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The Beetle Entries

ENTRY 1 

A Quote from The Beetle

“My attitude towards what is called the supernatural is an open one. That all things are possible I unhesitatingly believe, – I have, even in my short time, seen so many so-called impossibilities proved possible. That we know everything, I doubt; – that our great-great-great-greatgrandsires, our forebears of thousands of years ago, of the extinct civilisations, knew more on some subjects than we do, I think is, at least, probable. All the legends can hardly be false…For my part, what I had seen I had seen. I had seen some devil’s trick played before my very eyes. Some trick of the same sort seemed to have been played upon my Marjorie, – I repeat that I write ‘my Marjorie’ because, to me, she will always be ‘my’ Marjorie!” (176).

Critical Commentary on the Novel – Introduction: Narrative Anxieties 

“From all that has been said so far, it can clearly be argued that The Beetle is a novel materially engaged in an imaginative encryption of historical, cultural, and political fears emanating from and mediating particular aspects of the English psyche at the end of the nineteenth century. Such a view is supported by Roger Luckhurst, who comments of The Beetle and Stoker’s Dracula that both are ‘exemplary texts not so much of the gothic revival as the fin de siècle itself’ (Luckhurst 2000, 159). The Beetle is, moreover, exemplary of a world without a stable centre, as already intimated: it figures a site of anxiety at the dark heart of Englishness in an almost perpetually night-time London, capital of nation and empire, in which the very possibility of agency, whether individually or collectively on the part of the English, is called into question” (25). 

An Image from The British Library 

4/1/20

5 Comments

  1. phussey

    Hey Olivia,

    I loved the photo that you found as well as the quote you choose from the book. That quote seems to go with many beliefs with the supernatural when people express their skepticism unless they see it for themselves, and even then some still do not believe it.

  2. Jen

    Hey Olivia!

    Nice job with your entry for this week!

    It’s interesting to see that you included this particular quotation from Atherton, as it was one of the quotations from this first portion of the novel that had stood out to me during my reading, although I did not include it in my QCQ or commonplace entry for this week. This specific statement from Atherton’s narration is interesting in that it touches upon various key themes from The Beetle, such as notions of uncertainty/limitation regarding established cultural knowledge and anxieties regarding civilization progression (civilizational “rise and fall”), specifically in regards to the “discourse” that this novel facilitates between the currently “falling” British empire and the previously fallen Egyptian empire. In regards to the concept of knowledge and the skepticism/limitations thereof, it is interesting to note the contrast in how The Beetle deals with this “knowledge anxiety” and how it was handled in Dorian Gray. Whereas Dorian’s/Wotton’s “knowledge anxiety” led them to adopt a cynically decadent mindset, it’s interesting to see how Marsh directly uses the Gothic theme of the supernatural (delivered through the figure of reality-upending spectre of the Beetle) to represent the anxiety his characters/Victorian society more broadly feels in regards to uncertainties towards the boundaries of what is known to be “real” and what is known to be “unreal”. This statement from Atherton is also interesting in that it seems to present somewhat of a contradiction in his character. Specifically, Atherton claims that he has an “open” mindset towards the supernatural and claims that “all things are possible”, but during his encounters with the Beetle (either directly or through listening to others relate their own encounters) Atherton repeatedly attempts to locate a “natural”/ “ordinary”/ “common sense” explanation for the extraordinary/irrational/and “unreal” events that occur.

    In regards to the excerpt you selected from the Broadview intro, I had also selected excerpts from the intro for my commonplace entry for this week, but had focused on the mini-essay that preceded the “Narrative Anxieties” mini-essay from which this quotation comes. My selected excerpts also, like this particular quotation, locate the novel in the context of late 19th century Victorian cultural fears. However, unlike my selected quotations, this particular selection builds upon the concept of fears of cultural change by linking it to fears of a loss of autonomy/agency, whether on the “micro” level of the individual or the “macro” level of Victorian society as a collective. I had discussed this notion of autonomy/agency in my QCQ and noted that it is interesting to see how the Beetle’s mesmeric “power of the eye” introduces a new source of fear/monstrosity through giving the novel’s apparent/obvious monster the capacity to directly influence/manipulate the actions of the other characters (in contrast to the ability of the monsters from our previous novels to produce a more “reactive” response from other characters). It could be said that this loss of autonomy is a direct result of individual Victorians/Victorians more collectively recognizing the “historicity” of the cultural moment in which they are present, and consequently feeling an almost overpowering sense that they are experiencing a collective social/cultural trend (that of drastic social evolution/change) that is beyond their individual control/is “bigger than themself”.

  3. nbradeen

    I love the critical commentary about the novel you gave. This quote goes perfectly with Evelyn’s on Jack the Ripper. In your quote it states, “ The Beetle is, moreover, exemplary of a world without a stable centre, as already intimated: it figures a site of anxiety at the dark heart of Englishness in an almost perpetually night-time London…”. Jack the Ripper caused an obscene amount of anxiety at the time. In my commonplace book this week, I wrote about the east side of London and how it didn’t contribute to London’s greatness. Which is also what the beetle is all about

  4. pphillips5

    Great entry! This does a great job of illustrating how this novel reflects the fears of those living in England at the time. In my entry, I also discussed the fears at the hearts of the British and how this novel reflects that, especially when it comes to the expansion of British culture and territories into Africa, mainly Egypt.

  5. cirish1

    Hi Olivia,

    I really enjoyed your entry for this week! I liked the connection between the quote you choose as well as the critical commentary. The mystery that the novel is surrounded in is super interesting and keeps the reader guessing at every turn. The critical commentary poses some interesting thoughts about why the characters of the novel become so concerned or frightened when it came to the mystery of the Beetle. Also could this possibly be because there was such structure and a common routine to English daily life that the unstableness of the Egyptian life disrupted this and cause some form of panic to ensue? I also enjoyed that you used the same image as I did in my CPB as it is one that is definitely eye catching and explains more of the mystery in the novel when the person in the bed does not resemble a normal human being.

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