Lucy, Bad or Good?

In my reading of Lady Audley’s Secret, there is this controversial issue over whether I feel that Lucy is good or bad.  This may be easy for a lot of people to decide because of all of the things she is willing to do to keep her secret.  When Lucy abandons her old life, she abandons her son.  Even after faking her death, I cannot see how she is able to just leave her son behind.  To be fair, George did abandon them first.  How is Lucy to know that he will come back?  For all she knows, leaving could have been George’s way to escape his old life.  Keeping this in mind, once Lucy does move on, she remarries Sir Michael.  We learned pretty early on that this marriage has been superficial from its beginning.

Keeping the idea that women were not given much power outside the home in mind, abandoning her old lifestyle could have been Lucy’s way of attaining freedom and power.  Maybe being abandoned in a lifestyle of poverty with a son was too much for Lucy to handle, especially when she was unsure of her husband’s return.  Maybe I’m just making excuses for Lucy, but the stresses of being a poor woman with a child were and still are problems.  Lucy could be viewed as a bad person. She does murder, plot, and abandon.  Playing devil’s advocate, I simply see a woman who chooses herself over society’s expectations.  Even when she leaves her son, at least her son is being taken care of.

Simply Thoughts

There were were a couple of things that stood out to me in Lady Audley’s Secret.  The first is pretty simple.  It can be inferred from the title that Lady Audley has some big secret that she is hiding from everyone.  When she finds out that Sir Audley is interested in her, her reaction is so weird.  Her tone changes, and it seems like she gets a little angry as she grabs the ring around her neck.  I guessed that her secret was that she has or had a husband that she still loves, and I figured that was her big secret, even though she denies this to Sir Audley.  Then, we find out that she keeps a piece of blonde hair and a small wrapped up baby shoe hidden and kept with her belongings.  This kind of confused me because I thought I already knew her secret, but here we are finding out through Phoebe that Lady Audley has or had a baby.  Lady Audley has two secrets.

A second thing that caught my attention Braddon’s use of the gothic.  There is the huge mansion with all of it’s hidden passages.  Lady Audley’s beauty is a characteristic that caught me off guard.  I understand that she is pretty, but for little boys to be running home to just to tell their mother how beautiful she is comes across as weird.  In discussion of gothic in another class, it was stated that when things are taken to an extreme, such as the lady’s beauty, then it leads to the grotesque.  I can’t help but wonder if the author plans to reveal something extremely grotesque about Lady Audley’s character.  Apparently, her past is something that she is really interested on leaving behind as she decides that she will marry Sir Audley.  I also feel like Braddon could possibly be hinting at something with Lady Audley weird laugh that catches Sir Audley by surprise during his proposal.  It brought to mind a witch’s laugh.  So is Lady Audley’s extreme beauty just a mask for her pure evil?

Unpretty yet beautiful

There was one thing about Jane Eyre that stood out the most.  The thing that struck me as extremely different is the fact that Jane is not described as being beautiful.  Of all of the main characters that have been studied thus far, all have been described as being beautiful.  I guess this stood out as different because all of our female heroines have had that quality of beauty; beauty, for a long time, had been associated with status as well as a major quality of good virtuous woman, as if virtue is at all correctly calculated through appearances.

Instead of being beautiful, Mrs. Reed refers to Jane as a toad and further compares her beauty to Georgiana’s.  Georgiana’s beauty seems to be the typical beauty that all the other heroines must have acquired.  Jane’s description of herself is more imaginary.  She refers to herself as having the appearance of an imp or a fairy.  While an imp or a fairy may not be fully associated with beauty, these characters certainly represent Jane’s zeal for imaginary ideals.  Jane may not be beautiful as compared to societal ideals.  I feel as though Bronte is trying to make point with this.  Beauty is nothing more than an appearance.  Bronte may be showing that true beauty lies in the passionate heart of Jane Eyre.

Sensibility Toward Society

As stated in class discussion, the original title of Sense and Sensibility was Elinor and Marianne. It was also observed that Elinor is a representation of common sense.  On the other hand, Marianne is a representation of sensibility.  In the novel, Austin shows Marianne’s sensibility a majority of the time attacking social norms.  By having Marianne attacking social norms and conventions, is it possible that Austin is reflecting her views of how societal expectations are absurd and unnecessary at times?

Marianne’s sensibility lead to her breaking a lot of customary ideals of a young woman during this time.  For example, Austin has Marianne and Willoughby fall head over heels for each other.  In Marianne’s almost immediate infatuation, she begins to spend a lot of time with Willoughby.  This resulted Willoughby giving Marianne a horse.  Marianne was also seen giving Willoughby a lock of hair.  She also goes to the visit Willoughby’s estate unattended.  Yes, accepting such a generous present from Willoughby and giving away a piece of herself in a sense, may be a little too much.  On the other hand, could Austin be presenting these acts merely as innocent actions that have been over dramatized by society? I mean, it is just a horse and a lock of hair.  It’s not like she’s having sex with Willoughby.  And then her visit to Willoughby’s estate is generally seen as promiscuous on Marianne’s part.  Willoughby has been able to visit with Marianne on plenty occasions, but the first and only time Marianne goes by Willoughby, it is a problem.  Now it is well known that men are more free during this time, but could Austin be revealing how unfair she feels society’s norms fall against women?

Beauty vs Virtue

Luisa Bernini, the mother of Emilia, Julia, and Ferdinand is the not described as being a complete beauty like Emilia and Julia.  She was actually known for being well-mannered and courteous, a perfect model of a woman minus the association of great beauty.  Luisa is a representation of a virtuous woman.  Being a model of a good woman doesn’t actually require great beauty, and this is proved by Radcliffe throughout the novel.  Radcliffe reveals this by giving the marquis of Mazzini a beautiful wife, lacking the positive qualities associated to Luisa.

Maria de Vellorno is the marquis’s new wife, and she is described and being very beautiful.  The problem is that she is unfaithful.  She even grows jealous of Hippolitus’s attraction to Julia.  Maria is already envious of Emilia’s and Julia’s beauty, so Hippolitus liking Julia over her must have blown her top.  Then once Maria is confronted about being an adulteress by the marquis, she decides to poison him and then kill herself.  Her actions just show that although she is full of beauty, her vices stand out more through her character.  Meanwhile, the virtuous wife, assumed to be dead for all of these years has only been locked away.  I say only not to detract from the horror of the idea but just to state that her being locked away is better than her being dead, like the marquis. He needed to be punished anyways.  Radcliffe allows the more virtuous characters to live on and thrive while the beautiful is full of vices, committing murder and killing herself.

Simply Unprepared

In the first volume of Evelina, it is hard to overlook her naivety.  From the beginning of the novel, we learn of Evelina’s seclusion from the world.  Since the last girl Mr. Villars was left to care for eventually messed up to the point of suicide, his overprotection is pretty understandable.  Protecting a young girl’s innocence is important, especially when you consider Evelina’s mother’s situation.  The main problem with being secluded from the world is the lack of preparation for worldly matters.  You can tell from Evelina’s letter to Mr. Villars asking if she could go to London that she is overly excited to visit London.  I can’t help but think of a young high school graduate who has been sheltered her entire life.  As soon as she gets a taste of freedom, she’ll want to experience things that she’d never been able to get away with living with her parents.  The lack of preparation leaves Evelina basically thrown into the world headfirst.

The first sign of something going wrong in London is foreshadowed in Evelina’s letter to Mr. Villars describing her initial experiences in London.  Evelina has been overly excited to experience the theatre earlier in the novel and gets to enjoy her experience, but nothing else about London is as grand as she had anticipates.  So her experience at the ball isn’t much of a surprise.  Evelina isn’t truly accustomed to the proper ball etiquettes and basically makes a fool of her self.  Lord Orville can’t get a good conversation because she is too scared to talk to him.  You’d think she’d be able to hold a good conversation at the least, but no, she’s too unprepared.  Then she gets harassed and embarrassed by Sir Willoughby.  I don’t blame Evelina for being ready to run back to her sheltered lifestyle.  I guess the world is too full of risks.  Everything seems to be a downgrade from home.  This makes it even more interesting that after meeting her grandmother, Evelina feels the same about her grandmother’s family.  It is funny how we, as readers, keep getting these bad descriptions of Madame Duval.  Once Evelina gives a description of her dress and make-up, I couldn’t help but think of an old woman who has not yet learned to grow up.  She doesn’t seem like she’s the model of a woman that Evelina should be looking up to.