By Trudy A. Martinez
The beliefs of Evangelicals and the treatment of women in the Victorian Age echo the teachings of the Old Testament in the Holy Bible. In both belief and treatment, woman is an object preferred for her outer beauty or nurtured or cultivated as a servant for the pleasure or the benefit of man. For instance when a Victorian woman eventually marries to man, she is expected to become an extension of him in all respects: to become, in a sense, “bone of his bone” and “flesh of his flesh”. In principle, woman is envisioned “. . . to be [man’s] second self” (Bronte 281). Consequently, woman is suppressed: she loses her identity; man becomes her master; and her life evolves around a duty: “. . . to honour and obey him . . .” (Butler 87).
The pledge, “to honour and obey”, emerges as a villain and brings forth what appears as Butler’s purpose: exposing the reality of woman’s position in societal beliefs and customs. In The Way of All Flesh, as in the Victorian Age, the belief is woman’s “. . . first obedience to God lay in obedience to [her husband]”. Butler displays this concept through Theobald. For example, if Christiana does not hold true to her promise “. . . to honour and obey [Theobald]. . .” Theobald needs only to “. . . buy Milton’s prose works and read his pamphlet on divorce” and then follow through by getting a divorce (Butler 87-88). Divorce is a means of escape for man if woman is foolish enough to reject the male dominance imposed.
The peril of divorce forces the Victorian woman to comply with the wishes of her spouse for woman has no place within the society of man: she is hopelessly imprisoned; this aspect of woman’s existence is pictorially portrayed by Alfred Tennyson in his poem, Mariana. In the poem, Mariana’s feelings rightfully correspond with wasteland imagery:
“The broken sheds look sad and strange:
Uplifted was the clinking latch;
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange” (396).
Tennyson pictures Mariana dissipating in loneliness while she continually anticipates the return of her lover. Consequently, Mariana is seen as sexually frustrated with no purpose in life other than to wait for him. Her statement,
“. . . ‘my life is dreary,
He cometh not,’ . . .
. . . ‘I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!’’(396),
alludes to her being alone and isolated in a dream-like state with no hope of being free from the prison-like atmosphere that is created (396). Mariana, herself, sees no escape from her loneliness; this is evidenced through the parallel action of her rejection of life at both the beginning and end of the poem. Only Mariana’s final weeping, “. . . ‘I am aweary, aweary’” and her plea, “. . . Oh God, that I were dead.’”, displays a perception of an unyielding hope (398).
An unyielding hope is all Tennyson’s characterization of Mariana shares with the characterization of Jane in Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre. Instead of just an unyielding hope of escape through death, Bronte offers a suggestive alternative that leans toward equality of the sexes; it is driven by the love and the passion of Jane and Rochester. Even though the story interestingly compels ideals similar to Tennyson’s, it goes beyond Tennyson’s scope by introducing a doctrine which very nearly represents the New Testament book, I Corinthians 6 verse 3. In this view, “. . . the husband [is to] render unto the wife due benevolence; and likewise also the wife unto the husband.” This verse stings with equality. And consequently, so does Jane Eyre when she says to Rochester: “it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both . . . [of us] . . . stood at God’s feet, equal as we are!”(281).
Equality is an issue that gains importance with Jane. It is the requisite that stimulates benevolence. Rochester accepts Jane’s desire for congruity because she stands firm in her ideals. She says, “. . . no net ensnares me: I am free . . . with an independent will . . . “(Bronte 282). But the same is not true for other women nor is equality accepted within society.
Bertha (a symbol of a married Victorian woman) reveals the degree of damage a lack of equality places upon women and even the need for love and happiness. Justifiably and symbolically Bertha rips her bridal veil in half. The ripping of the veil is not done out of jealousy. Instead, the ripping of the veil is a means of exposing the servitude, defilement, and deterioration of woman. As a hideous creation, Bertha, “. . . turned to the mirror . . .” a “reflection” of mood and feeling gives emphasis to the vampire-like quality of the Victorian marriage practice and the degradation of woman as a whole. The ripping of the “. . . princely [extravagant] . . .” bridal veil suggests a need for the separation of materialism from the marriage (Bronte 308). Hence, this seems justifiably reasonable, for after all, “. . . it was only the [extravagant] veil that was harmed” (Bronte 312).
For what other reason do Bertha’s violent actions leave Jane and her simple handmade veil untouched? The answer appears to be because Jane and her simple veil represent woman’s independent choice and the need for a necessary change in marriage creeds. Therefore, Bertha’s action of renting her own veil merely symbolizes and paves the way for the introduction of such a new marriage creed that will lift the veil of servitude from woman.
The lifting of the veil of servitude not only encompasses an equal and deep inspiring love and passion between both man and woman but also engages both man and woman’s attention towards a love for God. Conceivably then, Bertha may be seen as giving her life for a new creed for all women. Bronte provides an illusion that justifies this impression when she describes the room Mr. Mason occupies as he lay injured: “. . . the shadows darken . . . [then], under the hangings of the vast old [marriage] bed . . . rose an ebon crucifix and a dying Christ” (Bronte 237). The black crucifix exemplifies the suffering that evolves through a loveless marriage. Sequentially, death is its unison.
The marriage between Bertha and Rochester is an arrangement provided for by family. Hence, Bertha’s violent and seemingly revengeful attack upon Mr. Mason, her brother, gives reason whereby understanding is gained. Bertha like Mariana is hopelessly imprisoned (restrained even), wishing for death. How else is she to react to her grueling circumstance? Two such souls as Bertha and Rochester can never hope to achieve equality in marriage or share a sense of love and passion. They do not join in marriage as described in I Corinthians 6:3. Instead, their marriage is orchestrated by others for the sake of “the root of all evil”, money.
Money and the prestige that comes along with it are the forces Dickens perceives to have driven man down a path of unhappiness and guilt. Dickens presents Pip as a stereotypical male of society who is being torn between choice and class separation rules.
Conversely, woman is not typically given a choice. Most women are forced to accept their lot in life. Certainly, no one can blame Blanche Ingram for attempting to improve her rank in life by seeking to marry Rochester. It is true, money and material gain is important to her. All the same, she knows no better. In other words, she is the product of a male dominated society. Consequently, she does what is expected of her.
However, Dickens clearly demonstrates the male in the Victorian society has a choice. For instance, Pip knows what his choices are: either he can choose to pursue a woman with inner beauty like Biddy from the lower class level or one whose beauty is only skin deep like Estella from the upper class level. Accordingly, once Pip knows he has great expectations, his choice to pursue Estella for her material outer beauty and schooled charm predominates. In the eye of Dickens, the lower class woman is more loving and deserving whereas, the upper class woman is revengeful and even insensitive. Class separation places emphasis on the contrasts between Biddy and Estella. Estella acknowledges Pip’s change of heart and his choice when she says, “Since your change of fortune and prospects, you have changed your companions’ . . . ‘And necessarily,’ . . . ‘what was fit company for you once, would be quiet unfit for you now’”(Dickens 258). Still, Pip knew he has made an error in judgment because his personal guilt grows out of proportion, but he is unable to resist temptation. Consequently, Pip’s guilt continually reflects back to him when he thinks of home.
Yet, Estella feels no guilt or remorse: she is trained to be revengeful; she does not view her actions as such nor does she remember the cruel manner in which she treats Pip. When Pip questions her, Estella says, “I don’t remember”.
Pip reveals his astonishment when he replies, “Not remember that you made me cry?” Estella’s insensitivity “. . . made (Pip) cry again inwardly – and (Pip acknowledged to himself) that [this was] the sharpest crying of all” (Dickens 258-259).
Biddy’s tear, however, reflects an inward sorrow for Pip. Of course Pip has to admit, “If [he] could have settled down . . . [Biddy] and [he] and Joe would have wanted nothing . . . “(Dickens 155). Consequently, as Dickens emphasizes through Pip’s expectations, class separation is what separates man from the culmination of a love and happiness.
Bronte rejects the idea of separation of class as a reason where love is concerned. Therefore, in her novel, Jane comes to love Mr. Rochester and he likewise grows to love her. She is plain in looks and dress, like Biddy, so it is evident that her outer beauty is not what attracts Rochester to her. Naturally, each stands their own grounds at first. Then slowly they relinquish unto the other a benevolence that grows into passion and “. . . called [for] a paradise of union . . . “(Bronte 284). Hence, the Victorian Society perceives the story of Jane Eyre as shocking. Man and woman alike object to the passionate elements the novel presents. The outward show of passion (by woman) suggests a change in society, encompassing the lives of both man and woman. Was the male dominating Victorian society unnerved and checked by an arousing fear? Or was society’s reaction to the novel and outward manifestation of guilt?
A manifestation of guilt is not reflected in The Way of All Flesh. Instead of a manifestation of guilt, Butler clearly exposes and defines woman’s duty. Christina feels a sense of duty to her father. Therefore, once Theobald is brought to the rectory to help her ailing father, she and her four sisters “. . . played at cards for him’” as their father suggests in order to determine to whom will be given the opportunity to win him for their husband, as if he is a prize (Butler 73). Here Butler accentuates the gamble that is involved in the marriage practice. The sisters that present a threat to the winner of the card game are quickly removed from the household. Competition for love’s sake is not allowed. There is no love or passion, only a duty. Hence, immediately after their marriage, Theobald pursues male dominance. Christina relinquished, begging forgiveness for defiance. Christina’s duty to her father merely transfers to her husband as if her duty is a legacy of worth. Therefore when Theobald “. . . kissed away her tears, and assured her that he knew she would be a good wife to him”. Christina “exclaimed . . . [out of necessity] ‘you are an angel.’ Theobald believed her” (Butler 89). Consequently from then on, a representation of false idealization is provided gratuitously for him by his wife and he expects her gratitude for his tolerance of her.
Jane, on the other hand, sees herself molding Rochester into a false idol. She admits to herself that she “. . . could not . . . see God for His creature: of whom [she] had made an idol” (Bronte 302). When knowledge of Rochester’s sin comes forth on the day they are to be wed, both are brought to crossroads. Both are made to bear the burden of their individual sins. Both are forced to separate just as the chestnut-tree symbolizes when it split down the center equally. But yet, their hearts linger and yearn to reunite. Even though Jane is not blameless in her own eyes, she is always searching for an answer. She is aware of the necessity of punishment and repentance. Inwardly, she is content. Nevertheless, Jane feels “degraded” as she “. . . [sunk] . . . on the scale of social existence”, she does not “. . . hate of despise herself . . . for these feelings’. Instead, she strives “to overcome them” (Bronte 385). She asks God to direct her (Bronte 386). She believes both her and Rochester “. . . were [equally] born to strive and endure . . . “(Bronte 343).
In contrast, endurance to St. John Rivers, an Evangelical, means self-denial. Equality is out of the question. Even with all his “Zealous . . . labors, blameless . . . life and habits, he . . . did not appear to enjoy . . . mental serenity . . . [or a] inward content” (Bronte 378). His life is like his sermons: “. . . compressed, condensed, controlled” (Bronte 378). He does not allow his own heart to be equally drawn toward love or passion. For instance, when Rosamond is near, he denies himself love by showing indifference to the pain he feels but the truth of his feelings can be seen:
“. . . his hands would tremble and his eye burn. He seemed to say, with his sad and resolute look . . . ‘I love you, and I know you prefer me . . . [but] my heart is already laid on . . . the fire . . . it will soon be . . . a sacrifice consumed’” (Bronte 393-394).
Consequently, a veil is placed over his heart and over his life. The veil prevents him from seeing or reaping heavenly rewards. Therefore, instead of pursuing Rosamond for his wife, he seeks Jane, whom he does not love. St. John’s proposal leaves much to be desired:
“God and nature intended you for a missionary’s wife. It is not personal, but mental endowments . . . you are formed for labor, not for love. A missionary’s wife you must – shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you – not for pleasure, but for my Sovereign’s service’ (Bronte 423).
The differences between St. John and Jane are monumental. St. John treats earthly love as a sin of the flesh. Hence, he fears love and therefore, equality. His earthly sufferings are not derived from the punishment of sin. Instead, his torment ensues through the denial of love and equality. St. John thinks it is his duty to sacrifice (Bronte 443). As a result, he labors hard and long but never reaps earthly rewards. The veil of servitude he places over himself to hinder sin bars him from love. Like Mariana his spirit is in a prison-like environment; he is alone and withdrawn from sexuality; but in contrast to Tennyson’s Mariana, his prison is of his own making.
Jane, on the other hand, is a free spirit: she asks for equality and it is granted her; she seeks love and finds Rochester. She is unyielding to the temptation to marry for a reason other than love; and she cannot settle for servitude to man because her servitude is to God. Therefore, Jane earns equality and benevolence “because [she is her] husband’s life as fully as he [is her life]” (Bronte 475). Consequently and in my opinion, Bronte’s representation of woman in the Victorian Age is more relevant than that of Butler, who merely exposes the reality of woman’s position, or Tennyson who merely pictures woman wasting away in a prison-like atmosphere, or Dickens who blames class separation for man’s guilt when he errs in judgment. Bronte, however, not only presents realities but also alternatives; she contrasts the male who is wasting away with the female; and she also treats both male and female equally regardless of their class separation. Therefore, Bronte sees and anticipates society’s position from a male’s point of view as if she is playing a game of chess. As a result, in the end she seems to say, “Checkmate”.
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Penguin Classics. Q. D. Leavis Ed. Penguin Books: New York. 1985.
Butler, Samuel. The Way of All Flesh. Penguin Classics. Edited by James Cochrane with an Introduction by Richard Hoggart. Penguin Books: New York. 1986.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Penguin Classics. Angus Calder Ed. Penguin Books: New York. 1985.
Tennyson, Alfred, Lord. “Mariana”. The Oxford Anthology of English Literature: Victorian Prose and Poetry. Edited by Lionel Trilling of Columbia University and Harold Bloom of Yale University. Oxford University Press: New York. 1973. 396-398.
by Trudy A. Martinez
originally posted: February 17,2011 Edited to include the Perfect Ending December 16, 2015
The imagery in Bleak House reveals a revelation of possibilities that petitions both a pessimistic and an optimistic existence. The beginning is the end. The end is the beginning of judgment. The words paint a picture, a warning of a possible end, giving a pessimistic view of that city coming into judgment. The four elements: earth, water, fire, and air that frame the beginning of the earth in the Holy Bible also frame the desolate beginning of Bleak House with its possible end. The middle links the beginning and the end through the characters representative of both good and evil who guide the societal participants at all levels of existence to their destination in life or death. In the end, the ending is a new beginning, mending a separation between man and woman, joining them in both love and marriage; this scene paints an optimistic view of a promise land free from destructive imagery.
Dickens inaugurates his imagery by using a verb style hypotaxis where the ranking is done for us while the all-knowing narrator informs the reader of any judgment lest we be guilty of judging. His play on words in the hypotaxis style creates an image of the beginning of the end with all of the four elements at work. For instance, the weather issues forth the mud, symbolizing corruption, where the “foot passengers . . . slipping and sliding” in and out of their faith add “new deposits” of “crust” to the earth. The retirement of the water (a symbol of the pure at heart ascending to Heaven) is seen “hanging in the misty clouds” protected from the fog that weaves in and out, spreading corruption everywhere at all levels of society and to all its classes, while at the same time, destroying the natural elements. The pure at heart are protected from the destruction and blindness created because they are housed within the structure of a prepositional phrase “as if they were up in a balloon.” Hovering above and “Peeping” down upon a pestilence in progress (Dickens 49). The fire issues forth its aftermath: the “smoke making a soft black drizzle with flakes of “soot” raining on and “mourning . . . for the death of the sun” (Dickens 49). The air, suffering from the effects of the death of the sun, produces a “haggard and unwilling look,” forming a gaseous appearance that looms “through the fog in divers places (Dickens 49)” toward those who are deserving of God’s judgment.
Period writers arm themselves with His judgment, prophesying the coming of the bridegroom who, ridding the earth of the “Megalosarus,” a dragon simulating the devil, brings about the death of the elements. Why else would “the two speechless gazers” after “justice was done” bend “themselves down to the earth, as if in prayer” in Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles? Were they not made aware of His presence? Was it just a coincidence that Adam’s occupation was a carpenter capable of winning over the priestess Dinah presented as if she was pure and innocence in Adam Bede or was it merely that the author, George Eliot’s vision blurred? I think not! After all, the all-knowing narrator allows her to confess in the novel, hinting of her defect and her judgment before God:
“The mirror is doubtless defective: the outlines will sometimes be disturbed, the reflection faint or confused; but I feel as much bound to tell you as precisely as I can what that refection is, as if I were in the witness-box, narrating my experience on oath (174).”
Others in the same period present and depict London in a similar light, exposing situations deserving of God’s judgment, while at the same time, teaching the eye to hear as if fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah (Matthew 13:13-17) while focusing on the position of woman in society. For example, Blake’s central concern was the Infants cry, pointing to the sin of man as the reason for the Harlot’s curse we hear while he hears the Harlots (plural) curse (swear) because of the tear (separation) of the Infants tear from their rightful place. Blake teaches his reader to hear with their eyes through the transparent chiasmas he creates. Similarly, one must question whether the Harlot’s curse put upon Lady Deadlock in Bleak House is actually man’s curse for allowing and bringing about her separation from her child, Esther.
Mrs. Rouncewell announces that the sound of the Ghost’s Walk must be heard when she tells a child, “I am not sure it is dark enough yet, but listen! Can you hear the sound upon the terrace, through the music, and the beat, and everything? This sound she says, “You cannot shut it out” (Dickens 141). And then again one might ask how was the blind man in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary able to see Emma’s sin and rebuke her for it when he could only hear? Could it be he is a messenger sending forth a rebuke to all of us so that we will become aware of the writing on the wall and hear with our eyes the same beat and music being played for us by God Almighty from the break of His day? Although each instance centers in on a different aspect of woman’s existence, all communicate a need for change.
Bleak House calls to mind the sin of Eve and the need for the removal of false images before the sight of God. For instance, Esther’s aunt, her godmother, assumes the role of a god, issuing forth judgment when she says, “Your mother, Esther, is your disgrace, and you were hers” (Dickens 65). Further evidence of her role as a god is given through her paralleling herself to Christ: “I have forgiven her,” she said, “I, the sufferer” (Dickens 65). But only God in Heaven can truly forgive and Christ already paid with his life by suffering for our sins. Why then is Esther’s aunt taking on such a role? Why is Esther made to suffer at the hands of another and a woman at that?
In essence, Esther asks these questions herself when she reads the book of St. John to her aunt and exclaims, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her! (Dickens 66)” At this point, an abrupt switch from the verb style Esther reads from the Holy Bible to the noun style hypotaxis where the aunt’s role is cast within a different structure. Esther is “stopped by her godmother’s rising, putting her hand to her head, and crying out in an awful voice, from quite another part of the book . . . “ (Dickens 67). Here again, there is an abrupt change; this time to a verb style as she attempts to assume a different role, deceiving the child and freeing herself from her confinement. Unfortunately, the role she attempts to assume is that of a false god, using God’s words as her own, warning Esther of destruction: ‘ “Watch ye therefore! Lest . . . he find you sleeping” ‘(Dickens 67), and forgetting that God is an angry God and a jealous God; the aunt makes the mistake of overly extending her influence, and she unthinkingly spouts out: “And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch!” Consequently, God struck her down. He Judged her instantly.
At once, the verb style returns to a noun style when the aunt is spoken of by the naïve narrative of Esther, but the noun style works against its subject: Esther’s emotional plea to her aunt, the anaphora: I + kissed, [I] + thanked, and [I] + prayed, [I] + asked, [I] + [asked], [I] + entreated, failed because the aunt had over stepped her bounds by assuming the character of the antichrist and was, therefore, instantly judged.
Esther avoids an immediate judgment because she is still a child, investigating the choices available to her with the words of her aunt still ringing in her ears: “Pray daily that the sins of others be not visited upon your head, according to what is written” (Dickens 65). From this point, the novel becomes Esther’s bildungsroman as she moves from an unfavorable light toward a more favorable one. Just as Esther moves, the written word moves. For instance, noun style changes to a verb style, the hypotaxis style, where everything is determined for us, changes to a parataxis style where the choice is left up to us; and we are made able to link good to the bad as if administering a pill to cure its ills.
The change in Esther, just as the change in the written style of the words on the page, becomes apparent in Esther when she administers a pill to herself. Here, she stresses self-denial and a willingness to seek and discover the answers. The absence of prepositional phrases, the jailed structure that inhibits choice, highlights the change in the structure just as it highlights the change in Esther and favors her for her choice of thinking of others first:
“I don’t know how it is; I seem to be always writing about myself. I mean all the time to write about other people, and I try to think about myself as little as possible, and I am sure, when I find myself coming into the story again, I am really vexed and say, ‘Dear, dear, you tiresome little creature. I wish you wouldn’t!’ But it is all of no use (Dickens 163).”
It is of no use not speaking of Esther because speaking of Esther is the only way to reveal the methods and the formula for change and its reward or damnation. The others around her paint the picture of how things are going to be. For example, Mr. Skimpole is seen receiving his reward for his faith. The table was set for him: “There was honey on the table, and it led him into the discourses about the Bees. . . He protested against the overwhelming assumptions of bees.” The status the “busy bees” sold their souls for was given him by them. He stood firm and did not allow them to be a model. The station of the bees “was ridiculous:” a “position, to be smoked out of your fortune with brimstone” (Dickens 143).
Mr. Jarndyce guides Esther from the fire and smoke to discovery of the unknown and to her pleasure as if throwing water on her, baptizing her, and awakening her from a sleep. Esther tells us that the signs were “At first,” only “faintly discernible in the mists,” and acknowledges that “above them . . . later stars still glimmered” (Dickens 142). Is it just a coincidence that Esther is sent for and brought out of the mist “On the” very “day, after” her false image, the “poor good god mother, “the antichrist, “was buried,” and “the gentlemen in black with the white neckcloth reappeared,” announcing: “My name is Kenge . . . you may remember it, my child; Kenge and Carboy, Lincoln’s Inn?”(Dickens 67).
Does he not call to mind one holding the balances in his hand? He sure appears so on the page for Kenge first appears in the noun style and then abruptly switches to the verb style when he speaks. It stands to reason that just after Jarndyce announces “that Boythorn,” who was “the loudest boy in the world, and now the loudest man”, was coming down on a visit that he and his guests “observed the favorable omen” (Dickens 166). The opposite occurs on page 66 when the one that was, the god-MOTHER OF HARLOTS is struck down after trying to steal the thunder of the words of THE KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
We are told by Boythorn, “We have been misdirected” by “the most intolerable scoundrel on the face of the earth” (Dickens 166). Mr. Boythorn asks, “Is there anything for me from your men, Kenge and Carboy?” after he identifies Sir Leicester as Sir Lucifer and “calls attention to” the controversy of trespass., concerning “the green pathway” that Sir Leicester claims right away to but that is “now the property of Mr. Lawrence Boythorn”(Dickens 166-170). Did not he state: “No closing of my path, by any Deadlock!”
In contrast, Richard, thinking only of himself, “one of the most restless creatures in the world” takes a different route: He goes from what is considered a favorable light to an unfavorable one. Richard stresses self-love and a willingness to accept a different calling: “. . . The inclination of his childhood for the sea” (Dickens 163-164). Unlike Esther, Richard’s speech moves from a verb style to noun style. For example, Richard says: “So, cousin . . . We are never to get out of Chancery!” And the style abruptly changes to a noun style as he continues to say: “We have come by another way to our place of meeting yesterday, and – by the Great Seal, here’s the old lady again!”(Dickens 97) His choice was that of the easy way out as if he could change the direction the wind blows.
Finding that he has to work for his place, he places his confidence in the world whose outward appearance of luxury and fashion veils the inward corruption. The same becomes his religion and the High Lord Chancellor becomes his idol. This is evidenced when he confides in Esther:
“So I apprehend it’s pretty clear . . . that I shall have to work my own way. Never mind! Plenty of people have had to do that before now, and have done it. I only wish I had the command of a clipping privateer, to begin with, and could carry off the Chancellor and keep him on short allowance until he gave judgment in our cause. He’d find himself growing thin, if he didn’t look sharp! (Dickens 164)”
Hence, Richard becomes the kindling that fuels the wheels of corruption, thinking his dream of success lies just around the next turn as the wheels forever grind him further down toward his desolate destination of destruction and death. For example, his guide toward destruction, Mr. Vholes issues forth all manners of lies, eating upon Richard’s very flesh as if he were a cannibal (Dickens 605). And then again, he listened to the wrong voices when Mr. Vholes says, “A good deal is doing, sir. We have to put our shoulders to the wheel, Mr. Carstone, and the wheel is going round” (Dickens 607):
“I ought to imitate you, in fact, Mr. Vholes? Says Richard, sitting down again with an impatient laugh, and beating the Devil’s Tattoo with his boot on the patternless carpet” (Dickens 607).
In the beginning of the end, all the pestilence that was weaving through the streets in the fog was directed toward “the Lord High Chancellor” who having:
“A foggy glory round his head, softly fenced in with crimson cloth and curtains . . . outwardly directing his contemplation to the lantern in the roof, where he can see nothing but fog” (Dickens 50),
Let his house become desolate and unworthy of praise.
Quite the opposite of the Chancellor, Mr. John Jarndyce who converts his inheritance of a Bleak House left to him by his ancestors to a house of beauty by ridding the inside of its corruption of dirt with the application of a little water as if sent from God to bear witness of Truth.
Jarndyce compares the likeness of the former state of Bleak House to that city, burning in brimstone and the House built to fulfill the bridegroom’s coming, a promise, to the bride (earth). For what other reason would everyone at Bleak House view Mr. Boythorn’s coming as “the favorable omen,” confirming Jarndyce’s role as the Baptist when he says, “Now, will you come upstairs” and Boythorn answers:
“By my soul, Jarndyce, . . . if you had been married, I would have turned back at the garden-gate . . .I wouldn’t be guilty of the audacious insolence of keeping a lady [bride] of the house waiting all this time, for any earthly consideration. I would infinitely rather destroy myself – infinitely rather! (Dickens 166-168).”
The end is left for the reader to decide whether it is a new beginning or an actual judgment of earth. Jarndyce sums it up:
“I have never lost my old names, nor has he lost his; nor do I ever when he is with us, sit in any other place than in my old chair at his side. Dame Trot, Dame Durden, Little Woman! – all just the same as ever; and [Esther] answer[s], Yes, dear Guardian! Just the same . . . (Dickens 934).”
The hypotaxis style changes to a parataxis verb style on page 892, leaving the reader to interpret and to link back the participants in the society.
In Bleak House, Esther is the pill capable of curing society of its ills. Her marriage to Woodcourt is the perfect coming together: Woodcourt administers aid to the poor as a doctor. He is powerful with the capability of tolerating the poor without complaining about their disagreeable condition or any contagion they might spread.
For instance, to Joe, the doctor shows compassion; and he is gentle and patient and caring, recognizing what all the Mrs. Jellabys’ of society are too blind to ascertain: that charity begins at home, that the poor at home need the attention of the populace more than those abroad who are encroach upon with only a hope of the blind leading the blind.
Esther’s own blindness in her earlier illness reveals a sort of prophecy: “and the blind shall be made to see.” Esther is made to see. The scars on her face cannot hide the beauty within. She knows it is her duty to help others. Dickens makes it her duty to open the eyes of the public to a different attitude. Her presence exposes the ills of society.
For example, her mother marries for position, leaving love to the way side, causing her separation from her lover and from her illegitimate child, Esther. Jarndyce can be seen as a disciple, holding Ester’s hand and guiding her through society while she exposes the ills and then relinquishing her promise hand when the opportunity arises to unite her housekeeping cures with the doctor able to administer the cures necessary for the poor.
Woodcourt, her husband, remarks to her, when she looks in the mirror, that her beauty within is shining through. Esther, herself, recognizes it is not only her husband that administers an antidote to society. This reflects and emphasizes her narrative comment through the use of the uppercase “M” to express Me when she reflects the reaction of the community to her as Mrs. Woodcourt.
Esther holds the key to the housekeeping chores of society; Mr. Jarndyce gives her the key. Hence, it is only proper that with her marriage to Woodcourt, she shall come to be the housekeeper of the new Bleak House, capable of curing the ills of society.
Farewell to Arms: Hemingway’s “Puzzling Passage”,
An Analysis by Trudy Martinez
When most males enter military service, they are boys on a quest for manhood. The same holds true for Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms. John Beversluis, however, declares, “He is a man . . . at the outset of the novel” (19). Not all critics agree that Frederic “is a man” or that he even wants to reach manhood. For instance, Judith Fetterley, a feminist, insists “Frederic Henry’s true aim . . . is to . . . [evade] . . . growing up . . . “(47). She contends that Frederic is so set on “remaining forever a boy” that he strives toward “eliminating the agent that threatens to force adulthood upon [him]” (47). In her estimation, that “agent” is none other than Catherine, Frederick’s beloved. The intent of this paper is to explore Frederic Henry’s position in relation to others within the social order of the novel. In doing so, his status of man or boy will be established and his vindictive or childish character uncovered. Both Beversluis and Fetterley support a portion of the narrative, contributing a retrospective clue. Beversluis calls the narrative “the puzzling passage”. The passage hints of Frederic’s shortcoming, disclosing his inner most thoughts, and a lesson he must learn:
“ . . . We were still friends, with many tastes alike, but with the differences between us. [The priest] had always known what I did not know and what, when I learned it, I was always able to forget. But I did not know that then, although I learned it later (14).”
John Beversluis asserts what Frederic, the man, learns is “that spending his leave in the city instead of at the Abruzzi was symptomatic of his whole way of life” because “he continually failed to do what he really wanted to do” (24). Fetterley alleges, on the other hand, what the priest “knows” that Frederic “doesn’t know” is “that sex is a dangerous and wasteful commodity and the best world is one of men without women”(52). I contend Frederic is a child on a pilgrimage toward manhood. Along the way, he learns the main difference between himself and the priest is that the “certain knowledge” the priest has: the words of truth build lasting relationships. Frederic tries to explain how wanting to do something makes it “almost all right” (13). Frederic wants to tell the truth but he also wants excitement, this is evident when he tells himself:
“There was more to it than that. Yes, father. That is true, father. Perhaps, father. No, father. Well, maybe yes, father. You know more about it than I do, father. The priest was good but dull. The officers were not good but dull. The King was good but dull. The wine was bad but not dull. It took the enamel off your teeth and left it on the roof of your mouth (38 – 39).”
The wine serves as a symbol, paralleling the lies Frederic tells Catherine. Frederic considers the wine not dull. He considers it invigorating and continues drinking, even though the wine works like a fire in his mouth, burning away the enamel. Frederic wants to be invigorated. His lies, burning like a wild-fire, bring about a similar furor in his relationship with Catherine. However, their relationship lacks truth and Frederic is left defiled. When Frederic learns not to defile himself by lying, “he was always able to forget” and continues to lie when it suits his purpose or gains him the acceptance he needs and the excitement he wants. As a result, he is made to suffer and sacrifice his beloved even though he willingly puts away his childish ways to become a man.
Beversluis supplies no evidence of Frederic, the man, failing to do “what he really wanted to do” other than his not going to Abruzzi. Then again, how could he? Frederic never “failed to do what he really wanted to do.” He “tried to explain” and the priest “understood” what Frederic offers are mere excuses that are anticipative of what he feels the priest wants to hear. He maneuvers most people like pieces on a chessboard. In other words, his strategy is similar to the strategy used in war. To Frederic, a friend is someone who accepts him unconditionally while surrendering to his stratagem. In most cases, he gets angry like a spoiled child when he doesn’t succeed by reaping an unconditional surrender.
For instance, Miss Barkley slaps him because he ignores her refusals; he admits, “I was angry and yet certain seeing it all ahead like the moves in a chess game” (26). His maneuvers are planned and calculated, while at the same time, predictive of his opponent’s strategy. When Miss Barkley expresses concern she may have hurt him, he lies and says, “I don’t mind at all.” He uses his speculative power to gain her pity by apologizing. When she accepts his apology and replies, “You are sweet,” he tells the truth: “No I’m not.” As a result, of practicing the old adage: “When all else fails tell the truth,” he advances, gains consent, and ultimately seizes his objective: He positions his “arm around her as [he] had before and kissed her.” Once he considers he has won and gets to do what “he really wants to do,” he regards her as his friend (26 -27).
As Friends, Frederic and Catherine share passion in the form of romantic love. Their passion for each other is what Fetterley suggests the priest “knows” to be “a dangerous and wasteful commodity.” She ascertains “the best world is one of man without women” by way of the priest’s “asexuality.” The assumption here is because the priest refrains from sexual passion and remains asexual he is able to love and the only way Frederic can attain such a love is to live in a world without women. Fetterley attempts to justify her assertion by stating, “The priest has access to a certain knowledge and stature that the men who remain sexual do not have and secretly admire.” She assumes because the men in the mess constantly bait their priest “they are expressing’ not only “their sense of his difference and their uneasiness in face of it (51-52)” but also Frederic’s sense of the priest’s difference. Consequently, she transfers the men’s sense of the priest’s difference on to Frederic even though he is not guilty of baiting the priest.
Although Fetterley is correct when she says, “The priest alone is able to carry out the full implication . . . ,” she errs when she implies this is justification to assume it is because of the priest’s cultural “attitude toward sex” (52). Evidence in the text suggests the priest’s “attitude toward sex” is not a determinant of the difference between the priest and Frederic. Thus, to view it as such is perverse. For example: when the priest visits Frederic in the hospital, the topic of their conversation centers on some of their differences: The priest loves God whereas, Frederic fears God “in the night sometimes.” In addition, they are opposites in personal experience: the priest knows the meaning of love even though he has not experienced passion; in contrast, Frederic knows passion but has not experienced love (72). The priest considers the nights Frederic speaks of as “passion and lust.” He tells Frederic, “When you love, you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve” (72).
In this respect, the priest not only “wished to serve” he did serve: as a model for Frederic. The priest’s acceptance of the kidding from the men in the mess makes it less difficult for Frederic not to let the men prevail upon his beliefs. The priest’s main concern is to safeguard Frederic from deterioration because the men’s words are like poison to his soul. Consider the conversation that takes place in the mess:
“ . . . The major said . . . “I am an atheist.”
“Did you ever read the ‘Black Pig’? Asks the lieutenant. “I will get you a copy. It was that which shook my faith.”
“It is a filthy and vile book,” said the priest. “You do not really like it.”
“It is very valuable,” said the lieutenant. “It tells you about those priests . . . “he said to [Frederic]. [Frederic] smiled at the priest and he smiled back . . .
“Don’t you read it,” he said.
“I will get it for you,” said the lieutenant.
“All thinking men are atheists,” the major said . . . (7 – 8).
Not until the men begin divulging to Frederic where he should go on his leave, did the priest mention: “I would like you to see Abruzzi . . . “(8). Hence, the priest shows more interest in segregating the boy from the men who are without faith and who are striving to convert him to atheism.
Two characters, the priest and Rinaldi, vie to show Frederic distinct paths in life. The priest may be seen as simulating a Christ figure who is constantly being tempted through the harassments of Rinaldi to stray from the path of righteousness. Rinaldi the main instigator of the priest’s harassment, on the other hand, mimics Satan by inviting the priest to go against his morals.
Rinaldi admits he is “the snake of reason” in a conversation with Frederic (170). He says, “. . . I can say this about your mother . . . that about your sister. . . All my life I encounter sacred subjects” (169 – 170). The allusion drawn here is of the Garden of Eden. Instead of “the snake” tempting Eve (Catherine), “the snake” is tempting Adam (Frederic). Frederic is not too cooperative; he tells Rinaldi, “You are better when you don’t think so deeply,” causing Rinaldi to reflect: “You puncture me. . . But I know many things I can’t say” (170). Rinaldi is wounded by Frederic’s over protectiveness of his love for Catherine, his “sacred subject.” Rinaldi reveals he cannot maintain a friendship with a married couple “if they love each other,” suggesting he is incapable of love (170).
Later when Rinaldi tempts the priest, he shows he is unable to maintain a friendship with anyone capable of love. In addition, he builds on the “many things [he] can’t say” by drawing attention to St. Paul:
“Drink some wine, priest,” Rinaldi said. “Take a little wine for your stomach’s sake. That’s Saint Paul, you know.”
“Yes I know,” said the priest politely. Rinaldi filled his glass.
“That Saint Paul,” said Rinaldi. “He’s the one who makes all the trouble.” The priest looks at [Frederic] and smiles. [Frederic] can see the baiting did not touch him now.
“That Saint Paul,” said Rinaldi. “He was a rounder and a chaser and then when he was no longer hot, he said it was no good. When he was finished he made the rules for us who are still hot. Isn’t it true Federico?”
The major smiles. . .
“I never discuss a Saint after dark,” [Frederic] said. The priest looks up from [his dinner] and smiles at him (173).
Consequently, the treatment of the subject of wine communicates through Rinaldi that the books of Corinthians, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle, establishes “the rules” for those who are “hot”. Frederic is “hot”.
Beversluis claims “Our first acquaintance with him discloses that he is a man. . . “(19). However, I Corinthians 13: 11 maintains if you speak, understand, and think like a child, you are a child–to become a man you must put away childish things. Frederic thinks, understands, and speaks, and even reacts like a child.
As a child, Frederic thinks he must lie to be accepted. For example, Rinaldi said, “Miss Barkley prefers you to me. That is clear. But the little Scotch one is very nice.” When Frederic answers in the affirmative: “Very,” the narrative uncovers the actual truth by way of his confession: “I had not noticed her” (21).
Not only does Frederic not notice things around him he also doesn’t understand. He confesses, “I did not understand the word” after his friend tells him: “You have that pleasant air of a dog in heat.” Then when Rinaldi calls him a “little puppy,” he reacts like a child: “I knocked over his candle with the pillow and got into bed in the dark” (27).
And then again, Frederic speaks like a child when Rinaldi teases him about Catherine. He tells Rinaldi to “Please shut up, if you want to be my friend” (169). In other words, he considers his friendship conditional: If he doesn’t get his way, he finds it necessary to resort to emotional blackmail. Rinaldi, however, doesn’t accept these childish maneuvers. This can be seen by his unconditional response: “I don’t want to be your friend . . . I am your friend” (169). Through Frederic’s behavior, his status of a child is confirmed. The character of Rinaldi clearly provides a contrastive view of the variation between the behavior a man and a boy.
But whether Rinaldi, the man, serves as the best mentor for Frederic, the boy is another matter. By his own admission, Rinaldi alludes to an impossibility of becoming better: “We are born with all we have and we never learn . . . “(171). Beversluis would agree “we need to be clear about the sort of person [Frederic] is . . . “(19). To determine what short of a person Frederic is may be accomplished through I Corinthians 03:13: Every man’s work shall be made manifest: the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work for what it is. The day that declares Frederic’s work is Catherine’s day of delivery and death. On that day, Frederic reminisces about the ants on the log:
“ I remember thinking . . . It was the end of the world and a splendid chance to be a messiah and lift the log off the fire and throw it out where the ants could get off onto the ground. But I did not do anything but throw a tin cup of water on the log, so that I would have the cup empty to put whiskey in before I added water to it. I think the cup of water on the burning log only steamed the ants (328).”
Consequently, through Frederic’s thought, action, and lack of action in this scenario, it is clear Frederic is selfish and his interests are only in himself; he envisions himself as god in his own thoughts.
The major said, “All thinking men are atheists” (8). Frederic is always thinking although he is not yet a man. He had thought “the night was better.” After all, there is this “. . . strange excitement of . . . not knowing . . . not caring” (13). Throughout the novel, he is constantly thinking, that is, until he is faced with the possibility of Catherine dying. Then he suddenly changes:
“. . . I did not think. I could not think. I knew she was going to die and I prayed that she would not. Don’t let her die. Oh, God, please don’t let her die. I’ll do anything for you if you won’t let her die. Please, please . . . Please God . . . I’ll do anything you say if you don’t let her die. You took the baby . . . That was all right. . . Please, please, please, dear God, don’t let her die (330).”
Frederic’s thinking stopped. But what good is his prayer? The prayer is conditional, calculating, selfish, and self-serving.
Frederic is just as self-serving when his anger is washed away in the river along with any obligation to the war. Then he said, “I was not made to think. I was made to eat, drink, and sleep with Catherine” (232-233). Here it appears Hemingway drew the words of Frederic from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes 2: 24: There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also . . . Is from the hand of God. Paul Smith points out in “Almost All is Vanity: A Note on Nine Rejected Titles for a Farewell To Arms” that the first few words of this verse, Nothing Better For a Man, was considered by Hemingway as a title before choosing A Farewell to Arms (74-75). Ironically in Old Testament beliefs as well as in Frederic’s belief, God is to be feared. The fear of God arises because man places obligations to himself over that of God. Frederic did the same when he says to God. I will do this only “if” you will do what I want. Did he envision emotional blackmail working on God?
In the prayer, he tells God it is all right that the baby died. But he did not sacrifice because of the baby’s death. The baby’s death did not matter to him. He is self-serving, living in a dream world and wishing his life away. His thoughts communicate he is a babe himself. This is reflected when he says, “. . . I wished the hell I’d been choked like that.” Then he counters his lie with the truth: “No I didn’t” (327). The admission discloses somewhere in his background there is a Christian foundation that reinforces his fear of God. By virtue of his confession, there lies a sense of “hope” for him. “But he did not know what the priest knew then” that lies are “deadly poison” that desecrate all efforts toward real love and happiness “although he learned it later” when he is faced with losing his beloved.
When he leaves the restaurant to return to his beloved at the hospital, there is an allusion to a baptism as he “walked through the rain (329).” Frederic didn’t change instantly; there is a learning process: A war is going on within him. In the war itself, Frederic said, “Well, I knew I would not be killed. Not in this war . . . “He reasoned:”. . . It did not have anything to do with me (37).” However, the other wars going on within himself and in his romantic love relationship with Catherine did have something to do with him. Fetterley recognizes “love and war appear together” as twin themes “because romantic love is a form of war” (49). Here she is right. When Frederic interjects his thought: “maybe she would pretend that I was her boy . . . (37),” his childish war-like strategy emerges.
However, Frederic is not the only one that resorts to war-like strategic maneuvers. Catherine does too. She plays the game well, knowing he will conform to her rules if he wants to play house with her:
“And you love me?”
“You did say you loved me, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” I lied. “I love you.” I had not said it before . . . (30).
“Say, I’ve come back to Catherine in the night.’”
“I’ve come back to Catherine in the night.”
“Oh, darling, you have come back haven’t you?”
“I love you so and it’s been awful. You won’t go away?”
“No. I’ll always come back.”
“Oh, I love you so . . . . “
“. . . I turned her so I could see her face when I kissed her and I saw her eyes were shut. I kissed both her shut eyes. I thought she was probably a little crazy. It was all right if she was . . . I knew I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge . . . You had to pretend you were playing . . . for some stakes (30-31).”
Both acted like children bent on getting their way. Frederic didn’t want to go “to the house for officers where the girls climbed all over you . . . “and Catherine didn’t want to be lonely. She wants to pretend Frederic is her lost love. She acknowledges awareness of the circumstances when she remarks, “This is a rotten game we play . . . .” And then she says, “I had a very fine little show . . .” and when Frederic presses “her hand” and says, “Dear Catherine,” she replies: “It sounds very funny now–Catherine. You don’t pronounce it very much alike (31),” it is apparent she manipulates Frederic into playing the part she wants him to.
Much later, she tries to redeem herself through Frederic for where she feels she failed in her relationship with her dead lost love. She previously told Frederic:
“I wanted to do something for him. You see I didn’t care about the other thing and he could have it all. He could have had anything he wanted if I would had known. I would have married him or anything. I know it now. But then he wanted to go to war and I didn’t know . . . I didn’t know about anything then. I thought it would be worse for him. I thought he couldn’t stand it and then of course he was killed and that was the end of it (19).”
In her relationship with Frederic, she wants things to be different. She also fears being sent away from the hospital where Frederic is a resident. She said, “They’ve too many nurses here now. There must be some more patients or they’ll send us away . . . I hope some will come (103).” Catherine wants only to please Frederic. Therefore, she questions him on what he wants and how he reacts when he is with other girls. She wants to be foremost in his mind. This is evident in their conversation when Catherine asks:
“She says just what he wants her to?”
“But I will. I’ll say just what you wish and I’ll do what you wish and then you will never want any other girls, will you?” She looks at me very happily. “I’ll do what you want and say what you want and I’ll be a great success, won’t I?”
Because of the pain she feels when she lost her love; she relinquishes her individuality to Frederic to please him. But Frederic is also at fault because he allows her to. Consequently, she became his “sacred subject” and he became her religion. (115).
It is not until Frederic returns to Catherine’s room to tell her good-bye after she dies that he realizes the magnitude of his error. Frederic had said, “God knows I had not wanted to fall in love with her” (93). But he did fall in love with her. Unfortunately, “Nobody had mentioned what the stakes were (31)” in the little war game of romantic love. When Frederic made himself glance back into the darkness after he “. . . turned off the light . . . [he saw] . . . It wasn’t any good . . . It was like saying good-bye to a statue (332). “ He worshiped Catherine like an idol. He molded her into his own image as if she were a lump of clay. Therefore, he receives his just reward for his labor.
His just reward is not the death of the baby that leaves Fetterley with “the nagging suspicion that Frederic Henry sees himself in the dead fetus which emerges from Catherine’s womb . . . (52).” Frederic had no feeling for [the baby] . . . [The baby like the war] did not seem to have anything to do with . . . [him]. . . He felt no feeling of fatherhood (325).” Therefore, how could he see himself in the dead fetus? The image of strangulation produced by the cord around the baby’s neck merely serves as an indicator that the romantic love relationship between Frederic and Catherine has no hope of living. Catherine’s death is not “. . . the fulfillment of his own unconscious wish, his need to kill her lest she kill him (52)” as Fetterley claims. He doesn’t want Catherine to die; he begs God to let her live. Her death is Frederic’s just reward for his labor of molding her like clay into his own image. Frederic didn’t need to kill Catherine; he needs to kill his selfishness. Catherine is no longer Catherine. She had said to Frederic, “There isn’t any me. I’m you (115).” Hemingway’s portrayal of Frederic produces a mythological allusion of Pygmalion, molding the clay. Catherine is the clay; she turns “very gray” (326). Emotional Blackmail is the tool that reshapes her individuality. Their romantic love reflects what Frederic perceives love to be, selfish and self-serving. As a result, they both lose their identity: Frederic became a god; Catherine (the statue) became Frederic’s creation. Frederic obsesses with his creation, a reflection of himself, (Narcissus). Catherine is just as much at fault as Frederic. She makes the choice. She responds to him perfectly (just like Echo). But as she does, she loses her own identity. Their relationship is doomed–because in the end it is only one-sided: Catherine no longer exists. She is dead long before she dies.
Before Catherine dies, Frederic became a man because he puts away childish things. His adulthood is not forced upon him by Catherine as Fetterley alleges. Instead, his decision is his own. Their last meaningful conversation is very enlightening:
“Do you want me to do anything, Cat?” Can I get you anything. ”
Catherine smiled, “No,” Then a little later, “You won’t do our things with another girl, or say the same things, will you?”
“I want you to have girls, though.”
“I don’t want them.”
Frederic didn’t lie when he answers her question with “Never;” he had no need to confess anymore. He is suddenly considerate of her needs because he learns what he “was always able to forget” that lies set on fire the course of nature. Rinaldi had said, “That Saint Paul . . . he made the rules for us . . . “(173). The books of Corinthians, The epistles of Paul the Apostle, establish “the rules” Rinaldi spoke of, something Rinaldi could not say. I Corinthians 7: 3-4 serve as an instruction for those wanting a lasting and loving relationship: Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. In other words, a lasting, loving relationship requires that both individuals retain their individuality. Now that Frederic is no longer hot. It is his obligation to follow “the rules: Consequently he discovers the kind of love the priest had spoken of: that “when you love you wish to do things for” your beloved. “You wish to sacrifice for” your beloved. “You wish to serve” your beloved (72). Gajdusek describes the results of the process “as an internal imperative” that harmonizes with “external actions and” necessitates “the virtue of selfless gestures” (26).
Unfortunately in their relationship, Catherine is not granted due benevolence or the benefit of selfless gestures until it is too late. In the end, the precept, “the rules,” eliminates the mythology of romantic love; the simile, “like a statue,” replaces the metaphoric allusion of the myth; and when Frederic leaves the hospital, “the rain” extinguishes the fire Frederic set on the course of nature with his lies.