Apathy or Sympathy?

Through Braddon’s tactic of heartrending pathos, the possibility of gaining sympathy for Lady Audley is presented to readers. As secrets begin to unravel, Braddon places Lady Audley in a vulnerable state as she reveals her past. This vulnerability leads readers to feel sympathetic for Lady Audley, as she exposes hardship and the chance that she may not be completely responsible for her monstrous actions.

Lady Audley’s impoverished upbringing suggests how social standings and conditions affect mental well-being. Lady Audley explains that she grew up knowing “at a very early age… what it was to be poor” with a father that had “an inability to pay” money (357-358). The destitution that Lucy had to endure as a child gives readers an opportunity to understand why Lady Audley is the way she is. The shame that Lady Audley felt for her poverty-stricken upbringing led her to rely on her beauty, as her “ultimate fate in life depended on her marriage” (359). This dependence exposes the roots of why Lady Audley is so reliant on her appearance and manipulation tactics to gain power over others. This realization provokes readers to truly feel for LA, as her monstrous acts are justified with the possibility that she is simply trying to protect herself since she has never truly been able to rely on anyone but herself.

In addition, the ambiguity about whether or not Lady Audley is genuinely mad leads to the question of whether or not she is truly responsible for her behavior. Lady Audley explains that she grew up with a mother in a madhouse and was required to remain silent about the information. LA further explains that keeping such a secret is what “made [her] selfish and heartless,” and for the first time, admits that her flawless public façade is anything but genuine (359). She explains that her mother’s disease is hereditary and it’s the only thing she expects to inherit from her. The simple disclosure of such possibility completely shifts tone, as the reader automatically questions to what extent LA should be held responsible for her actions if she truly struggles with insanity. The questioning encourages readers to reclaim their judgment towards Lady Audley, potentially shifting their ideas from apathy to sympathy.

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