Take Out the Trash Day

January 4, 2009 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

It’s come to my attention that I have four books sitting in my “shelf,” all of which I have spent considerable time with over the past month, and all of which I was planning on blogging extensively about. However, I have recently written papers on all of them and am still a little burned out. So, in the spirit of the new year, I have decided to write one short post summing up all I have to say, and then completely refresh my shelf.

Lady Audley’s Secret is on there first, and was originally meant to go with The Great God Pan. Lady Audley’s Secret is about a young lady named Lucy Graham who appears as if from nowhere and marries a baronet at least 20 years her senior. All is well and good until her new step-nephew arrives with a friend in tow. This friend disappears, presumably murdered, and the nephew goes on a hunt to discover the truth about Lady Audley.

The Great God Pan is about a doctor who punches a hole in a patient’s head in an attempt to make her see what is ‘beyond the veil,’ or what he calls the Great God Pan. The woman becomes an idiot. 20 years later, reports of mysterious deaths in London lead several men to investigate the results of this old experiment. Their explorations lead them to one Helen Vaughn, a young woman whose origins are hazy.

The main things these books have in common are young women who succeed in society, and men who die or almost die as a result. Also, men who investigate with the intention of taking down these succeeding women. I meant to explore the idea that while more scandalous than earlier novels, what with their emphasis on murder and sex, they are in essence socially conservative. No woman who rises under false pretenses, or by using unorthodox methods, is suffered to live. Therefore, the overarching message of these books is that society will bring down any woman who attempts to use her sexuality or any other power within her means to rise in society is a threat, and must necessarily be brought down. Sounds pretty conservative to me.

The Coral Island and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland also went together for me, and while I was going to write a big long post on identity and consumption, what I am going to say is merely that people love food, people define themselves through what they will and will not eat, and certainly this is even more true for children, who are just realizing who they are or who they want to be.

If you read Alice carefully, you can see that she is often refused food (the tarts, tea with the Hatter and Hare) in an attempt to teach her self-restraint, and any time she does eat, she is thrown into a state of physical and emotional confusion. In the beginning when she drinks the potion and eats the cake, she is so thrown by her dramatic physical changes that she cries, wonders who she is, and essentially loses her identity.

For the boys on Coral Island, food is a way to reassert their British identities. In redefining the coconut-juice and breadfruit they find on their island as lemonade and wheaten bread, they show their unwillingness to part from the familiar, and in rejecting the notion of cannibalism as practiced by the natives, they make the natives an “other,” opposed to the Crown and who must either be conquered or converted.

So there you have it. All I was going to say about four books, in one simple post. Relatively painless, yeah?


Entry filed under: Classics, Musings and Essays.

And guess what, Jane? Fairy tales aren’t real. What goes around comes around

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