In this section of the reading, the power struggle between Robert and Lady Audley intensifies in an interesting way. I would argue an inverse relationship between the power strength of Robert and the power strength of Lady Audley emerges in this section. In fact, I would go so far as to attribute the inverse relationship to their differences in motives.
At this point in the novel, the majority of Robert’s power is strictly attributable to empirical data: observation, investigation, and answering questions of fact, while occasionally leaning towards superstitious inclinations. Lady Audley has felt threatened by this power from the beginning, yet we know that Robert has felt threatened by Lady Audley’s equally powerful charm and manipulative scheming tactics. However, Robert is the only character in the novel that is a “trigger” for Lady Audley: he is the only character that she consistently feels threated by. He is the only character to make her doubt, insecure, or worry. Therefore, Robert possesses a unique power over Lady Audley, maybe so unique as to dominate Lady Audley’s power over him.
However, Robert’s scope of power doesn’t end with empirical knowledge. We specifically see Robert’s new power emerge when he speaks with Lady Audley and expresses his premonitions regarding the events surrounding George’s suspicious death. In his accusations and in their conversation, we see Robert wielding a new power: a more strategic and argumentative, arguably gender superior, power. After Robert has gathered more information and put more of the pieces together over time, he is able to form a more credible theory; therefore, he is more comfortable explicitly confronting Lady Audley and accusing her of being Helen Talboys. In fact, I would even say Robert exploits Lady Audley’s role as a female, and takes advantage of his innate male dominance as a form of power when he confronts her. After the accusation, Lady Audley is quick to accuse Robert that “[he] is mad and [her] husband shall protect [her] from [Robert’s] insolence” (287). Lady Audley has never described, or given the reader to even think, that Sir Michael has any power or influence over her and her actions over the years, yet she says he will protect her now? Seems odd. I interpreted her reflexive accusation and defense as a sign of desperation- she is out of defenses and losing power.
In regards to motives, Robert’s motives are selfless, a simple “duty to the dead” (p. 291). Lady Audley’s motives are selfish. The purity of Robert’s motives for discovering the truth further justifies his legitimate power over Lady Audley in the novel.