The great front entrance had two chains across it outside-and the first thing I noticed was that the passages were all dark, and that she had left a candle burning there. She took it up, and we went through more passages and up a staircase, and still it was all dark, and only the candle lighted us....I entered, therefore, and found myself in a pretty large room, well lighted with wax candles. No glimpse of daylight was to be seen in it. It was a dressing-room, as I supposed from the furniture, though much of it was of forms and uses then quite unknown to me. But prominent in it was a draped table with a gilded looking-glass, and that I made out at first sight to be a fine lady's dressing table.

Tennyson and Dickens believe that asceticism is not healthy and that one cannot live a normal life if one completely isolates himself from the outside world. Although this is essentially what both are saying they express their beliefs differently. Dickens illustrates his opinion through Miss Havisham who, because of a broken heart, has separated herself from the world. Nothing in her house is alive. Everything has stopped living years ago. Time, itself, seems to have stopped. Which side of the looking-glass is Havisham on? It seems as if the other side of the mirror represents reality and she is living in a dream world.

Tennyson shows us in his poem, “The Palace of Art," what happens when someone lives entirely through art-a reflection of the world. In other words they are living on the wrong side of the looking-glass. The purpose of art is to serve as a way of interpreting and viewing the world. One cannot live their life through art because it is not real. Tennyson illustrates what happens when life begins to reflect art.

The use of imagery enables the writers to convey their points of view. Dickens's repetition of the candle-an artificial form of light-connects to the idea of Miss Havisham as an apparition rather than a real being. Light, which represents life, has no place in Havisham's abode. Everything is withering away. In choosing a life of seclusion, she has chosen a world in which darkness presides and in which real light has no place. Therefore she makes use of the wax candles which serve as an imitation. It is also interesting to note that the artificial light kills her.

Each room in the Palace of Art depicts a different aspect of nature representative of all different moods. The image of the hunter blowing his horn, in the “summer-morn" provides us with optimism and feelings of success. Something good has happened and now he's sharing it with the rest of the world. The next room, which is dark and red and in which one person is all alone, conveys a depressed state as well as feelings of isolation and emptiness. A person all alone in the world. And finally the last room embodies feelings of anger. You can almost hear the crashing of the waves against the rocks and caves and the incensed hiss of the wind.

What happens when people upset the natural order of things? This was a common philosophical question many people of the Victorian age were concerned with. Was there indeed a natural order at all? And if the answer was yes what were the consequences for destroying it? “The religious and metaphysical assumptions that once answered the basic human need for orderly and permanent explanations and reasons beyond the reach of reason had thinned out and vanished for many Victorians during their very lifetimes, destroyed by a natural childlike curiosity like Darwin's-and like Alice's. The resulting void was terrifying." (Donald Rackin, “Blessed Rage: Lewis Carroll and the Modern Quest for Order," from Alice and Wonderland, 399) The Victorian age was marked by increasing doubt. This was do to a decline in religious beliefs and new advances in science and technology. Darwin's The Origin of Species introduced new ideas regarding the nature of man. The Victorian's desperately searched for order. They tried hard to make sense of the world around them and to figure out their purpose in life. “People who manifest their extraordinary need for order by obsessively regulating their everyday lives, seem also to manifest through this behavior a deep-seated anxiety about the messiness that surrounds us, an anxiety about the morally random nature of existence." (Rackin 398) In one's quest for order one would frequently find oneself alone in the world desperately searching for something without really knowing where to look.

New discoveries in science presented somewhat of a solution to their dilemma. They were no longer satisfied with religious based answers regarding the structure of the world. They began to question and to look for deeper meanings in the world around them. Science provided the answers to their numerous questions.


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens

Last modified 1996