The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

2011 Group Reads - Archives > Uncle Silas - Ch. 43-49

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message 1: by Silver (new)








message 2: by ☯Emily (new)

☯Emily  Ginder I have found Uncle Silas slightly boring until this section. Chapter 44 says that Uncle Silas is very ill and has been bled. Yet when Maud stays in the room with him alone, she sees him in the looking glass rise up and stand behind her. I would be terrified! Is Silas just pretending to be ill for some nefarious reason? I hope I will find out soon.

It is creepy the way Silas manipulates every situation in order to isolate Maud from all her friends and relatives. I know he has some scheme in mind to either kill her or take away all her money or marry her off to Dudley, or perhaps all three!

message 3: by Susan Margaret (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) Going back to chapter 9, Maud says this about Captain Oakley I did not then perceive that coldness of the eye, and cruel curl of the voluptuous lip. It is puzzling that Maud describes Oakley’s facial features as cold and cruel and yet she was infatuated with him. So far there has been no evidence to suggest Captain Oakley is a cruel man. When Oakley is subjected to the vicious beating at the hands of Dudley, we are made to feel sorry for him (Oakley). I don’t see Oakley as cruel (at least not at this point in the story), so perhaps Maud has a mistaken opinion?

Emily, I don’t think Uncle Silas was faking his illness, he was suffering from opium addiction.

message 4: by MadgeUK (last edited Nov 12, 2011 03:15PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Maud is looking back on the incident with a more mature eye and criticising her misjudgement. Being beaten by Dudley, even though he was a military man, was, I think, intended to confirm Oakley once and for all as a weak character.

'No one who has not experienced it can imagine the nervous disgust and horror which such a spectacle as we had been forced in part to witness leaves upon the mind of a young person of my peculiar temperament........It affected ever after my involuntary estimate of the principal actors in it. An exhibition of such thorough inferiority, accompanied by such a shock to the feminine sense of elegance, is not forgotten by any woman. Captain Oakley had been severely beaten by a smaller man. It was pitiable, but also undignified; and Milly's anxieties about his teeth and nose, though in a certain sense horrible, had also a painful suspicion of the absurd.'

Also, like Silas, Oakley is a gambler and it is possible that the description might be a Victorian phrenologist's idea of what a gambler looks like? We are not familiar with descriptions based on phrenology but Victorians were.

message 5: by Susan Margaret (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) Interesting link Madge! I ran my hands over my head and have determined that I am not a pickpocket ;-)

Your explanation about Oakley's beating makes sense. It was especially humiliating for Oakley because both Milly and Maud were witnesses.

On a side note, it appears that all of our Uncle Silas readers left the house and snuck out the back door. I am hoping they will return to discuss the final section of the book. I am curious as to what people think about Le Fanu's writing.

message 6: by Liz (new)

Liz (lizziewhisler) | 13 comments Thanks for the interesting link, Madge. I like LeFenu's writing--I like the mind tricks he plays - is this person good or evil? Just when you think you have that figured out he turns the tables on you.

message 7: by MadgeUK (last edited Nov 13, 2011 11:22PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I falso find the above paragraph about Oakley's beating interesting in the light of what we might think about such an outcome to a fight today. I suspect we might be inclined to 'side' with the weaker man but in late Victorian times ideas from Darwin about 'the survival of the fittest' were more likely to prevail. It was also thought that God had a hand in such things, so 'Might is Right'.

message 8: by Kim (last edited Nov 13, 2011 11:40PM) (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments Seeuuder wrote: "On a side note, it appears that all of our Uncle Silas readers left the house and snuck out the back door. I am hoping they will return to discuss the final section of the book. I am curious as to what people think about Le Fanu's writing...."

I haven't gone away. I left the house for a while, but only to check out the garden!

It became difficult for me to maintain a strong interest in the book to the reading schedule as it is. While I prefer to keep to the schedule with a group read, I was in some danger of losing interest altogether. So over the past few days I decided to read ahead and I finished it this afternoon.

To some extent I think my appreciation of Le Fanu has suffered because I listened to an audiobook of Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White during the period I was reading this book. My impression is that Collins is the better writer, notwithstanding some of the things I disliked about The Woman in White. I need to think about both books a bit more in order to clearly articulate why.

I found this middle section of the book much less interesting and compelling than the early chapters (and the conclusion, for that matter).

message 9: by Kim (last edited Nov 13, 2011 11:59PM) (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments BunWat wrote: "I also stalled out on Uncle Silas and then picked it back up and finished it this last weekend."

Great minds .... ;D

message 10: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments Likewise. A lot of stamping of the feet, crying and apparently overlooking the bleeding obvious does not a sympathetic heroine make.

message 11: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments Not to mention the fact that she is annoyingly snobby and superior.

message 12: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments LOL. She is a gothic heroine!

message 13: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments MadgeUK wrote: "LOL. She is a gothic heroine!"

Yep, but I still wanted to slap her.

message 14: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments LOL. You cruel Mama you!

message 15: by Susan Margaret (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) BunWat wrote: ":D

I really struggled in places, with a desire to bang Maud's head sharply against a flat surface of some sort."

I am sure Madame de la Rougierre could assist you in this task. 

Thanks for the laughs this morning Bunwat, Kim and Madge.

message 16: by ☯Emily (new)

☯Emily  Ginder Like others, I lost interest in the middle of the book. One reason is the length of the reading schedule. I wanted to be a part of the discussion, so I tried not to read ahead. Some books definitely need a long time to read and discuss, but this is not one of them. When I realized the book was due back at the library, I resumed reading last week and finished it yesterday. The ending is wonderful, but it took a lot of time to become readable and enjoyable.

I also lost interest in the discussions in the first couple of weeks when they became less a discussion and more of a diatribe. There seemed to be some kind of "warfare" between two or three of the writers that left a sour taste in my mouth.

message 17: by Susan Margaret (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) Emily wrote: "Like others, I lost interest in the middle of the book. One reason is the length of the reading schedule. I wanted to be a part of the discussion, so I tried not to read ahead. Some books definit..."

Emily, I agree with your thoughts about the schedule being too long for this book. I don't think there was enough "meat" in the book to allow for lengthy discussions. 

However, I am glad that I read Uncle Silas because I have discovered that I am not fond of gothic literature.  But I suppose I should not base my opinion on the reading of one book.

message 18: by MadgeUK (last edited Nov 14, 2011 12:59PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments No, there is better gothic lit than this one! Wuthering Heights and Rebecca for instance, and Northanger Abbey as a spoof gothic.

message 19: by Susan Margaret (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) BunWat wrote: "Of course we couldn't know in advance whether there was enough meat to warrant the schedule being as it was. I do agree that there is better gothic than this, although I enjoyed this and am glad I..."

That is true Bunwat, without reading the book it is difficult to know whether one month or two months are needed for discussion.

Madge, thank you for your book suggestions. I will hold off judgement.

message 20: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I hope my early arguments did not contribute to your disillusion Bunwat. I had not supported the choice originally and joined in with background material because I was not reading. I then sat up all night reading the darned thing so was able to make some later non-background comments which I hope were OK:).

message 21: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments BunWat wrote: "Kim, it was the overlooking of the bleeding obvious that was making me want to smack Maud.

Yeah, Maud is really not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

message 22: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments But she is a typical Victorian gothic heroine:). They were bred not to be the sharpest knives:). Your exasperation is that of a modern woman. Those reading Fanu in his day would have thought she was behaving like a lady should.

message 23: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments Yes, I accept that Maud behaved in the manner expected of a young Victorian woman. However, another gothicky Victorian heroine created by a male author, Laura Fairlie in The Woman in White, while also rather dim and helpless, was at least not a snob. And Collins did create Marian Halcombe, who is bright and feisty (although rather poorly rewarded for her good qualities by her creator). Apparently, Marian was very popular with Victorian readers and men asked Collins for the name of the woman on whom he had based the character, so that they could propose marriage. So there was apparently some appreciation for smart, feisty female characters in gothic-style novels written by men, even in Victorian times.

message 24: by MadgeUK (last edited Nov 15, 2011 04:24AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks for that info Kim:). I think Maud is a snob because she is from an aristocratic family. She is judging the 'hoi-polloi'. I don't think Laura was? Marion was rather like Millie, a Miss Hoyden.

I wonder too if Americans/Australians here find Maud more annoying because they are less used to snobbery, whereas it is more common in the UK's more class ridden society?

message 25: by Liz (new)

Liz (lizziewhisler) | 13 comments Well - as a person from the U. S. - we are well acquainted with snobbery here--it may not take the form of being from an aristocratic or titled family -In the "old days" it was more like being from a family that founded a large city like Boston or a particularly profitable auto factory, or a family that could trace their origins back to the Mayflower. In this day and age - just a family that has a lot of money or a celebrity member. (or to make it really current- a family who is one of the 1% the 99% are protesting about these days). I would guess snobbery shows up in any culture. It's a normal defense tactic to help the wealthy hang on to their money and status.

message 26: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments It's a normal defense tactic to help the wealthy hang on to their money and status.

Very true Liz.

message 27: by Liz (new)

Liz (lizziewhisler) | 13 comments Your post helped me put into words what I was thinking of Silas' neglect of his children and the property he was renting. He has a passive-aggressive response to his brother refusing to bail him out of debt. It's like "since you didn't bail me out - this property has to be neglected. These children are uneducated and have no social skills because no one will pay my bills for me." Of course, he would just gamble more and lose more. But he lays the guilt on those who refuse to pay his bills for him.

It's probably obvious that not bringing over the horse and chaise were partly because the money for it was no longer available -he either gave it to Dudley or spent it on drugs--but it also serves the purpose of an abusive personality- cutting Maud off from any freedom -- abusers like to keep their victims isolated- cut off from all friend and family ties. But I don't believe Maud would have known this. She didn't get to see a lot of abusive relationships to compare her situation to. She knew physical abuse was wrong - she complains of Meg's being ill-used--but she doesn't seem to have knowledge of psychological abuse and the symptoms of someone being an abusive person psychologically.

message 28: by Liz (new)

Liz (lizziewhisler) | 13 comments Well that wouldn't be inconsistent with human nature-- for instance it takes on average 8 break ups before an abused spouse will permanently leave an abusive spouse--even when their life is in danger. Add to the other reasons that Maud had her head in the sand the fact that this was her closest living relative and that she wanted to please her father and believe her father was not wrong about Silas--and she wanted to see Silas as she imagined him when she viewed his portrait - not as he really was.

message 29: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments And we know Maud's not dead at the end (unless she's doing her narrating from the spriritual realm), which reduced the tension a bit and freed up some space for me to get annoyed with her. *Sigh* I really don't like getting annoyed with narrators I think the author would prefer me to like.

message 30: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments But...but...but. The whole point of gothic literature was to over-egg all the puddings. Exaggeration was all so Silas had to be made to be uber-dreadful and Maud had to be made to be uber-naive. Without those elements the novel would not be gothic folks! People read these novels because of the horror piled upon horror; to be disgusted, to be frightened. Much as folks today go to see dreadful horror movies. Suspend your disbelief folks, as Coleridge advised!

message 31: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments I've got no problem with the idea of gothic literature being OTT, but at least in this section, I was neither horrified nor frightened. There are times when I can easily put myself into the mind of a reader who was reading a book at the time it was written and suspend disbelief accordingly. Sometimes it's rather more difficult to do so.

message 32: by Liz (new)

Liz (lizziewhisler) | 13 comments Well, like others, I got caught up in the next section and had to finish the book. It really does get hard to put down - all this build up has a purpose. And I was horrified and frightened at the end--but then in true Victorian novel fashion I was exhilarated with all the satisfying twists and turns -but them I'm also a tad naive.

message 33: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4452 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Seeuuder wrote: "On a side note, it appears that all of our Uncle Silas readers left the house and snuck out the back door. I am hoping they will return to discuss the final section of the book. I ..."

I agree with you. Collins is a better writer for me too. I enjoyed Le Fanu but didn't find it creepy until the later chapters and then only a bit. Maybe we're just too jaded today.

message 34: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4452 comments Mod
BunWat wrote: "I really tried to give Maud as much benefit of the doubt as I could. She was educated and trained to be passive and obedient and to have an exaggerated respect for authority. She certainly would h..."

I gave Maude the benefit of the doubt, and actually didn't get frustrated with her. I somehow felt that her believing Silas had a lot to do with her promise to her dying father to cleanse the family name. I felt that maybe that promise made her want to believe in Silas' goodness or truthfulness.

message 35: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments That's a good point Deborah.

Bunwat: Northanger Abbey was written at the time of the height of gothic novels but not published until after Austen's death in 1817 but yes, would have been around when this was published. I don't know of any other send-ups although there were, as you say, criticisms in letters, journals etc.

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