Mobility as a Disruptive Force

In a sensation novel that concerns itself chiefly with deception, Lady Audley’s Secret is also concerned with mobility- both literally and figuratively. Where in the literal sense it is the mobility of characters such as George that sparks a huge chain of events, and figuratively a mobility of social class through Lady Audley, described by Robert as a “poor little creature; poor unhappy little golden-haired sinner” (269) and the effective reshaping of her entire life. The attempt at a transition from a lower social class to a higher one is prevalent in other minor characters like Phoebe, Lucy, and Luke, who all try to advance their financial and social positions, and this force of social mobility ends up being a disruptive force in Braddon’s novel.

Robert is a man who brought himself out of ignorance through his mobility. The only way he was able to discover Lady Audley’s secret was through having to travel place by place until he was able to unravel the necessary clues. Mobility in Robert’s case was a necessary disruption that unraveled the secrets encompassed in the novel for the reader, and it is through this mobility that the art of sensation was brought about by Braddon. “‘Why do I go on with this,’ he said, ‘when I know that it is leading me, step by step, day by day, hour by hour, nearer to that conclusion which of all others I should avoid?” (183), Robert exclaims about George concerning his quest to discover the truth. Perhaps it is through his mobility that Robert was able to push on, that being stagnant would have been a slow-burning fuse that would have amounted to nothing. This is purely speculation, but a speculation that is recurrent with the fact that every main character in this novel is centered around mobility.

George is another example of literal mobility as a disruptive force, and his decision to go to Australia is the spark that sets off the chain of events throughout the rest of the novel. The disruption here is the obvious strain on George’s marriage, but there is also a figurative disruption of mobility through George actually climbing the social ladder. Here George does something that is rarely done, which is rise to a better financial situation through sheer will. Granted, finding gold is more luck than science, but the decision to move to a then-existing penal colony to find gold is daring to say the least. It was through his physical mobility that George gained social mobility, but lost everything else. Maybe Braddon is suggesting through the story of George that society was set up in a way that you could not gain financial influence without losing emotional support, that the two were mutually exclusive. This could explain why the general attitude towards the rich was less than savory in the Victorian era- because they had moved away from empathy to gain gold.

The mobility of Lady Audley through social classes was described by Braddon (the narrator, specifically) as her “no longer innocent, and the pleasure we take in art and loveliness being an innocent pleasure had passed out of her reach” (309). Lady Audley had strayed away from the things that made people people and focused only on escaping her own sins. In fact, the narrator says that “all the treasures that had been collected for her could have given her no pleasure” (309). Here the mobility of Lady Audley serves as an internal disruptive force that has both internal and external implications. The internal are obviously deceit, lust for power, and influence over lesser classed beings. The external are the created strifes with George, Luke, and Robert to name a few characters that create a power struggle that only leads down a road towards more disruption in everyone’s lives.

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