Angels and Insects Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Nov 20th, 2019


Angels and Insects is a classical pair of works written by A.S. Byatt. The novellas examine the complexity and nature of human thoughts and relationships. It is a fable exploring the themes of love, infidelity and incest. The author also examines the theories of sexuality and human breeding.

The book explores the issue of popular culture as practiced in our societies. In the first novella entitled Morpho Eugenia, the author has examined the nature of the human soul including how it relates with the other people. This paper will choose a passage from the first novella to explore the connections between the author’s work and popular culture.

Context of the Selected Passage

In the novella Morpho Eugenia, the author sets the story in Victorian England. The story begins by presenting William Adamson. Adamson is a famous naturalist who had spent several years in the jungles of Amazon. The naturalist had been studying different kinds of insects and animals. At the time, a shipwreck rendered him penniless.

He lost his assets and possessions after the shipwreck. After the wreck, William finds his way to the home of Reverend Alabaster[1]. The reverend was an amateur in insect collection but had enormous riches. The wealthy reverend became his benefactor.

After finding his way into Alabaster’s estate, William fell in love with Eugenia. Eugenia was the eldest daughter. Although Eugenia was weak, the passage indicates that she was still beautiful[2]. At the time, Eugenia was mourning the sudden death of a fiancée. Since she was from a rich estate, William believed that she was beyond his reach. However, William decided to start an affair with her.

The real story began after Eugenia accepted her proposal and fell in love with William. The two married and began a family together. The two had a wedding ceremony after Eugenia’s parents approved the affair. It is also acknowledgeable that Eugenia brother, Edgar, was against the affair. He always said that William was from the poor class. This means he was not the right person to marry his sister.

Later afterwards, Eugenia gave birth to children in a short time. Eugenia gave the first son the name Edgar. She wanted to name her child after his own brother whom she said she loved the most. During the time, William never warmed up for the children. He spent most of his precious time writing and studying.

He was also writing several observations from his studies. A publishing company accepted the work thereby opening new opportunities for him[3]. The climax comes when William realizes that his wife was having a sexual affair with her brother. After William found the two having incest, Eugenia admitted that they had been having sex for years with Edgar. She had been unable to quench her sexual desires no matter how much they had sex. This passage presents the theme of incest. In our societies, incest is considered a taboo.

After this painful discovery, William made a firm decision to leave his wife behind and the children. However, he never said why he had decided to leave. He was bitter because he strongly believed that Edgar was the one who had fathered the children. He also made a solemn promise never to reveal his reasons for leaving Eugenia to his father[4]. It was clear that the truth would definitely injure the feelings and health of Sir Harald. The next option was to have a new beginning and never think about the past.

The main characters in the passage are William, Edgar and Eugenia. William was courageous and thought he could become successful despite the challenges in life. He was optimistic that some day he would become happy and successful. After starting a family with Eugenia, a sudden darkness appeared and separated their marriage.

This would be the turning point for the two. Through this presentation, this book has explored the complexities than define human ideas and relationships[5]. This is an important aspect of popular culture because it relates to the success of the family and marriage life.

From the book by A.S. Byatt, the issue of incest is center stage. This is a popular area of discussion among different scholars and writers. For years, writers have used novels and films to explore the practice in our society thus presenting it in popular culture. The book has widened the topic in popular culture. While many people consider it a taboo and inappropriate, its presentation has remained a unique part of popular culture.

In popular culture, incest is a widely presented subject in films, theatrical performances and other works of fiction[6]. From the novel, the reader can agree that the author has presented the issue of human ideology. He has illustrated how our human ideologies and assumptions can drive us to new approaches to our lives. The work explains how our assumptions can individuals of the truth. From this passage, it is notable that life is greater than many things around us.

The House of Yes by Mark Waters

Several books and movies highlight the issue of incest in popular culture. One of these movies is The House of Yes. The movie’s director is Mark Waters. The film is relevant because it relates to the passage by Byatt. This is because it highlights the issue of incest in popular culture.

The 1997 film narrates the story of Marty Pascal. It is a film based on a play written by MacLeod Wendy[7]. The story is set in 1993 when Marty Pascal plans to bring a new girlfriend by the name Lesley home. The family prepares for the arrival of their visitor with high hopes that she would become a member of the family.

From the movie, the audience observes that Marty had fallen in love with the girl because of her normalcy. He had used this as a strategic approach to break away from their family structure. As the film progresses, the viewer observes that Marty had a sister by the name Jacqueline[8]. The members of the family called her Jackie-O. While it was raining, Lesley and Marty are stranded in their house. At the time, Jacky-O starts to integrate Lesley about her affair with Marty. She tells Lesley that her boyfriend had an affair with a certain girl.

From the movie, the audience learns that Marty and Jackie-O had engaged in sexual intercourse several times during their childhood. During the same night, the two have sex after playing one of their childhood games, also known as the JKF Assassination[9]. The same game resulted in their first incestuous sexual activity. At the same time, Lesley is informed about what had been happening by Anthony.

It also becomes clear that Anthony had warned Lesley about Jackie and Marty’s affair. In the following morning, Marty’s girlfriend decides to get the truth about what had been happening in the family. Anthony tells the family that Marty and his sister had been engaging in sexual intercourse over the years. This results in argument and confrontation between the two girls. Lesley wants Jacky-O to tell her about the affair. Eventually, Jackie-O kills her own brother. This forces Lesley to run for help.

This movie tries to illuminate the issue of incest as presented in Byatt’s novella. This also explains how it has been widely presented in our popular culture. The relationship between Eugenia and Edgar can be compared to the incestuous sexual activity between Jackie-O and her brother Marty[10]. The film continues to promote the presentation of incest in modern popular culture. It is acknowledgeable that these two works help to illuminate the issue of incest.


The book Angels and Insects by A.S. Byatt explores the connection between popular culture and incest. Different scholars and writers in different works of fiction such as films and novels have portrayed incest. Incest is considered a taboo in some societies and a serious social offense in others.

From the passage highlighted in this discussion, it is notable that the author has examined the triumph of life through symbolism. It is clear that the people of Victoria were fascinated by the world of insects. The author has used the fascinations to examine the social order in the society. In the above passage, the author has used incest to grab the attention of the reader.

Reference List

Byatt, A.S. Angels and Insects: Two Novellas. New York: Vintage Books, 2004.

The House of Yes. Directed by Mark Waters. 1997. New York: Miramax Films, 1997. DVD.


  1. A.S. Byatt. Angels and Insects: Two Novellas. (New York: Vintage Books, 2004), 36.
  2. A.S. Byatt. Angels and Insects: Two Novellas. (New York: Vintage Books, 2004), 44.
  3. A.S. Byatt. Angels and Insects: Two Novellas. (New York: Vintage Books, 2004), 47.
  4. A.S. Byatt. Angels and Insects: Two Novellas. (New York: Vintage Books, 2004), 54.
  5. A.S. Byatt. Angels and Insects: Two Novellas. (New York: Vintage Books, 2004), 56.
  6. A.S. Byatt. Angels and Insects: Two Novellas. (New York: Vintage Books, 2004), 61.
  7. The House of Yes, directed by Mark Waters. (1997; New York: Miramax Films, 1997). DVD.
  8. The House of Yes, directed by Mark Waters. (1997; New York: Miramax Films, 1997). DVD.
  9. The House of Yes, directed by Mark Waters. (1997; New York: Miramax Films, 1997). DVD.
  10. The House of Yes, directed by Mark Waters. (1997; New York: Miramax Films, 1997). DVD.

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