Death and Ending

I have decided to focus on the ending for this final blog post because it can completely change any novel despite your pre-conceived notions. The ending ties a novel together and often answers many of the questions we as readers ask throughout the story. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the ending was absolutely not what I expected and this in turn lead to increased enjoyment of the novel. Another novel that utilizes ending in a dramatic and rather bittersweet way is George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss. While both of these endings involve death, I see Hardy’s ending as much more dramatic than Eliot’s. A third novel that had an ending that interests me is Lady Audley’s Secret. In this novel, Mary Elizabeth Braddon employs an ending that involves death but involves much more happiness and new life. I find it interesting that all of these novels end in death, although these deaths do not always seem to be portrayed in a negative manner.

The death of Maggie and Tom at the end of The Mill on the Floss has a very bittersweet feel to it. “…but brother and sister had gone down in an embrace never to be parted: living through again in one supreme moment the days when they had clasped their little hands in love, and roamed the daisied fields together” (Eliot 517). Their relationship had been so toxic throughout the novel, and I find it very interesting that Eliot ended it on this note. It is almost as if Maggie is getting the devotion she always wanted from Tom in their death.

In Lady Audley’s Secret, the death does not really have that much of an impact on the novel. Rather, it is mentioned in passing in the concluding paragraph. “It is more than a year since a black-edged letter, written upon foreign paper, came to Robert Audley, to announce the death of a certain Madame Taylor, who had expired peacefully at Villebrumeuse, dying after a long illness…” (Braddon 445). I would say this novel has a happy ending. The entire concluding paragraph tells of the moved-on lives of the other characters and how well they are all doing. Lady Audley’s death is almost thrown into the conclusion as an afterthought. This is contrasts to the ending of The Mill on the Floss, which centers around the death of the main characters. Still, I would not say that either of these novels have an absolutely awful ending.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles is an entirely different story. While the two novels discussed previously both end in death, neither of them are absolutely heart-wrenching. Tess’s death leaves the reader heartbroken and has a much darker effect than the other deaths. “The two speechless gazers bent themselves down to earth, as if in prayer, and remained thus a long time, absolutely motionless: the flag continued to wave silently. As soon as they had strength they arose, joined hands again, and went on” (Hardy 396). Tess ends up being executed because she stabbed Alec to death, and she did this because he basically ruined her life. In this scene, Angel and Tess’s younger sister watch as the black flag is raised to signify Tess’s death. They almost seem to forget about it right after it happens, as they move on. This ending is absolutely heart-wrenching and eclipses both of the deaths in the other novels in my opinion. It is not just the fact that Tess was executed that makes this so awful. It is also the fact that she was so close to finally having the life she wanted. It was all taken away from her in an instant because of the choice she made to murder Alec. Then again, if she had not murdered Alec, she probably would not have gotten to be with Angel again. There really was no way out for Tess, and she ends up dying to signify this.

In the Garden: How Tess of the d’Urbervilles shows gender inequality

Amongst the constantly looming religious undertones throughout Tess of the d’Urbervilles (which shall henceforth be referred to as TOD), the superiority of the male figure over the women one is a theme that grows with the plot. It is well known that in the book of Genesis, woman came from man and hence a stereotype lasting ages was born, where men dominate women. Tess, for all of her hard work and struggles, is constantly plagued by men. The men, in particular, are of course Alec and Angel, who both share the same love and show the same domination over the same woman. Though very different characters overall, the ability for both Alec and Angel to hold such emotional (and at some times, physical) power over Tess is used by Hardy to show just how bad the discrepancy between males and females were during the time the novel was written.

The most literal example of male domination is in the act of Alec sexually assaulting Tess. This act in and of itself is disturbing regardless of its modern implications and is the most direct instance of male domination over a woman character. The act of being sexually assaulted is not one done out of ignorance, as Alec is both fully aware and even acknowledges how awful he is for seducing Tess for his own pleasure. Tess is affected by this event for the rest of the novel, but in the grand scheme of things, she still goes back to Alec at times. It is interesting here to note that Hardy is giving the responsibility and acknowledgment to the men (Alec), and the consequences to the women. It can be argued that this was because even in sin men still dominated women, and would exploit this often.

Angel represents the emotional control men had over women. One example is when Angel reveals he prefers Tess over other women, one of Tess’ friends attempts to kill herself and another becomes an alcoholic. There is an unhealthy obsession that some of these females had over men, and this obsession ends up dominating their lives at no cost to Angel. This, of course, is not so much a commentary on the psychological state of humans as much as it is a reflection on the power relative gender roles had on the members of each respective role. Angel then creates a mold by which Tess is supposed to belong to, rather than actually loving her for herself. Angel describes Tess as “dead” (260) in response to learning about her secrets. This suppression of female identity, which to Tess was “all is vanity” (287) was the dominating emotional force behind the institution of marriage at the time, where females lost their name, their money, and what little freedom they had. The identity of Tess was never her own but was rather at the design of men who held perceived power over her.

Narrative Voice in Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Mill on the Floss, and Frankenstein

Narrative voice is an essential element throughout any novel. At its core, this literary element is often used as a tool of persuasion, or dissuasion, that can encourage a reader to be compassionate toward one character and judgmental depending on the overall goal of the author. This blog post will examine the similarities and differences in the use of narrative voice in Shelley’s Frankenstein, Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, and Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles

In her novel Frankenstein, Shelley seems to play a game of telephone through her use of narrative voice. Although the narrative voice can be confusing at times, it’s important to remember that the story is being told through the lens of Robert Walton, who is retelling the stories told to him by both Victor and the creature. This leads the reader to question the accuracy of the narrative itself. Walton points this out himself, stating “Frankenstein discovered that I made notes concerning his history: he asked to see them, and then himself corrected and augmented them in many places…” (pg. 243). Rather than the narrator exhibiting qualities of omniscience, Shelley makes her narrator much more personable and involved in the story. The consequence to this, it seems, results in the narrator being more unreliable.

Contrast this with the narrator in Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, who has both an omniscient yet intimate presence in the novel. Eliot uses the narrative voice as a tool for argument. In some cases, she gives the narrator a more personable voice to advocate for sympathy. This is shown in the first chapter of Book 1 when the narrator describes Maggie for the first time, “Now I can turn my eyes toward the mill again, and watch the unresting wheel sending out its diamond jets of water. That little girl is watching it too; she has been standing on just the same spot at the edge of the water ever since I paused at the bridge.” In other cases, the narrator’s voice has an omniscient quality to it – providing the narrator with the ability to provide the reader with insight into the character’s motives. This is seen in chapter five of Book 5 when the narrator warns the reader to “not think too hardly of Phillip” because people with his condition “have great need of unusual virtues, because they are likely to be extremely uncomfortable without them.”

Similar to the narrative voice presented in Mill on the Floss, the narrative voice in Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles also encourages compassion for some of the characters, particularly that of Tess and Angel. However, the narrative voice seems to provide more insight into the thoughts and feelings of the characters when compared to the other two novels. Among the most interesting examples in the novel is when Tess sees a group of birds suffering after being shot by hunters. The narrator elaborates on the inner thoughts in Tess’s mind, stating:

     “With the impulse of a soul who could feel for kindred sufferers as much as for herself,      Tess’s first thought was to put the still living birds out of their torture, and to this end           with her own hands she broke the necks of as many as she could find, leaving them to lie where she had found them till the gamekeepers could find… ‘Poor darlings – to suppose myself the most miserable being on earth in the sight o’ such misery as yours!’ she exclaimed, her tears running down as she killed the birds tenderly.”

The narrator gives us allows us to peer into Tess’s most intimate thoughts regarding her rape. She identifies with other animals who are experiencing pain, we are given stronger insight into her thought processes regarding her decision to kill the birds out of compassion. When considering how Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles differs from the other two novels, it seems that the narrative voice used in Hardy’s novel provides insight into the psychological experiences of the characters, particularly Tess, and uses that to encourage the reader to have sympathy for her. The other two novels, however, comment more on physical occurrences in the novel as opposed to elaborating on the characters’ thoughts and feelings.

When Suffering Enters A Christmas Carol

In the commercialized Christmas we have come to know and love (?), we often frame A Christmas Carol as full of cheer and goodwill . . . an old man moved by the intervention of ghosts to care for a young crippled boy in the spirit of the holiday. When we call someone “Scrooge,” we usually mean they are not being cheery enough: perhaps they are refusing to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. This collapse of emotions into “cheer” is why I was surprised by the range of emotions represented in A Christmas Carol when I came back to it this year. Difficulty and grief are placed alongside brilliant happiness and cheer. I’d like to explore how the cheer and troubles are placed together, though, since there is danger in representing suffering and pain in art. Does A Christmas Carol ultimately handle suffering ethically?

One of the biggest hurdles for me in saying “yes” is that the most vivid moments of people suffering are within the ghost sequences, not the “real present” of the frame, and all the suffering is very immediately solvable by personal action. In the “real present,” the gentlemen request funds to support the poor and describe “Want” as “keenly felt,” and we see Bob shivering at his small fire, but that is all (45). If Scrooge simply gave them money and wasn’t rude, then those problems would go away. If we view A Christmas Carol as tackling the problem of suffering and poverty in general, this is dissatisfying: the text would seem to be saying that if we individually just gave more money, there would be no suffering.

Within the ghost sequences, we see more moments of people suffering—like Tiny Tim dying—but even these are then alleviated or are “what ifs” that Scrooge’s actions can stave off. What if Scrooge met more people than could be supported by his personal generosity? All the suffering people he sees in the journey with the Ghost of Christmas Present are ultimately made cheerful by the Ghost’s happy blessing: “the Spirit stood beside sick beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by struggling men, and they were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich. In almshouse, hospital, and jail, in misery’s every refuge . . . he left his blessing” (99). They are fixed. The two sad figures at the end of the stave might complicate this, because they are not helped, but they are not even individual humans but allegorical figures of Ignorance and Want. They do not have hopes and dreams; they do not have stories with which to grab the imagination, and so they do not complicate the narrative as much as they could. If Scrooge met more poor individuals suffering in poverty instead of allegorical figures, he would also be prompted to help them, and his own financial resources would eventually run out.

This raises the question: would running out of personal financial resources actually be problematic for Scrooge’s attempts to alleviate suffering? Perhaps not—the Spirit does not sprinkle money on the people he spreads cheer to. The problem is, though, that in the last stave Scrooge fixes the suffering around him by giving money to the boy, to the Cratchit family, to the gentlemen representing the charity, and to Bob Cratchit. So it does seem that representing larger suffering would create difficulties: what does one do with suffering that refuses financial solutions, and how would that frustrate the text’s tone?

Please understand me, dear reader: I am not trying to cry “humbug!” on the tale. But it does seem important to ask the question of how we should portray suffering and its solutions, and what the consequences are of doing so. How does one include suffering in a text that ultimately seeks to persuade us that our actions can remove suffering …when those actions actually can’t remove it completely? Tiny Tim lives in the end because Scrooge helps provide for his family. What if he had a terminal illness and could not have been saved by financial help?

Perhaps I am asking the tale to bear a weight it was not trying to—not all works involving suffering have to be theodicies or be comprehensive.

Or perhaps I am overly limiting my definition of suffering. What if I broaden my definition from physical want to emotional pain? Maybe it is also tackling the problem of dealing with our own experiences of emotional suffering.

In my summary of that last stave, I left something off of my “things money helps to fix” list, and it’s a big one: it is Scrooge’s acceptance of Fred’s hospitality. Scrooge does not fix this relationship with money—he does not even show up with a host gift. But here there is “wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness!” (122). There was not suffering in Fred’s house before, but now Scrooge is included in the happiness. To me, this hints that part of the happy ending is that Scrooge is no longer suffering, and that reframes the tale not just as one of a man ignoring the physical suffering of others but also one of a man ignoring his own emotional suffering.

At the beginning of the book, Scrooge asserts, “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly” (45). This tale obviously shows how “interfering” with others is actually good. I think it is equally important to see that the text also proves false another aspect of this statement. Scrooge implies that he understands his own business. If we take “business” to mean what he means when he refers to other people’s business (their lives), then his implied claim to understand his own business is patently false. He ignores many aspects of his life…who he has been, who he is to others now, and who he might be becoming: what life is left in that construction? His healing comes when he reintegrates those selves, and he does so via grief. When the ghost takes him to his past, he “wept to see his poor forgotten self as he had used to be” and “he said, in pity for his former self, ‘Poor boy!’ and cried again” (65-66). In the journey with the Ghost of Christmas Present, he feels “penitence and grief” over his own cruel words the ghost repeats back to him (89). With the Ghost of Christmas Future, he is confronted with his own lonely death and his sadness at that way of dying. He can no longer equate money with happiness as he does at the beginning (42). He has to own his unhappy state. This explains why the lesson he repeats at the end of the tale is “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me” (117). Instead of focusing on what he will do for others, he focuses on an integration of his various selves, past, present, and future, despite the painfulness of owning who he has been and the pain of his experiences. This adds additional weight to his words “I am here” near the ending, when he realizes he is back in the true present (118). Of course, this integration then leads to helping others in the rest of that final stave.

After all this, though, I am still unsure if this emphasis on Scrooge owning his own emotional suffering makes the text more of an ethical representation of suffering or not. Could it be it terribly solipsistic to focus on Scrooge’s suffering in this way? Hopefully the way he moves from reintegration of his self to providing for others means not. Either way, though, I should hesitate before casting the first stone: I too have been guilty of limited vision. In remembering A Christmas Carol, I had forgotten the different types of suffering hidden within it. Whether this misremembering is all my own fault or is encouraged by the text—well, I leave that up to you.

A Stranger to Oneself: A Hellish Scene in A Christmas Carol?

It is interesting how an audience’s setting and expectations can alter how a text (whether read or performed) is received. The last time I read the Christmas Carolwas in a Dickens seminar as an undergrad at UC Davis. The effort there was to place it in the context of Dickens’ overall life and work, especially its thematic relation to the author’s other novels. Ebenezer Scrooge cast shadows of Fagin (from Oliver Twist), David Copperfield’s stepfather, and the litigants in the darkly hilarious “Jarndyce v. Jarndyce” (from Bleak House). Scrooge, however, is ultimately redeemed—though the manner and nature of his redemption is also quintessentially Dickensian, as it arguably reinforces Victorian middle class values. This is no story of St. Anthony or St. Francis, wherein Scrooge might have given all of his riches as alms and assumed the life of a holy poor man in penitence. In Dickens’ moral universe, he ought to remain rich, but generouslyrich—a pillar of his community and fount of charitable deeds. Scrooge’s position as a wealthy businessman with the power to exploit his employees or community is not critiqued at any structural level (or so I would argue). Rather, he is instructed to wield that power benevolently, in the service of London’s Tiny Tims, for which benevolence he will also presumably reap rewards in the hereafter. One wonders if John Barton would have found the point of the story sufficiently moral.

Of course, most people (myself included) don’t experience the Christmas Carolin the context of studying Dickens. The tale has taken on an independent life in western culture comparable to the Santa Claus tradition—it’s simply a fixture of the “holiday season” and experienced as one of a series of cultural performances and practices. It’s easy to know the story without ever having read the novella (has anyone ever attempted to catalogue all of the adaptations in theater or film?). Its very ubiquity is perhaps revelatory of modern western values: nobody is much threatened by a story in which a mean rich man learns to be a nice rich man. And that, it seems, is how the story is typically received, as a parable about generosity. There’s a reason that “Scrooge” has become a universally recognized epithet for a miser.

With those two receptions of the text—as a part of the Dickensian corpus and as a cultural commonplace—in mind, it was all the more interesting to approach the story as the final installment in our course this semester. To think about Scrooge and his encounters with the living and the spectral as loci for acts of hospitality and strangeness.

Especially with regard to the later (strangeness), one scene in the tale struck me in a way it hadn’t before. It occurs in the context of Scrooge’s the third and final ghostly encounter, wherein he glimpses the future:

“Scrooge listened to this dialogue in horror. As they sat grouped about their spoil, in the scanty light afforded by the old man’s lamp, he viewed them with detestation and disgust, which could hardly have been greater, though they had been obscene demons, marketing the corpse itself.”

Scrooge witnesses the scavengers going over an (as yet unknown) corpse. The scene is deliberately hellish—the dim lightning, the grotesque figures who are explicitly compared to demons. It is also pregnant with dramatic irony, at least for those who know the story (and arguably, Dickens has also given enough narrative clues for first time readers to sense it as well). The dead man whose possessions are being pilfered is none other than Scrooge himself, yet he remains strange to himself. The strongest connection he can fathom between himself and the deceased is a moral analogy:

“Spirit!” said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot. “I see, I see. The case of this unhappy man might be my own. My life tends that way.”

But of course Scrooge does not yet see, and to emphasize his blindness, the scene immediately shifts to the vision of the corpse on the table, covered by the shroud. Scrooge desires to take away the cloth and reveal the dead man’s face—his own face—yet he “had no more power to withdraw the veil than to dismiss the spectre at his side.”

Scrooge has perhaps begun to suspect the true identity of the corpse, and yet is kept from gazing on its face. A veil literally lies between himself and self-recognition. It is at this point that Dickens invites the reader to imagine a resurrection:

[Scrooge] thought, if this man could be raised up now, what would be his foremost thoughts? Avarice, hard dealings, griping cares? They have brought him to a rich end, truly!

This image, coupled with the demonic language just above, leads me to think that Dickens is deliberately evoking the motif of judgment: even if the man on the table were to experience a resurrection, he would remain enmeshed and burdened by his sins. Such a resurrection would in fact be condemnation, because it would be eternity without hope for moral improvement, without growth in love or charity. It would merely confirm him to be a broken creature beyond repair. This couples well with how Scrooge’s ghostly encounters began, with Marley’s thick chains, which he is forced to drag along his ghostly way. When Scrooge finally does recognize the corpse as himself, it is as if he has been cast into hell—except for him, there is still time.

All of this, it seems to me, bears on this semester’s theme of the “Stranger.” There are different kinds of strangeness that we have encountered in our texts, scriptures, and treatises. On the one hand, strangeness is divine—God comes to us as the weary traveler seeking hospitality, as the unknown “mulatto” in Waco, TX. But there is a strangeness that comes from embracing what is not God, too. Scrooge can only meet the image of himself confirmed in his sin with horror—“that’s not me!” (except it is). Indeed, that the image still evokes strangeness may be a sign that it’s not too late, that there is still a part of him that recoils and so can be redeemed. The texts this semester may encourage us to think of human life as existing between poles of strangeness, with the challenge being of recognizing God in the midst. It’s a theme that’s often explored in medieval mystical texts and also some Reformation theologies (Luther’s Deus absconditus). Maybe by these lights we could even talk of Christian life as a journey from estrangement into strangeness.

Regardless, finding these themes in A Christmas Carolis certainly more interesting than a bland parable about being generous. If we are to give Dickens credit, perhaps he intended a much more complex tale that has subsequently been flattened out by popular culture. It would be interesting in class how contemporary artists might attempt to adapt the story in fresh ways that make it (what else) strange again to readers and audiences.

 

 

 

 

The Fallen Woman

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

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

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

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

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

 

The usage of setting as it relates to characterization

An author’s use of form in his or her creation of a novel’s setting is of course necessary for any plot-driven text, but it can also strengthen the development of its characters and play a role in the novel’s thematic points. In Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Frankenstein, and Mary Barton, each author uses setting to further develop its main characters. Thomas Hardy uses setting to illustrate his protagonist’s purity and normalcy, while Mary Shelley does the exact opposite to characterize Frankenstein’s monster and the detachment from the world around him. Elizabeth Gaskell, on the other hand, uses her setting as a middle ground from which Mary can experience a spectrum of settings and their designated social and monetary statuses.

In Tess of the D’Urbervilles, setting plays an important role in demonstrating the heart of Tess’s morality. Hardy uses the environment as an interesting parallel to Tess, making her a part of nature and of the novel’s setting. She is a farm girl, and is comfortable around nature as such – making it a contrast as she finds similarity to the portraits in the ancestral mansions. Instead, Tess “felt akin to the landscape” (Hardy 61) in the country. Hardy illustrates how Tess and nature are related in purity, as they are both of this earth and, by definition, natural. While Tess often takes omens from the behavior of animals, she is also often wrong. The narrator explains that “it was not the expression of the valley’s consciousness that beautiful Tess had arrived, but the ordinary announcement of milking-time” (Hardy 63). By allowing the environment to mirror Tess, he transcends her over the social climate of the time and makes her everlasting, just as the laws of nature are. Any rejection of her from the environment is false, and “this encompassment of her own characterization, based on shreds of convention, peopled by phantoms and voices antipathetic to her, was a sorry and mistaken creation of Tess’s fancy…it was they that were out of harmony with the actual world, not she…she had been made to break an accepted social law, but no law known to the environment in which she fancied herself such an anomaly” (Hardy 51). This mirroring can also be seen in the tragic darkness of Tess’s original fall at the hands of Alec, where “everything was blackness alike” (Hardy 44) in that forest. Through his descriptions of setting and nature, Hardy provides the reader with further characterization as to Tess’s humble purity and her congruence with the natural world.

Shelley’s use of setting is emphatically different from Hardy’s, as she uses the gothic imagery of the monster’s surroundings to illustrate how he is unable to assimilate with others. On his own, the monster is immediately subject to the dark and cold, without shelter. The harsh environment rejects him, mirroring his isolation but condemning his unnatural being. Following the additional rejection from the De Lacey family, darkness falls and “as the night advanced, a fierce wind arose from the woods, and quickly dispersed the clouds that had loitered in the heavens; the blast tore along like a mighty avalanche, and produced a kind of insanity in [the monster’s] spirits” (Shelley 151). As anger and betrayal excite him, so too does his surroundings surge with this emotion, and the wind and clouds mimic the monster’s strong feelings of isolation and paranoia. Even though the monster finds refuge in the forest, he recognizes that there is no place for him. Frankenstein’s monster reflects that “with the world before [him,] whither should [he] bend [his] steps? [Although he had] resolved to fly far from the scene of [his] misfortunes…every country must be equally horrible” (Shelley 151). Therefore his ending is somewhat fitting, as the monster resolves to commit to the eternal surroundings of the endless ocean. He places himself “upon the ice-raft…[and] he was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance” (Shelley 221). Although both Hardy and Shelley do allow the description of setting and nature to deepen the reader’s understanding of the characters’ places in their world, they do so by expressing its acceptance or rejection of the character, respectively.

Gaskell’s use of setting differs from both Hardy’s and Shelley’s in that it does not take an extreme stance. Where Tess exemplifies the normality of nature, and Frankenstein’s monster represents the opposition to normal natural law, Gaskell’s protagonist Mary Barton finds herself in middle ground. The setting passively accepts her, as Gaskell does not use setting to comment on Mary’s specific place in her world. Instead, Mary here represents the entire middle class as a whole, and these surroundings illustrate that Mary is an “every-day-man” of sorts that can transcend social class boundaries because of it. The setting of Mary’s house allows the reader to look into her private life and character, as the interior is described, that “resting against the wall, was a bright green japanned tea-tray…[on which] the fire-light danced merrily” and “gave a richness of colouring to that side of the room” (Gaskell 14). The warmth and simplicity of the house mirrors the comfort of Mary. However, this middle-class setting is contrasted by two sides of the spectrum, and Gaskell shows the reader two other households and how they compare. In the Davenport home, the door “led to a black cellar, with a grating instead of a window…the floor was one mass of bad smelling mud…[and] there was not an article of furniture in it” (Gaskell 60). Through seeing the pitiable living conditions of the Davenports, the reader can contextualize the privilege of Mary’s upbringing, and how this corresponds with her perspective. On the other side of the spectrum at the Carson house, it “was a good house, and furnished with disregard to expense…[where] a roaring fire burnt merrily” (Gaskell 63). Through being able to experience the other neighborhood surroundings of different class distinctions, the reader is better equipped to perceive the world as Mary does. Therefore, through exposing these three different settings, Gaskell caters sympathy to Mary and the goal of the middle class to blur the lines among these settings.

Hardy’s use of setting in Tess of the D’Urbervilles differs from the other two novels’ usages in that its layers radically help illustrate the notion of purity in Tess. The setting as it relates to nature makes claims regarding Tess’s normalcy and place in the world, and argues against any social stigma. The added layer of setting includes its Victorian landscape, and the present social climate that had every preparation to condemn Tess for the so-called “seduction,” while preserving Alec. Unlike in the other novels, the setting both sets up an argument against Tess, while also making a case for her. Whereas one factor of the novel’s setting speaks to her breaking of social code and social law for females at the time, the other factor of the novel’s setting speaks to how this perception will come to pass, but that the natural world claims Tess’s purity as its own forever. Hardy’s duality of setting only deepens the reader’s relationship with Tess, as her surrounding either condemns or accepts her, and attempts to sway the reader into a side as to her intentions, personality, and purity.

The Mechanics of Scrooge’s Repentance

Matthew Turnbull

 

12 November 2018

 

In the opening scene, Dickens introduces the protagonist of A Christmas Carol as a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner;” Ebenezer Scrooge is as “hard and sharp as flint” and “as solitary as an oyster” (40). Nevertheless, 24 hours later (which magically comprise three nights) he is transformed into “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew” (123). Scrooge suffers a moral revolution, and this revolution forms the substance of the action of the plot. Notwithstanding, it seems hard to account for the rapidity and thoroughness of his not necessarily religious conversion. How could such a radical change occur in such a hard heart? To explain this transformation, it seems worthwhile to ask what mechanisms Dickens embeds in the course of the narrative to account for Scrooge’s reversal.

The first measurable moral movement occurs when Marley’s ghost appears to Scrooge. While he struggles to dismiss the appearance of Marley’s face on his door knocker and in the tiles surrounding the fireplace with a “humbug!”, when the ghost later materializes to his view, Scrooge’s struggle intensifies: “though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him . . . he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses” (51). Even after the ghost is seated and they briefly converse about the veridicality of Scrooge’s perceptions, he resists the obvious by claiming that such appearances can be accounted for by “a slight disorder of the stomach” such as “a blot of mustard” or “a fragment of underdone potato” (52). Despite all empirical testimony to the contrary, Scrooge maintains his skepticism with another “humbug.” This word elicits a “frightful cry” from Marley’s ghost, as he shakes the chains and removes his bandage allowing his jaw to fall (54). In response, Scrooge falls to the ground, cries for mercy, and confesses to Marley’s spirit that he believes in him. What provoked this initial reversal of position? Apparently, it is fear. Scrooge is terrified; and his fear makes him willing to forsake the materialist philosophy he had hitherto held. Is it true that a fear-inducing experience will cause moral change in a person? Is it realistic to assert that skeptical materialists who are frightened by a supernatural occurrence abandon their metaphysical stance and accept the reality of the spiritual realm? Or is this believable only in the world of this story? For Scrooge (and Dickens), sharp fear seems to be the proper preface to deep moral transformation.

A second instance of change in Scrooge occurs when the Ghost of Christmas Past makes his visit. He leads Ebenezer on a journey into the places and times of his childhood and youth. At the double vision of his own, young self, reading all alone in the decrepit schoolhouse, and of Ali Baba, Valentine and Robinson Crusoe parading past the nearby window (a picture of the scenes in his youthful mind as he reads), Scrooge weeps.  After expressing pity for his former, lonely self, he remarks that he laments not giving something to the young caroler who had visited his office earlier that night. Taken in context, these are significant manifestations of change in the “old sinner.” Weeping is not his habit. Regret over a missed opportunity to show kindness is not his way. Thus, the soul of Scrooge moves further away from his former hardness. Curiously, this movement is provoked not by terror or a morbid spectral visitation, but by revisiting the past and seeing himself as a forlorn child. Why would this vision have such power to move? Does revisiting long-forgotten places soften a hard heart? Does a feeling of sympathy for one’s past suffering engender sympathy for others who likewise suffer in the present? Or, is repentance birthed out of nostalgia? Is it the fruit of sentimental recollection? What is Dickens implying?

Next, the Ghost of Christmas Present displays several scenes to Scrooge. First, he shows him the friendly aspect of the city on Christmas morning where people shoveling snow are “jovial and full of glee,” while poulterers, fruiterers, and Grocers generously invite shoppers to partake of abundance before the churches call them all to worship—after which the whole town shines with “good humour” (82, 84).  Second, the Ghost grants him a long and detailed view of Bob Cratchit’s family, poor people rejoicing in what they have and treasuring one another as the best gifts of the season. But as this scene closes, Scrooge grows concerned and asks what will become of Tiny Tim. When the Ghost tells him that Tim will die and reminds Scrooge of his own remark about reducing the surplus population, Ebenezer “was overcome with penitence and grief” (89). What is it about Tiny Tim, or Bob Cratchit’s humble family that pierced and cracked the casing on Scrooge’s compassion? Is it the obvious implication that poor people might find joy from something other and more than wealth? Does Scrooge realize his own poverty through these visions? Or is it, again, the sight of a young boy’s future suffering (and his family’s) that compels him to sorrow and “penitence”?

Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come resembles Marley more than the other two Christmas Ghosts. Seeing it, Scrooge “feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled” (102). Now, as though completing a circle, Scrooge is terrified once more. But this time he seems ready and willing to believe what the Ghost teaches: “I know your purpose is to do me good, and . . . I hope to live to be another man from what I was” (103). These are not the words of a grasping, narcissistic materialist, but a man already changed and wanting to change more.  After the frightful visions of businessmen coldly speaking of his own death, of scavengers rejoicing in the spoil of his earthly possessions, of the Cratchit family grieving at the loss of Tiny Tim, and of his own headstone, Ebenezer cries out to the Ghost: “I am not the man I was” and thus declares his repentance complete. By what means was it completed? By a vision of his own mortality? By a conviction that he cared for another person—Tim and Tim’s family—more than he knew? By a final, fearful, transforming encounter with the supernatural? As we watch the progression of Ebenezer Scrooge from a man who warned “all human sympathy to keep its distance” to a man who “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge” (41, 125), what should we think Dickens asserts about the mechanics of repentance?

 

 

Endings in Frankenstein, Mill on the Floss, and Tess

The endings of Frankenstein, Mill on the Floss, and Tess of the d’Urbervilles are very important because the author makes some sort of statement about the characters and passes judgement to some degree on a social issue. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the author seems to imply that Tess’s death is not her own fault and is a tragedy, while the deaths of Frankenstein and the monster are justified, and Maggie Tulliver’s death is sympathetic.

Frankenstein ends with Walton wrapping up the story and telling us that Frankenstein is dead and that the monster is leaving to kill himself. The monster regrets his crimes, telling Walton, “You hate me; but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself…polluted by crimes, and torn by the bitterest remorse, where can I find rest but in death?” (220)  In this ending, the reader may not be very sympathetic to either Frankenstein or the creature. Frankenstein’s death ends his misery and almost seems a justified recompense for creating the monster. The creature’s death puts an end to his murders and crimes. Shelley implies that these deaths are a good thing, and justified in the eyes of society, especially in that they serve to teach Walton. The ending of Frankenstein also sees the death of a pair: Victor and the monster. Both die, which is something seen in Mill on the Floss, but not Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

In Mill on the Floss, Maggie and Tom die together. While it is an untimely and tragic death, Eliot does write that in death they found unity with one another. “…brother and sister had gone down in an embrace never to be parted: living again in one supreme moment the days when they had clasped their little hands in love, and roamed the daisied fields together” (483). If anything, their death is one that brings peace and understanding to the reader. Maggie’s love for Tom which overarched the novel has finally come to a fruitful conclusion and death has finally freed her from her sufferings. Like Frankenstein, Maggie and Tom are the most important pair in the novel and they die together.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles also ends in the main character’s death. Although Tess seems to have to terms with death, saying “…I am almost glad—yes glad!” (395) she clarifies that she did not want to live long enough for Angel to hate her. Moreover, the moment of her actual death is hollow and somber. The appearance of the black flag signals that “justice was done” but the reader cannot help but feel that Tess suffered more injustice than anyone else in the novel. Hardy not-so-subtly implies that Tess’s death was a tragedy, unjustified, unfair, and unsettling to the readers. The imbalance is accentuated through the fact that Tess alone dies, and not the other half of the pair: Angel.

While Mill on the Floss and Frankenstein both end with the deaths of main characters and bring a sense of peace to the reader, Tess of the d’Urbervilles upsets the audience and leaves them with a sense of injustice. Hardy, like Eliot and Shelley, has passed judgement on the way society ostracizes the fallen person and forces them to be “the other” but Hardy’s novel stands out in that it impacts the injustice. Where the creature’s death was balanced out by his creators, and Maggie’s death balanced by her unity with her beloved brother, Tess’s unfair death only came to her and not Angel. One might argue that Alec is killed by Tess, which balances out her death. However, the relationship between Alec and Tess is not quite the same as those of Frankenstein and the monster or Maggie and Tom. Where those relationships are marked by obligation, familial ties, and hatred or love, Tess and Alec are only connected through Alec’s rape of Tess. Her relationship with Alec is characterized by confusion and fear. Moreover Hardy draws a sharper contrast between Angel—who voluntarily had an affair with a woman—and Tess—who was raped. Where Frankenstein and Mill on the Floss do address injustice in society, I believe Tess of the d’Urbervilles truly explored the impact of it upon the innocent.

The End: Frankenstein, Mill on the Floss, and Tess of the d’Ubervilles

The ending of the novel could arguably be one of the most important parts of the novel, depending on the respective reader. Author’s use the ending of novels to tie up lose ends, reveal any lingering secrets, and make their last bits of commentary on society and the like. As a contemporary society, we usually associate novel endings with “happy endings” due to the Hollywood influences of popular culture. However, in the novels Frankenstein, Mill on the Floss, and Tess of the d’Ubervilles we do not find that the novels end happily, but this can also serve a purpose as well.

As with all three of the novels mentioned above, Frankenstein ends with the death of a central character, Victor Frankenstein. This ending helps to further demonstrate the unsatisfactory nature of the struggle between both the Creature and Victor. Through out the course of the novel, one is really not sure who to root for. On the one hand, Victor is our human protagonist who suffers greatly at the hands of the creature; however, he never learns from his mistakes and has brought all of his misfortune on himself. On the other hand, the Creature never asked to be created and is never really given a chance to be good; however, he murders people and terrorizes Victor. In the end Victor dies, the Creature gives a long speech and Shelley concludes with “He sprung from the cabin-window as he said this, upon the ice-raft which lay close to the Vessel. He was soon born away by the waves, and lost in the darkness and distance” (221). The ending is unsatisfactory, much in the way that the two central characters are, thus the ending reflects a major characteristic of the novel itself.

Continuing on, Mill on the Floss is another novel that features the death of two prominent characters at the end; however, unlike Frankenstein these deaths actually provide significant fulfillment of the novel whereas the death of Victor really did not. To accept this argument, one must re-examine the nature of Tom and Maggie’s relationship. While not the major story line of the novel, the characterization of Tom and Maggie’s relationship plays a part in the failure (or lack thereof) of their romantic relationships. Each one of them is intensely passionate about the other, but the consequences of this is that they often fight and cause a lot of grief in each others lives. Therefore, it creates a scenario in which they can’t live with each other but can’t really live without each other either. Thus, when the novel ends with Elliot saying, “The boat reappeared—but brother and sister had gone down in an embrace never to be parted: living through again in one supreme moment the days when they clasped their little hands in love, and roamed the daisied fields together” (517), the reader actually gets a sense of fulfillment as there is closure provided to that particular conflict at last.

Finally, in Hardy’s Tess of the d’Ubervilles the reader is presented with the death of Tess. Unlike the two aforementioned novels though, the death of this central character provides the novel with a sense of relief and closure. Through out the later half of the novel, Tess has essentially been running from her demons. She has killed Alec in order to be with Angel but this act has made it so they have to run and hide, creating yet another obstacle that impedes Tess from truly being with Angel. In fact, most of the novel has centered around various obstacles that have impeded her from being with Angel, whether it was her own inhibitions about telling him about her past or his subsequent reaction when he does find out. So when the reader is presented with yet another challenge in the way, it begins to feel like a never ending roller coaster that we can’t quite seem to get off. Thus, one of the final parting sentences that reads “‘Justice’ was done and the President of the Immortals, in Aeschylean phase had ended his sport with Tess” (396), the reader is relieved to finally know the answer to the “will they/ won’t they” debate. It may be an unsatisfying answer to the reader, but it’s an answer at last.

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.

Is “The Wisest Thing” a Moral Responsibility? Martineau and Benefit Clubs

In Cousin Marshall, Martineau refers to Benefit Clubs as a viable alternative to reliance upon parish relief several times, especially because of John Marshall’s use of this financial option. When the widowed Mrs. Marshall writes to Ned about his money, she says, “I quite approve your wish about the Friendly Society, knowing how my husband did the wisest thing in belonging to one, and at times could have got through in no other way” (123). Earlier, the narrator characterizes John as “a slow and dull, though steady workman” of whom his friends say “that his club served him instead of a set of wits” (73-74). Furthermore, the narrator indicates Mrs. Marshall does not fully recognize that he is not particularly bright because of this one wise choice that enabled them to be self-sufficient when his hard work was not enough to keep them financially afloat: “His wife, who never seemed to have found out how much cleverer she was than her husband, put the matter in a somewhat different light. She attributed to her husband all the respectability they were enabled to maintain…She gave him the credit, not only of the regularity of their little household…but of the many kindnesses which they rendered to their neighbors” (74). Mr. Marshall’s responsible character and Mrs. Marshall’s careful stewardship of their resources also receive attention in these passages, but Martineau stresses how the Benefit Club played a major role in their abilities to be financially responsible and stable. Additionally, Martineau makes a point of clarifying that John is not actually a smart or talented man but rather a good but average man who just had the good sense to listen to the advice of his father and invest in this safety net (73). Martineau considers wise financial decisions as being within the grasp of all the working class that are not severely disadvantaged through disability, as even an allegedly dim-witted fellow like Mr. Marshall could make that choice.

Despite the support the Benefit Club provides the Marshall family in their times of need, Burke, the doctor who presents explanations and solutions for England’s political economy, does not think that Benefit Clubs are inherently the solution and therefore should not be made compulsory. When Effingham asks him what he thinks of the idea of requiring people to join Benefit Clubs, Burke responds,

No man approves such societies more than I, as long as they are voluntary; but fellowship of this kind would lose its virtue, I doubt, by being made compulsory. There are no means that I know of, of compelling a man who will not earn to store his earnings; and the frugal and industrious will do it without compulsion, as soon as they understand the matter: so that in fact the worst classes of society would be left as free to roam, and beg, and steal, as if the institution did not exist. (115-116)

For Burke, and seemingly for Martineau, as her concluding summary echoes much of Burke’s other ideas presented in the narrative, the good, hard-working people will do the common-sense thing once they know its benefits, and the people associated with the term “undeserving poor” would not act sensibly even if they could afford to do so.

Martineau’s characterization of the Marshall family and the contrasting Bell relatives, as well as several other conversations and characters, reveal her strong belief in the difference between deserving and undeserving poor. This is best represented by Louisa Burke’s conversation with Mr. Nugent, in which she expresses her concern for the lack of separation between “blameless and culpable indigence” (29). Of course, Mr. Nugent considers her categories “somewhat too nice,” for Martineau acknowledges that this is indeed an oversimplification. However, though her views are likely more nuanced than her characters’ explanations, she considers a major difference between the deserving poor and the undeserving poor to be the willingness and wisdom to save up resources through these Benefit Clubs. By associating John Marshall, a man who is not especially educated or even smart, with the wisdom of benefit clubs, which then in turn allows him to benefit other people and his relatives, the Bells, whose financial decisions are clever but unwise and often even unethical, with those who would not have the foresight to save through Benefit Clubs, is Martineau suggesting that though Benefit Clubs ought not to be legally required, that there is a sort of moral imperative to make such wise decisions?

While financial responsibility and frugality are certainly admirable qualities that allow for greater participation in the moral responsibility of charity toward neighbors, it seems that Martineau’s fairly clear distinctions between the deserving poor and undeserving poor move financial wisdom from an admirable quality to a characteristic that helps separate the virtuous from the unvirtuous and the deserving from the undeserving in troubling ways. What about those who would have joined the Benefit Clubs had they not already been receiving relief as children or who were trying to be self-sufficient in caring for their aging parents and therefore could not set aside the necessary earnings? Ned is an extreme example of the hard-working poor, but would Martineau find those in similar situations who did not break the cycle of poverty as he did to be undeserving? While she does not explicitly portray failure to plan ahead financially as a moral failing, her characters present limited examples of virtuous people who are not able be fairly self-sufficient through wise financial decisions, and thus, she seems to ignore the possibility of those who do not clearly fit in one category or the other.

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.

Mobility as a Disruptive Force

In a sensation novel that concerns itself chiefly with deception, Lady Audley’s Secret is also concerned with mobility- both literally and figuratively. Where in the literal sense it is the mobility of characters such as George that sparks a huge chain of events, and figuratively a mobility of social class through Lady Audley, described by Robert as a “poor little creature; poor unhappy little golden-haired sinner” (269) and the effective reshaping of her entire life. The attempt at a transition from a lower social class to a higher one is prevalent in other minor characters like Phoebe, Lucy, and Luke, who all try to advance their financial and social positions, and this force of social mobility ends up being a disruptive force in Braddon’s novel.

Robert is a man who brought himself out of ignorance through his mobility. The only way he was able to discover Lady Audley’s secret was through having to travel place by place until he was able to unravel the necessary clues. Mobility in Robert’s case was a necessary disruption that unraveled the secrets encompassed in the novel for the reader, and it is through this mobility that the art of sensation was brought about by Braddon. “‘Why do I go on with this,’ he said, ‘when I know that it is leading me, step by step, day by day, hour by hour, nearer to that conclusion which of all others I should avoid?” (183), Robert exclaims about George concerning his quest to discover the truth. Perhaps it is through his mobility that Robert was able to push on, that being stagnant would have been a slow-burning fuse that would have amounted to nothing. This is purely speculation, but a speculation that is recurrent with the fact that every main character in this novel is centered around mobility.

George is another example of literal mobility as a disruptive force, and his decision to go to Australia is the spark that sets off the chain of events throughout the rest of the novel. The disruption here is the obvious strain on George’s marriage, but there is also a figurative disruption of mobility through George actually climbing the social ladder. Here George does something that is rarely done, which is rise to a better financial situation through sheer will. Granted, finding gold is more luck than science, but the decision to move to a then-existing penal colony to find gold is daring to say the least. It was through his physical mobility that George gained social mobility, but lost everything else. Maybe Braddon is suggesting through the story of George that society was set up in a way that you could not gain financial influence without losing emotional support, that the two were mutually exclusive. This could explain why the general attitude towards the rich was less than savory in the Victorian era- because they had moved away from empathy to gain gold.

The mobility of Lady Audley through social classes was described by Braddon (the narrator, specifically) as her “no longer innocent, and the pleasure we take in art and loveliness being an innocent pleasure had passed out of her reach” (309). Lady Audley had strayed away from the things that made people people and focused only on escaping her own sins. In fact, the narrator says that “all the treasures that had been collected for her could have given her no pleasure” (309). Here the mobility of Lady Audley serves as an internal disruptive force that has both internal and external implications. The internal are obviously deceit, lust for power, and influence over lesser classed beings. The external are the created strifes with George, Luke, and Robert to name a few characters that create a power struggle that only leads down a road towards more disruption in everyone’s lives.

The Real Power Robert Possess is Character

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

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

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

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