Posts Tagged ‘victorian’

My key intentions for my final assessment were to emulate themes, conventions and certain styles found within Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black and ‘The Beckoning Fair One’ by Oliver Onions and, in particular, illustrate and explore the role and treatment of the New Woman within these tales. Near to all of these elements I have applied can be found within both Onion and Hill’s stories but due to the restricted limit to this companion I will only be looking at certain ones in detail.


I chose numerous conventions within my tale. These are such as the haunted house, a story within a story, bumps in the night, a locked door, pathetic fallacy, hostile landscapes and a grisly secret. These conventions allowed me to link certain theory within the gothic ghost story, for example, the application of Freud’s classification of Fear, Dread and Fright.


“‘Fear’ represents a certain kind of inner state amounting to expectation of, and preparation for, danger of some kind…‘Dread’ requires a specific object of which we are afraid. ‘Fright’, however, emphasises the element of surprise…when we find ourselves plunged into danger without being prepared for it.”  (Freud 51)


Fear, I created using mounting suspense within the story, for example: the bumps in the night and the use of pathetic fallacy. Dread was simple in creating the reappearing ghost of the boy as an object to be afraid of which ultimately led to Fright: the discovering of the secret of the boy’s existence and death, the newspaper cuttings and diary.


I also intended for ‘Suffrage Boy’ to contain liberal references to the uncanny. This is a theory that is prevalent within both of my chosen primary texts and one that is iconic to the gothic ghost story in numerous forms. Simple examples include the editor’s simultaneous feelings of familiar and unfamiliarity and his ‘mounting sense of unease’ (Beatson 1). The latter is an application of the uncanny within gothic literature I had identified from my secondary reading of Angela Carter who states the definition uncanny within gothic literature, ‘retains a singular moral function-that provoking of unease.’ (Carter 133) This can be witnessed within Onions’ story also: ‘Oleron had moments of deep uneasiness…’ (Onions 44)

Other examples of my application of the uncanny can be identified in the simple use of the ghost being neither dead or alive, the ghost’s use of animism of the bicycle and typewriter, and the repetition of the ghost’s haunting. These elements are ones that I have imitated from both Hill and Onions’ stories. Another example is the theme of suffocation which was an attempt to create the uncanny fear of being buried alive.


Intertextuality is something I chose to focus on heavily within the writing of my ghost story and led it to becoming a pastiche. The way in which I have achieved this can be witnessed in the names chosen for characters within the story and places. The name for the heroine, Lucy Davison, was one of careful selection. Lucy is the figure of the New Woman, as I will explore fully later, and her Christian name and surname is a reference to two women who also represented this figure and were punished for it. Lucy, is a reference to the character within Bram Stoker’s Dracula and ‘Davison’ is a reference to the suffragette Emily Davison, who was fatally injured under the Kings horse during a rally for women’s rights on the 4th of June 1913. This is subsequently the date of Lucy’s imprisonment and torture from the ghost. Lucy’s occupation is a journalist, intended to emulate the figure of Elsie within ‘The Beckoning Fair One’ who occupies the same vocation, and is also a figure of the New Woman. Similarly, the dead mother Isobel Báthory is deliberately chosen to contain the surname of Elizabeth Báthory, Countess in Hungary in the 17th century whose alias of ‘The Bloody Lady of Čachtice’ is echoed in the name of the inn. The character of Henry Bentley is a reference to Mr Bentley, who is the employer that sends Arthur Kipps to Eel Marsh House.


My profuse application of intertexuality is due to the convention itself being a form of haunting, a return, alike to story telling and literature itself: to recall figures from the past. This is why I chose to have the editor reading the diary, similarly to Hill’s novel.


I will now briefly comment upon the historical and social contexts. I took great care to have historically accurate details about aspects like technology, so I undertook considerable research into the period in which I was writing and attempted to include these details. Therefore, the line of: ‘Mr. Bentley was the editor of The Frightful Farthing 1/4d…who might attempt to outwit Mr. Harmsworth…’ (Beatson 1) is demonstrating the presence of the Halfpenny Marvel ran by Alfred Harmsworth, pioneer of tabloid journalism, who put the Penny Dreadful out of business.


One of my key intentions with my creative piece was to explore the figure of the New Women within the gothic ghost story that rose in the late 19th century and the ‘Long 19th century’ that my story is set in. ‘…the “New Woman” emerged increasingly into public controversy. The New Woman, or 1980s feminist, challenged gender roles…’ (Hurley, 121)  In Onions’ story, Elsie is independent, financially sound, has an occupation and pursues Oleron in a traditionally masculine manner. She is then punished by the presumably jealous ghost who represents the traditional Victorian woman and the past. This is similar in Hill’s novel, as the ghost of Jennet Humfrye who is punished for having a child out of wedlock. In my story the ghost of the boy, whose mother (a suffragette) was the cause of his death, punishes Lucy. Lucy represents the New Woman: she is independent, has a job and has mastered modern technology. She is then punished by the very technology she uses.


The idea of the ‘Long 19th Century’ is partly due to society within Britain containing many of the same fears as the fin de siècle of the previous century. Onions and Hill’s stories reflect these and this is something I have attempted to do also. This includes the fear of science and rise in technology, the rise of the New Woman and a general anxiety of change. Ghost stories offered an anchoring of the past to the present and the ghosts themselves as a bridge between them. The boy within my story has died due to many of these social fears and he represents the past, punishing anyone who stands for them.



  • Carter, Angela. “Afterword” Fireworks: Nine Stories in Various Disguises Cambridge: Harper & Rowe (1974). 133.
  • Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) London: Penguin (2003) 51.
  • Hill, Susan. The Woman in Black. London: Vintage (1998)
  • Hurley, Kelly. The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Fin de Siecle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1996) 121
  • Onions, Oliver. ‘The Beckoning Fair One’. Gothic Literature Module Reader (Bristol: Department of English, Writing and Drama, UWE, 2011) 131-156
  • Stoker, Bram. Dracula. London: Penguin (1994)


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Upon analysis of the mentioned article, Eliott suggests numerous ideas relating to Gaskell’s North and South that after reflecting upon provide a greater understanding when thinking about class in the book.

One such prominent idea is that of the concept of the emerging ‘social sphere’. This is something in which the article draws upon considerably and demonstrates Gaskell’s ability to have access to this and the introduction of women into it. This, the article digresses, is an example of the novel being one which looks to the future rather than the past of class and gender relations. It focuses on the way in which the novel portrays women mediating social relations, for example, Margaret’s philanthropic attitude and her visiting the lower classes. This, the novel would suggest, is an example of the ‘feminization’ of the social sphere.

One of the most interesting topics raised in the article is that of the attention to language used in North and South to demonstrate the conflicts and difficulties between the classes, not just in romance but also in everyday relationships and encounters.

‘Although Margaret now understands the working-class distinction between “drink” and drunkenness, she experiences more difficulty when she in turn must interpret working-class “drink” for her father […] she is at a loss, however, to describe Higgins’s exact state to Mr Hale without calling up the image of the “drunken infidel weaver” (p. 223).’

This part of the article is useful to consider, due to the reoccurring theme of this difficulty of language between the classes being a strong one when looking at conflict between the classes.

This idea then is seen in reverse as an example of how important it is for Margaret to correctly interpret the working-class colloquialism. It is also further demonstrates the article’s concentrating of Margaret transcending the classes and acting as a mediator for social interaction.  Margaret returns home and Mrs. Hale accuses her of bad grammar and “factory slang”.

‘Margaret’s answer reveals how thoroughly she has come to understand the language of the people she visits: “And if I live in a factory town, I must speak factory language when I want it. Why, mamma, I could astonish you with a great many words you never heard of in your life. I don’t believe you know what a knobstick is.” Margaret’s openness to new language and her willingness to learn new ways of interpretation signs is a key to her success as a mediator of social conflict.’

Another example of language, which is of critical importance in Gaskell’s novel that the article comments upon, is the appliance of focalisation. This is a highly useful technique when demonstrating the conflicts between the classes and also when wanting to demonstrate romance in the novel. The most effective examples of focalisation are prominent in the earlier chapters wherein Margaret and Mr. Thornton are first meeting and becoming acquainted. Their first encounter for example or the chapter in which Mr. Thornton comes to dine with Hale family. The constant switching between protagonists gives the reader direct insight to the misunderstandings and conflicts between the classes and the nature of Margaret’s and Mr. Thornton’s romance and this focalisation is a tool that is regularly used throughout the book.

An engaging concept in the article is that of the possibility of the position of women in society acting as type of metaphor for the working class’s position in society and the correlation between the two. There are several very interesting examples of this in the article.

‘Women’s position in marriage entails another likeness to the working class. Like the “hands” in the factory, married women were in a subordinate position-and they were excluded from ownership of property […] In North and South the chief power is that both women and workers have is the refuse to submit to such control […] (figured as the strike in the case of the workers) […] (figured as the refusal to marry, in Margaret’s case).’

Alongside many other references and examples to the correlation of the role of women and the working class in the novel is the reoccurring technique of language being the way in which this is achieved. The quote used in the article is one where the workers are described and it is clear here where the descriptive language is used to demonstrate the link between the two roles in society. The article suggests that the choice of words such as “Bold”, “fearless”, “loud”, “unrestrained” and “careless” are words that when put in the description of a women, call up the image of a women who is uncontrolled and unrestrained similar to the way I which a prostitute would have been viewed.

Not only is it this description that is used to demonstrate this but the entire description and acts throughout the novel of the workers demonstrate the societies fears of the dangers that both the lower classes and women presented.

Therefore, upon analysing this article I have drawn that it is one of great insight to the role in which women play in Gaskell’s North and South and also to the conflict between the classes.

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