I firmly believe that, when writing a story, a writer does not make any final decisions about their story on a whim or fancy; it was done for a certain purpose through clear insight. In this case, considering the female characters Braddon has created along with their thoughts and treatment toward the other sex, she may be addressing the gender divide that was common between men and women at the time. However, are we meant to completely agree with everything that Braddon says in her book?
This divisive nature is noticeable through Robert’s point of view as the story goes on. He claims “to hate women” because of they are nothing more than “bold, brazen, abominable creatures, invented for the annoyance and destruction of their superiors” (229). As much as we may want to disagree with his viewpoint, within the context of the book, Robert is right. For example, Alicia comes off as very strong willed and at times childish, which interferes with any possible future courtships. She’s also dead-set on marrying Robert and refuses to consider anyone else. Such behavior, in the day and age of the book, was more than likely seen as unbecoming of a young woman of her class. Yet, are we meant to feel sorry for her at the same time?
We can also look at Phoebe, Lady Audley’s ex-personal maid. She snoops about and is able to dig up blackmail against her Lady and is made to later use this information to make Lady Audley pay her and her husband hush money for their bar and home. Sure, we are later made to feel sorry for her after her marriage, but her intention on discovering potential blackmail may not be so easily be forgotten nor forgiven.
Lastly, we can look toward Lady Audley and her own circumstances along with how she deals with each issue that comes her way. She uses her husband, Sir Michael, as heavy muscle to deal with any problems she doesn’t want to face head on. Furthermore, she is able to charm him into shamelessly doing whatever she wants with the right words and actions. Again, like Phoebe and Alicia, we may be able to feel sorry for her in the future, but for now, the probability of that happening seems very low.
Even more interesting, above all, is the fact that Braddon herself, using the voice of the narrator, seems to agree with Robert’s stance:
“Ah, Heaven help a strong man’s tender weakness for the woman he loves. Heaven pity him when the guilty creature has deceived him and comes with her tears and lamentations to through herself at his feet…Pity him, pity him.” (298).
So then, what is Braddon trying to accomplish through this negative viewpoint of women? Are we simply meant to take this idea with a grain of salt because of the genre of the work? Or, are we meant to sit down and discuss this division between the sexes?