We know there’s a secret, but how do we know it’s a bad one?

The nature of Lady Audley’s actions is impossible to classify as right or wrong because the reader is constantly lacking key information. It is impossible to discern her motivations in any occasion, and thus difficult to guess the nature of her secret. The only thing the reader is left with is a vague inclination that Lady Audley is putting on a skillful act to conceal something sinister- but we don’t know for sure.

We get the first instance of Lady Audley’s perplexing behavior when she agrees to marry Sir Michael. Despite her appearance as an agreeable, untroubled girl, her strange reaction to his request, falling to his knees and crying that he is “noble and generous” but that he “asks too much of her”, although she “cannot be blind to the advantages of such an alliance”, demonstrates some peculiar, strong emotion that is ever so slightly askew from what one would expect in the situation (52). It could be just the exclamation of a poor girl agreeing to an advantageous marriage, but something about the scene leaves the readers with an unsettled feeling.

She is described multiple times as simple, vain, and childish. She amuses herself in a “frivolous fashion”, trimming flowers, arranging her hair, and gossiping (113). She seems like the perfect angel of the house. Alicia alone dislikes Lady Audley; the Lady is able to win everyone’s affection with her beauty and naïve, pleasant ways. And yet, we are made skeptical by the revelation of her ring and bit of paper (53), and the baby’s shoe and blond hair that were hidden in her jewelry box (70). She obviously has some past connection with a child (her child?), and possibly a past love relationship. (It seems clear what the author is implying, given George’s parallel story line, but it remains to be seen if we are being misled by an obvious answer). This juxtaposition of her innocent appearance with suspicious circumstantial evidence makes it hard to judge her words and deeds. It could be that her famed secret is not a sinister one, but how can we know?

And even when we would expect to see her unnerved, when she discovers that George entered her chambers, which she locked presumably with the intention of keeping him in particular out, she only “chides Miss Alicia in a playful, laughing way”, and notices they looked at her picture with “mock indignation” (112). Her composure is too perfect- are we jumping to conclusions? She gives all appearances of a spotless conscience. But was her fear really of the thunderstorm, or of being found out by George? To be able to take furtive actions, but outwardly keep up such a different persona, seems hard to believe of Lady Audley- probably because we are given such limited knowledge about how she behaves in private.

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