Study Guide

Lilia's unnamed baby in Where Angels Fear to Tread

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Lilia's unnamed baby

We find it really sad that Lilia's baby doesn't have a name in the novel. But his lack of name seems to be particularly fitting when we consider how the baby has absolutely no say over his own life. Yes, we know he's still a newborn and can't talk or anything. But he's still a human. Yet, for the majority of the novel, the baby is only an object or an idea to the other characters—Mrs. Herriton doesn't care about the child's fate, but can't stand the thought that people would gossip about her disinterest in the child.

Philip and Harriet also don't care about the baby as a person; Philip even thinks that the child can be "bought" if he pays Gino enough cash. Even Miss Abbott, who seems to be the most caring person out of the whole lot, admits that she has been trying to control the baby's fate without thinking about how he'll grow up and have his own thoughts and feelings:

She had thought so much about this baby, of its welfare, its soul, its morals, its probable defects. But, like most unmarried people, she had only thought of it as a word—just as the healthy man only thinks of the word death, not of death itself. The real thing, lying asleep on a dirty rug, disconcerted her. It did not stand for a principle any longer. It was so much flesh and blood, so many inches and ounces of life—a glorious, unquestionable fact, which a man and another woman had given to the world. (7.31)

Luckily for Miss Abbott, the realization that the baby is a little human being melts her. It seems that, thanks to this tiny scream-machine, that Miss Abbott will turn out (by Sawston standards, anyhow) compassionate.

The most tragic moment in the novel occurs when the baby dies in a carriage accident, after being kidnapped by Harriet. The baby symbolizes the dangers of what happens when "fools rush in where angels fear to tread" (See the "What's Up With the Title" section for more on where this phrase comes from). His death represents the disastrous consequences of the Herritons' (and especially Harriet's) attempts to stick their noses into affairs that should be left alone.

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