for I wasn’t agoin’ to be told the right o’ things by my own fireside”(p. 64) and in a way back fires. If Mrs. Tulliver would have been more stronger and clever she would had stopped Mr. Tulliver into “going to law” and they would have not ended in poverty. Furthermore, when their situation does come to that, Mrs. Tulliver is not much moral support and ends up wallowing in her own self-pity.

Additionally, one of the most important examples on how said gender roles were illogical is the education of Tom and Maggie. According to the novel, rather than being at school, Tom wanted to be “a substantial man like his father” he wanted to ride, to hunt, and to follow his father’s line of business (p.169), but because Mr. Tulliver wanted him to be a lawyer and to have a more prosperous life as himself Tom was forced into an education which in the end did not help him at all. Maggie, who wanted desperately for an education of her own and to help her family with money was denied such privilege because of her sex. Hence, when poverty came about them they were both miserable in their forced situation; Maggie feeling helpless and Tom having “to carry a ton weight on his back.”(p.287).

Finally, there is a moment in which Maggie reflects on her situation and how  easy it would be for her to fall into a state of bitterness and resentment if it were not for her strong emotions and moral convictions (p.308) which are characteristics that were not deemed favorable or feminine. So one can say that these gender roles almost made her into her aunt Glegg in a way. In Tom’s case the expectations placed upon him because of these gender roles basically heighten his most negative characteristics and made him into someone with “no pity: you have no sense of your own imperfections and your own sins. It is a sin to be hard; it is not fitting for a mortal –for a Christian. You are nothing but a Pharisee. You thank God for nothing but your own virtues—you  they are great enough to win everything else. You have not even a vision of feelings by the side of which your shining virtue are mere darkness!” (p.361) as Maggie says.

In conclusion, the author critiques various aspects of her society, but her clear and varied examples of the notions and expectations of gender make them one of the central and most important themes throughout the novel.

The description in Mary Barton is the most potent weapon to help the working class movement

Though each of the characters have certain traits that make them endearing or despised by the readers, it’s the descriptions in the book that ultimately make their situation come to life. The realism, the sharp contrast between scenery in classes and the descriptions of faces and feelings, make this a novel important for the working class movement.

As one reads in the novel, the author almost always describes a place and then contrasts it with another with basic similarities but not equal at all. There are countless examples, but the one that struck me the most were those of the mill and the houses near that area. According to the book the mill faced a “dingy-looking street, consisting principally of public houses, pawn brokers shops, rag and bone warehouses, and dirty provision shops” furthermore she writes that the mill was old, the alleys were often crowded and the fire produced there was something of concern, possibly for the neighborhood. While on the other side was a gin place previously owned by a rich man, which had a great size “handsome stone facings” with “splendidly fitted room, with its painted walls, its pillared recesses, its gilded and gorgeous fitting ups…”(Chapter V) I think these two contrasting descriptions are very important because it adds to the main theme of the novel, which is the large differences between classes. The fact also that a gin place is better taken care of than a work place also speaks discretely to the minds of those 19th century readers in order to perhaps review their priorities. Furthermore her heavy use of negative adjectives helps to emphasize the realistic conditions the people lived in.

Actually, the element of accurate realism is often present in Gaskell’s descriptions throughout the book. Not only do they render the situation of the poor appalling to any reader, it paints a truthful portrayal of what was out there in 19th century Manchester for generations to come. One of the most sad descriptions is that of Berry street and the Davenport house; the book describes the streets to be filled with human excrement, ashes, it was “damp and muddy” then it proceeds to describe the cellars, where a dying family was currently living, were in the most dire hygienic conditions “the smell was so fetid as almost to knock the two men down” it was dark, the windows were broken, the floor was “stagnant with the filthy moisture of the street oozed up” the mother and the children were starving and the husband was dying of fever (Ch.VI). The editor’s note on this particular description confirms that “This description is highly realistic” and because it unites empathy and shock factor, the confirmation of its reality only serves as a more effective way to produce and attitude of change in her readers.

Elizabeth Gaskell not only focuses on the descriptions of situations and people, she also makes a great effort in describing the emotions of the characters. This is important for the novels goal because if a reader is not able to identify with any of the poor working class characters, then the effectivity of the book disappears. The description on how Mary feels after Jem proposes speaks a lot about human nature regarding emotion. When most people are young, its often hard to interpret our feelings and figure out what they mean. Since the beginning Mary had had mixed emotions about Jem, but its in this scene, particularly, that she admits having no time to analyze the reason for her emotions before. The author also describes all her thoughts about both Carson and Jem until finally she makes a decision (Ch.XI), demonstrating the familiar trail of thoughts we all have or had when making an important decision. It is also the descriptions of a character’s manner that make the reader view them as bad or good, even to judge their behavior. Later in the book, John, Mary’s father, kills young Henry Carson, and yet the reader feels compelled to feel more sympathy for John  because his past actions and thoughts deemed him as a good man.

Moreover, she doesn’t rely on the concrete description of emotion to spark empathy from the reader, she also uses the description of objects, like the fake Japanese pottery which Mrs. Barton was so proud of despite how simple it was, or the description of the face of Jem’s mother as he testifies in the audience, where she is described to have an appearance that “was so much beyond her years…but partly owing to her accident in early life, which left a stamp of pain upon her face, partly owing her anxious temper, partly to her sorrow and, partly to her limping gait…” (Ch. XXXI).

In conclusion, the characters themselves make a very important point about the struggles of the working class, but the powerful descriptions of emotions, manner and scenery are what truly moves people to make a change and feel empathy rather than pity towards the struggles of the good people stuck in the working class.

Are Justine and the monster contrasting reflections of justice?

Though at first glance they don’t seem to share any traits, Justine and the Frankenstein monster have a lot in common. By comparing them, I noticed they had similar relationships and they’re both subjected to a trial. However, the element that defines each as opposite reflections  is the attitude each assumes with the final outcome of the trial; one being submissive to the majority, the other taking justice into his own hands.

The first characteristic that struck me was that Justine and the Monster had both a parental figure that despised them and blamed them for their misfortunes. As Elizabeth tells Victor in her letter regarding Justine: “Her mother could not endure her, and after the death of M. Moritz, treated her very badly”(Vol.1 Ch.5) she continues by saying that though the woman later asked forgiveness for her bad behavior she “often accused her of having caused the death of her brothers and sisters”(Vol.1 Ch.5). Much like Victor, the monsters father by inference, who immediately accuses the monster for the death of his brother and Justine, though there is no clear evidence of that at first; and, like Justine’s mother, Victor feels compassion and “the duties of a creator towards his creatures”(Vol.2 Ch.3) though only for a moment in his case.

Another similarity is that they were both adopted by a family. As we know Justine was received in the Frankenstein family as Elizabeth writes. The monster was too part of a family, though said family did not know of his presence. We can infer that he felt like part of it when we read how he felt about the family: “The gentle manners and beauty of the cottagers greatly endeared them to me: when they were unhappy, I felt depressed; when they rejoiced, I sympathized in their joys”(Vol.2 Ch.4). Both of said families turned against them in a point. Thus, though their situation differs on certain details, Justine and the monster share a parallel in their relationships.

That parallelism continues furthermore with the topic of justice seen in Justine’s and the monster’s trials. Some might say that the monster did not have a trial at all, not compared to Justine’s, but he alludes to it in order to convince Victor into listening his story: “The guilty are allowed, by human laws, bloody as they may be, to speak in their own defense before they are condemned”(Vol.2 Ch.3). He even appoints Victor as the judge: “ Listen to my tale: when you have heard that, abandon or commiserate me, as you shall judge that I deserve”(Vol.2 Ch.3). What makes Justine and the Monster’s trial similar, is the attitude of the crowd in both cases. As described in the book, when Justine entered, the crowd felt a brief sense of compassion but “for all the kindness which her beauty might otherwise have excited, was obliterated in the minds of the spectators by the imagination of the enormity she was supposed to have committed”(Vol.1 Ch.7). This is also what Victor describes to be feeling after listening to the monster’s tale “I compassionated him, and sometimes felt a wish to console him; but when I looked upon him, when I saw the filthy mass that moved and talked, my heart sickened, and my feelings were altered to those of horror and hatred”(Vol.2 Ch.9) the fact that his feelings and those of the crowd were so similar speaks a lot about human behavior regarding forgiveness. We can also see here, a role that is being thrusted upon both Justine and the monster, despite their own inner identity. Justine confesses, after having declared herself guilty, that the priest that came to take her confession threatened her so much that she “almost began to think that I was the monster that he said I was”(Vol.1 Ch.7). The reasoning behind her pleading guilty perhaps meant an acceptance on her part which is equal to what the monster says and feels later on. As narrated by him he often believed himself to be an “Adam” a “creature of virtue” but because everybody abhors him, he feels that he is being forced into being the monster everybody thinks he is.

I believe there is a lot of reasons for these characters to have such close similarity (perhaps how the poor, because of their condition, were in a way, “monsters” to the upper class citizens; how humans are influenced into believing someone to be a monster based on what they appear, etc.) but just based on how similar their situation is, one can deduce that the author wanted us to pay attention to them and speculate on their comparisons. And, in those differences maybe we can see what the author is trying to teach us regarding human nature.

Which brings me to my next point, according to the story, Justine accepted her condemnation and submitted to the believes of both the crowd and the judges despite the fact that she was innocent. The Monster, on the other hand, promised vengeance if justice was not done for him, and so he did. He killed all of Victor’s family and friends to make his creator feel as lonely and wretched as he had been. We can then interpret that these different outcomes also represent different types of justice. Justine, alludes to the political system of justice of the 19th century, where friends and the judges themselves were influenced with fear indirectly by the mob. This is why I think the author named her Justine, which is so similar to the word justice, to make the reader see, in her opinion, the inner workings of their justice system. The Monster represents the ancient justice of “an eye for an eye” which I think, is a natural impulse in man when someone commits a grievance against him. It’s something most of us can control, but because the monster was plunged into existential despair and pain, vengeance was the only thing that could soothe him, for he knew nobody would give him justice but himself. The fact that on the second encounter with the monster and when the monster finishes his story, there are so many reference to human justice also concludes that the author was perhaps hoping that the reader would associate Justine’s case and that of the monster, with the desire for the reader to understand the both sides of what humans consider justices what sort of emotions control them and what faults lie in each