Thread: Classics East Lynne by Ellen Wood
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Old 08-06-2021, 11:46 AM   #13
poohbear_nc
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Sensation novelists were able to deal explicitly with subject matter not normally found, or accepted, in novels available to a genteel reading public -- such as adultery, seduction, illegitimate children, false identities, etc. And, the main characters were women -- who were set up to sin, briefly enjoy the results of their transgressions, suffer, and then repent and be punished. It was up to the reader to decide if the character had truly repented and deserved forgiveness for their sins, or instead, righteous moral condemnation.

In East Lynne, Wood immediately, and explicitly, announces the theme of the novel at the end of Chapter 1: "Could the fate that was to overtake his child have been foreseen by the earl, he would have struck her down to death, in his love, as she stood before him, rather than suffer her to enter upon it."

This dire admonition is then immediately followed up in Chapter 2, The Broken Cross, in the extremely heavy handed foreshadowing incident of Captain Levison stepping upon, and breaking in two, Lady Isabel's cross ("It was given me by my dear mamma just before she died."). Mrs. Levison asks the prophetic question "There! Now whose fault was that?", to which Lady Isabel tellingly answers "the fault was as much mine as yours." and then wails "I can only think of my broken cross. I am sure it must be an evil omen."

These opening two chapters set up, and foretell, the plot for the remaining chapters, neatly identifying the transgressors-to-be, the moral code that will be willfully violated, and the inevitability of Lady Isabel's fall. The promise to mend the cross implies the possibility of future forgiveness and redemption after the fall. Wood understood how to hook her reading public, and to provide teasers for upcoming events.
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