Author Archives: sema100

Duality and Conservatism

The Victorian Era was a clash between traditional values and progressive thoughts. The purpose of conservatism was to preserve the traditional values. Conservatism influences social behaviors, attitudes, and actions, which means people not only have to consider the hasty changes, but also the expectations of conservative ideals. As a result, there was an increase in internal conflicts and self identification. Some people have to hide behind their conservative facades and others want to separate themselves from either conservatism or society itself. As a result, many individuals begin searching for a solid definition and position of self in the whirl wind of the Victorian era,

“Nothing characterizes Victorian society so much as its quest for self-definition.” (1049 )

Stevenson, from “The strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” portrays the struggle for self identification in the period of inconsistency and capriciousness:

If each, I told myself, could but be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that unbearable; that unjust might go his way, delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin; and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil.(1809)

Stevenson reveals that human beings possess dual natures. By this he means one to be the animalistic side and the other a man’s rational side. Stevenson presents the scenario by having Dr. Jekyll consume a special potion to turn him into Mr. Hyde. The potion rouses a dormant character that is emphasized by a physical mutation. In some ways it parallels the urban and city area after and during industrialization. The city area consists of slums and shanty towns that have to support a large population. Congestion, pollution, sanitation and hygiene are some of the few problems the city life entails. However, Mr. Hyde also represents the morally corrupt aspect of industrialization. For instance, the increase of inequality, child labor, injustice among the poor is in itself an illness that permeates throughout England. The true ugliness lies within these flaws. There is a stark contrast between the urbane, illustrious gentleman and the impulsive animal.Dr. Jekyll is similar to the conservatives. He is a socially acceptable and repressed individual who has a dark side, though he can hide it. Conservatives similarly have to hide behind their sophisticated and fancy attire. However, Hyde is the complete liberated side. He is the boundless individual that gives into all desires. One can say that the fundamental basis of the duality in Dr. Jekyll is his desire to be closer to his “dark” side. He can not behave the way he wants to because he does not want to risk losing his high social status. In the disguise of Mr. Hyde, he can lurk around “dark”, prohibited area where he can fulfill his sinister desires without putting his important reputation at risk. The constant struggle on what to do and what not to do is part of Victorian society and continues to add to society’s fear of insecurity and uncertainty that no one really knows a person based on exterior personas.

This idea of dualism is seen throughout this semester’s reading selections. For example, Charlotte Bronte manages to show female duality through various female characters. Jane just like Dr. Jekyll has been molded and shaped to fit what society deems acceptable or conservative. Most of the novel revolves around an older Jane who wants people to see her as the plain, meek, and wallflower of a girl. Then we have Bertha who is a lot more like Mr. Hyde. She represents insanity, a result of women who have been repressed and limited by the conservative patriarchal society. But are Jane and Bertha really different? Are they two separate individuals? Or Jane like Dr. Jekyll has a repressed Hyde in her? We see the “insane” or “animalistic” side of Jane when she is a child. As a child, Jane shares many similarities with the character of Bertha in relation to dealing with a male dominated society. At first Jane holds in her passion, despite her oppressive environment with the Reeds. However, Jane eventually asserts herself against John in a physical and violent way. Not only did she physically hurt John Reed, but she verbally abuses Mrs. Reeds. I as a reader felt her rage, and saw Mrs. Reed’s fear. This is comparable to Bertha’s violent outbursts and temper toward Mr. Rochester and those in his home. Nevertheless, the differences lie in the fact that Bertha remains violent, while Jane comes of age and begins to conform in order to thrive in a male dominated society. She suppresses her “dark side”, but we as a reader see it in Bertha. Not only is Bertha a symbol of the repressed and “dark” side of Victorian women, but also a reflection of Jane herself.

The reading selections not only demonstrate the internal struggles of a Victorian, but the catalyst to those struggles; because the characters in these reading are a manifestation of the events surrounding the Victorian Period. The Victorian Era represents both spectrum of extremes: one side a sense of hope and optimism and the other a sense of fear and doom. It is said the

“Victoria’s reign were marked by momentous and intimidating social changes, startling inventions, prodigious energies; the rapid succession of events produced wild prosperity and unthinkable poverty, humane reforms and flagrant exploitation, immense ambitions and devastating doubts.” (1049)

In the midst of productivity and urbanization the people also have to witness the unstoppable backlash of the movement. For instance, the drastic increase in crime and the degeneration of the sprawling cities because the infrastructures can not handle the influx of new workers. Furthermore, depredation becomes the fact of life for majority of the working class, and inequality and injustice becomes prevalent and obvious than ever. The idea that progress may also mean the destruction and corruption of many is an uneasy feeling, that anyone at anytime including the wealthy can get lost in the upheaval and have no choice, but to continue living. Those who are in fear then welcome the concept of conservatism. Thus, the notion of dualism and the exterior of an individual not truly representing the interior begins to develop.

Solve the Riddle

When I first started reading the novel it reminded me of a riddle. It’s a simple riddle, but let’s see if you can solve it: Make sure to explain why you chose that specific individual.

The owner of the house was murdered Sunday morning. The investigator suspects the employees who were in the house the day of the murder. He questions each of the employees and asks “what were you doing at the time of the murder?” The Chauffeur replies, “I was cleaning the car”, the Maid replies, “I was vacuuming the rooms”, the Butler answers, “I was getting the mail, and the Chef answers, “I was cutting vegetables”, who murdered the owner of the house?

The riddle is not connected to the actual blog topic, but I thought it would be different. The point of the riddle is not so much about solving it, but paying attention to the details that are usually overlooked. Collin’s novel is also filled with information that is unnecessary, he provides several background information and updates on how each character is reacting to another character, but all these information are just distractions. After figuring out the culprit I was really surprised at how the they stole it. I will not say who, but you will not be shocked to know who it is, but how and why it happened. I thought it would be the trusty butler, yes it is a cliché, but that is why I thought it would be the butler. Now I am rambling and not getting to the main focus of this blog.

From the First Period the most disturbing scene is when we find out that Rosanna commits suicide. The lines in her note, “When you next see the Shivering Sand, try to forgive me once more. I have found my grave where my grave was waiting for me” reminds me of the scene where Mr. Betteredge and Rosanna introduce the Shivering Sand. To Rosanna, the Sands are alive and constantly changing. The way Rosanna describes the Shivering Sands resonates with Edmund Burke’s 1757, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Burke’s conception of the “sublime” evokes an overwhelming sensation of vastness. It elevates our senses of danger, pain, and passion that consumes the mind. Burke believes that beauty can inspire love or admiration, but the sublime inspires awe and astonishment at its mystery and power. Specific lines that reinforce Burkes idea of sublimity is seen when Rosanna exclaims, “isn’t it wonderful? isn’t it terrible?” From Rosanna’s perspective the Shivering Sand is a paradox, it is full of contradiction, but that is why she is completely entranced by it. Burke argues:

The passion caused by the great and sublime in nature, when those causes operate most powerfully is astonishment; and astonishment is that state of the soul, which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror. In this case the mind is so entirely filled with its object, that it cannot entertain any other, nor by consequence reason on that object which employs it. Hence arises the great power of the sublime, that far from being produced by them, it anticipates our reasoning’s, and hurries us on by an irresistible force. (Damrosche and Dettmar, 39)

Emotions that are associated with the sublime imprison the individual. For instance, Rosanna is completely enthralled by the Shivering Sands. Her thoughts, emotions, and ultimate death are ruled by the forces of the sublime.

When you read the lines below, what do you think “it” is?, what is being described?

“Something draws me to it”
“I try to keep away from it, and I can’t.”
“…has laid a spell on me,”
“ I dream of it night after night”

These lines are describing the Shivering Sands, but it can also describe the moonstone and drugs. The moonstone just like the Shivering Sands possesses qualities that cannot stop the characters from being entirely awed and absorbed by it. A beautiful object like the moonstone is surrounded by some sort obscurity and darkness. The prelude hints that Colonel Herncastle could have killed the Brahman priest for the moonstone. There are several characters that go above and beyond to either hide the object or protect it. Either way they moonstone is has a hold on the characters. What about the moonstone is so compelling that the characters are willing to put themselves at risk?

Furthermore, last class we touched upon opium. “I dream of it night after night”, this line resembles Mr. Franklin’s sleepless nights. After he quits smoking for Miss Rachel’s sake he acts like a person suffering from withdrawal. Even Mr. Betteredge, can be seen as an addict. He has a habit of having a cigarette with his Robinson Crusoe to give him a sense of “clarity”. How does drugs and the moonstone present “sublime” qualities? What about these two items are hypnotic?


Corrupt Institution

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre demonstrates how the class system is heavily interwoven with religious hypocrisy and religious ideals.  The concept of innocence and what is considered innocent is also a notion that arises, which is an aspect of religion. The first few chapters of the novel, Jane is accused of being “wicked” and far from a “good” or “innocent” girl. She is constantly berated for her action by Mrs. Reed, her children, and even the servants.  The worst is Mr. Brocklehusrt, the language he uses with Jane who is a ten years old girl, is shockingly crude and unwarranted.  Mr. Brocklehusrt does not take into consideration that she is just a child; instead he deems her in my opinion as the “devil” or “Satan”. I say Satan because Mr. Brocklehurst illustrates a punishment that Satan himself similarly receives when he rebels against God (Well Milton’s version).  For instance, when Mrs. Reed characterizes Jane as having deceitful tendency, Mr. Brocklehusrt claims, “Deceit is, indeed, a sad fault in a child,…it is akin to falsehood, and all liars will have their portion in the lake burning with fire and brimstone.” (42) This description of Hell reminds me of the Hell described in Paradise Lost Book I.  Milton’s description of Hell is worth reading, but I cannot address it now, but what I will include is an excerpt that presents God’s punishment to Satan and those who followed:

Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all; but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulfur unconsumed:
Such place eternal justice had prepared
For those rebellious, here their prison ordained
In utter darkness, and their portion set (65- 72)

It is as though Jane’s action for standing up for herself is in fact an act of crime against her  “benevolent” beneficiary. In Jane Eyre, being physically, emotionally, and mentally abused is nothing compared to going against “the hand that feeds you”. As a result, while she is looking forward to leaving the Reeds, she is in some ways heading off into “darkness”, which is the institution. It is heartbreaking to think; perhaps girls like Jane were treated inhumanly, as if the circumstance they were born into was their fault. It must have been psychologically traumatic for children like Jane to live in a society where religion a part of life that “should” provide solace and acceptance is anything but. This can be seen from William Blake’s Songs of Experience poem called “Holy Thursday”, the following link will be an audio version of the poem:

and “The Chimney Sweeper”:

Blake shows the religious hypocrisy that was inherent in the institutions. Were children, especially orphans during this time treated similarly?  Is being an orphan a stigma that correlates with “evil” or “sin”? Was religion a tool that the upper class utilized in order to maintain order and create a strict distinction between the upper and lower classes?  Did Charlotte Bronte condemn religious institution? How did religious leaders, faith, and institutions affect the female psyche?