Merely Mad or Mostly Monster?

Braddon begins to establish a sympathetic view of Lady Audley by developing a toneĀ of weakness and tragedy surrounding the main character. Up until this point in the book, Lady Audley has been referred to as child-like and innocent, saying she had the “curiosity of a puzzled child” (Volume 2, Chapter 11: Pg 279). Alongside the narrative of her deceit and mystery, she has been built up as more of a child than a woman which makes it easier for Braddon to turn the readers’ attention to parts of her past that make her situation sympathetic.

When confronted by Robert, she is described as “submissive” and “shivering”, (Pg 280-281). Both of these words lend a view of Lady Audley as weaker than Robert and possibly even frightened. This is turn away from the cool and collected woman who’s escapades we have been reading about until this point. During their conversation, Lady Audley refers to herself as mad and asks Robert “Why have you tormented me so?…Do you know what it is to wrestle with a madwoman?” (Pg 291). This language of Braddon’s helps to turn the tone of the book from mysterious to tragic which provides the reader with a view of Lady Audley that exposes her weaknesses like her weakness of mind and body. Her fear of Robert is one of the scenes that reveal the softer side of Lady Audley and allow readers to relate to her and possibly feel sympathetic toward her.

Another scene that allows the reader to see Lady Audley’s vulnerabilities is her manipulation of Sir Michael. This scene operates with two understandings of Lady Audley; the one where she is purposely lying to Sir Michael, and also the one where she is actually scared and trembling. Braddon shows the reader that up until now, we had only been seeing her actions without the peril that accompanied them. She describes Lady Audley as “trembling”, with “agony” and full of “aguish and terror” (Pg 298). The novel has come to focus on the tragedy that surrounds Lady Audley and how it has been a product of her upbringing and her own actions. Even in her deceit, her feelings were not absent. “It was no simulated grief that shook her slender frame, and tore at her like some ravenous beast…” (Pg 298). Now that the readers have a better understanding of Lady Audley’s weaknesses, possible madness, and how every lie has come at an emotional cost to her, the reader can begin to sympathize with her.

Will this sympathy last through the conclusion of the novel?

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