Fatema AbdAli Alhammali.
The Lifted Veil is a horror fiction novella
written by George Eliot and it was published in 1859. This particular novella
is unlike the realistic fiction for which George Eliot is best known, and, it
is the first time that the author uses a first-person narrator. It is also
considered to be a significant part of the Victorian tradition of horror
The story is set in Victorian England, in the
early-to-mid 19th century. The setting in which the story takes
place changes as the plot progresses. The main character and narrator, Latimer,
begins the story by informing the reader that he will share his life
experiences and secrets before death takes him in a month. From there, the
story takes a flashback structure into Latimer’s life.
After a miserable childhood, where Latimer
never had his father’s affection, nor his brother’s admiration, he was sent to
Geneva to finish his education. Upon falling severely ill, Latimer’s father
comes to take him home and this is when he has his first psychic experience. He
soon discovers that he is able to hear the disturbing thoughts of people around
him which makes him feel afraid and isolated. However, there was one individual’s
mind which Latimer wasn’t able to penetrate or read, and that person was
Bertha, his brother’s fiancée.
Latimer is immediately fascinated by her
beauty and mystery and he marries her after his brother falls off a horse and
dies. After being married for some time, Latimer is finally able to read
Bertha’s mind, and he is shocked by her hatred towards him and her longing for
his death. When Bertha hires a new maid, Mrs.Archer, Latimer senses that he is
beginning to lose his ability to perceive other people’s thoughts. It becomes
suspicious that although, Bertha and her maid seemed to like each other in the
beginning, the affection soon turns to hatred.
One night, Charles Meunier, an old school
friend of Latimer, pays him a visit after total disconnection. Meanwhile, the
maid falls ill and dies before the watchful eyes of Bertha. Charles who is a
doctor, asks Latimer if he may experiment on the corpse. This results in her
coming back to life and confessing to being hired by Bertha to kill Latimer,
and then proceeds to die again. After that shocking incident and revelation,
Latimer and Bertha part ways. During the time Latimer spends travelling, he
become ill and experiences his own death which he had predicted. He finishes
his story and gives himself over to death.
This novella contains many themes, one of
which is the supernatural. Latimer possesses supernatural powers, such as his
ability to see the future and to read people’s thoughts. Another important
theme is fate, the belief that no one can alter their destiny or path, and that
it is set by a supernatural force. There is no way of knowing if Latimer would
have been able to alter his fate or not.
I enjoyed reading this novella more than I had
anticipated. The structure of the story and the focus on people’s thought
rather than their actions are what I found interesting. I believe that the
author gave a brilliant presentation of the gothic fiction through “The Lifted