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Women and the World of Dime Novels

Julie Le Roy

Example of:
The ruined woman

Featured in:
Julie Le Roy; or, The Stain of Blood

Julie Le Roy

"I wish, seriously, to become better acquainted with you; and, if you should happen to find me agreeable, I mean to marry you.  My meaning is really honorable, and if you will give me an oppurtunity of making your acquaintance I'll convince you of it." (29)

One of the most sensational and moralistic dime novels, Julie le Roy has one of the most tragic endings. Naïve of the ways of men, Julie falls prey to a young man named Herbert Graham. By the time Herbert meets Julie, he has scorned the woman he truly loved because her family lost their money. Herbert then followed a path of reckless dissipation, culminating in his seduction of Julie. She is not in position to recognize that he is not only lying to her, but that his talk of love is meant to bed her, not to wed her.

The specious arguments and representations of the handsome young man—who called himself Herbert Williams—easily prevailed on her to repeat the interview. … He was so persuasive—so tender—so handsome! So, what could the poor girl do? (30)

The narrator suggests that, in these circumstances, Julie’s trajectory is inevitable. Her lack of worldly knowledge, combined with Herbert’s skills in verbal seduction, leaves her no choice but to succumb to him. Julie’s downfall is sealed, ironically, by an attempt to save her from Herbert. Herbert’s aunt realizes what he is doing, and she sends Julie a letter informing her of the details of Herbert’s chicanery. When he next comes to visit her, Julie confronts him with her full realization of his intentions toward her.

"Keep off! seducer! miscreant! You shall never touch me more! I have trusted you; and God knows , that relying on you as on him, my love for you was pure and holy as a wife's. I will not be your mistress! Take but one step nearer—stretch but your arm toward me—and you shall see that I choose death, rather than infamy!" (35)

Julie's words highlight a recurring theme of ruined women in dime novels: the idea that a woman’s sexual disrepute is a fate worse than death. Julie claims that she would rather die than become Herbert's mistress, and she seems to keep a dagger on her person for just that purpose (and she's not the only woman in a dime novel to do so). Even when she's threatening to kill herself, Julie highlights the naiveté that is characteristic of the ruined woman. She refuses to become Herbert's mistress even though she has allowed him to keep her in a room in a less than reputable boarding house and has already had sex with him. Of course, Herbert does not respond well to Julie's words. She flees when he tries to assault her, and she trips and falls in the process.

He puts his hand to her heart—Oh, God! He encounters the cold hilt of the dagger! And taking his eyes from the long-loved face, where till now they had rested, he beholds the deep red blood trickling down the white bosom, and staining the muslin robe. Had the dagger pierced her heart by chance as she fell? Or had her own will accomplished the work it threatened? That secret lies between herself and God. (36)

Though she is not the main character of the novel, Julie’s seduction and death drive Herbert’s reformation. He is put on trial for Julie's murder, and he fights to prove his innocence. Though he did not deliberately stab her, Herbert comes to see that her death is the result of his dishonorable behavior toward her. His eventual acquittal of responsibility in her death forces him to resume a better manner of living. After he reforms, he reconciles with the fiancée whom he abandoned and eventually marries her.