Psychologist or Barrister?

Braddon utilizes Robert Audley to give readers knowledge (or premonitions) regarding the mystery throughout this sensation novel. Robert, notorious for being a lazy man who rarely uses his occupation as a lawyer to his advantage, begins to shift into a character that a reader can rely on for information. Like a dark horse, Robert slowly reveals that he is capable of understanding the way people work and that he is full of psychological knowledge. Because of the knowledge that Robert holds, the reader is constantly provided with more insight to the plot or to other characters.

Robert’s ability to remain discrete in his questioning allows Braddon to keep the reader unaware of the knowledge required to fully solving the mysteries. It is apparent through Robert’s method of questioning dubious characters, that he realizes his capability of investigation skills. His collection of evidence is sly and he does it well, without having to disclose his reasoning behind his suspicion. As Robert visits with Phoebe Marks, he tells her that she “is a woman who could keep a secret” (pg 163). Such a comment like this is not only Robert’s way of almost warning Phoebe that he may know something, but readers are left with only enough information to create a premonition- perhaps a misleading one.

Robert’s care-for-nothing personality trait is deemed valuable, as his suspects attempt to manipulate his questions with lies that use femininity to their advantage. Although Lady Audley turned “a ghastly ashen grey… [and] had fainted away,” during a dinner filled with potential clues, Robert is impervious to such actions. In addition, Robert recognizes the tactic as “pieces of womanly jugglery” (174). I find it very interesting that Robert is so in tuned with his ability to recognize the woman’s tactic. The fact that Robert is unmoved by such feminine excuses makes me, as a reader, question his character (Braddon would be proud). Does he have some sort of deeper connection with females than most men? Braddon successfully uses Robert’s character to give me premonitions about the plot and characters. The question is… Is this a misleading deception or a valid clue?

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