Latimer, the antihero

The Lifted Veil, similarly to other 19th-Century novels like Jane Eyre, seeks to combine the supernatural with reality, forcing the reader to constantly question what is real and what may or may not be a fantasy. However, unlike Jane Eyre, this story is mainly told from the perspective of the supernatural as it is the main character who seems to have the power of clairvoyance. As a child, I was frequently asked the question “if you could have a superpower, what would it be?” Superheroes dominate the media, especially in childhood entertainment; the show That’s So Raven, about a psychic girl, was one of my favorites. Although my answer to this question changed frequently, I often wished that I could be psychic or have the power to know what others were thinking. In my world, super powers were exciting, not life-ruining.

Eliot presents a very different perspective on superpowers through her character Latimer, who sometimes has psychic visions and can read others’ thoughts. Instead of becoming a superhero who solves crimes and helps people, Latimer becomes a cynical hater of humanity. He believes his power is a “disease” and compares it to a “nightmare” (p.12). It is something to be ashamed of, something that he must hide from everyone else, and something that makes him retreat even further into his own world. Instead of boosting him into the reader’s admiration, Latimer ironically becomes an extremely unsympathetic and antiheroic character. The reader looks down on him instead of up to him.

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