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.

You wont give up will you Lady Audley?

By the end of Lady Audley’s Secret, the power struggle and dynamics played throughout the course of the novel between Robert and Lady Audley has come to a close. I believe that her power and ability to wield her power by being a non-stereotypical woman of action is accentuated by the lack of forethought of Robert in addition to her “never surrender, never give up” mentality. Lady Audley not only has the ambition and power to bend people to her own will, but also has the audacity to inflict harm upon others. As she is calculated in her power and carries out evil actions, Robert has positive motives but is simply “Sir Michael’s handsome, lazy, care-for-nothing nephew” (Act 1). For Robert, unmasking Lady Audley will reinforce his existing idea of how women should act and exposing her past will end her agreeable relationship with Sir Michael. Lady Audley’s power is in the fact that she is unmovable and so determined in her plans and ideas. For example, this is seen at the conclusion when Robert believes he must fulfill the typical Victorian male duty and demands the subordination of Lady Audley by exposing her. But, since Lady Audley does not represent the ideal woman–controlled and passive–Robert’s power is ineffective. He then pursues a variety of circumstantial evidence. Ironically, in Robert’s investigation of fraud against Lady Audley, he ignores his own fraudulent actions, which only make Lady Audley more powerful. He pretends to be a barrister even though everyone, including Lady Audley, knows he is too lazy to work. As her juror and in his own attempt to assert his power, Robert leaves only one option for Lady Audley: she must leave Audley Court forever. Lady Audley’s response reveals the terror attached to any thoughts of returning to her previous life of poverty: “What could I do? I must go back to the old life, the old, hard, cruel wretched life—the life of poverty, and humiliation, and vexation…” (Act 3, pg 328). At this point, Lady Audley’s greatest fear is quickly becoming a reality but just when it seems she has been defeated, she demonstrates her wittiness and resilience. As the claims of madness swirl around her, the narrator intervenes to point out Lady Audley is not insane but she “would be mad if she chose to exit the house by one of the main doors” (Act 3, pg 352). Instead, her final display of power comes in her exit of the house which some would interpret to be her defeat. She stealthily chooses one of the less used doors, suggesting she is indeed not insane; rather her thoughts even in the moment of perceived defeat, are deliberate and calculated once again. She cleverly thwarts Robert’s attempts to destroy her. Ultimately, Lady Audley defies gender roles and lashes out at the males who attempt to dominate and destroy her.

Who makes the ultimate power play?

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.

I have the power now, right?

In the novel, Chapter 10 of Volume 2 reveals a face-to-face encounter with Robert and Lady Audley. It is a key aspect in revealing who is fighting for the power of the novel and who currently has the power within the novel. As for who wants the power, it is Lady Audley. She has more to lose then Robert who is looking to only gain knowledge of the disappearance of his friend. Her motive is the protection of her current life and status in society. Robert is the character who has the most power in the novel because he is the one who has the power to find the truth and ruin Lady Audley and all conspirators’ lives as the others know it. Although his motive is less drastic than Lady Audley because he is only gaining the truth and trying to find the fate of his friend, it is evident that Lady Audley is caught off guard in the chapter when confronted with Robert’s finding. She blurts out, “[that’s] A conspiracy!” Lady Audley is also quick to state “if I were placed in a criminal dock I could, no doubt, bring forward witnesses to refute your absurd accusation.” This shows that she has tried to gain the power of position and control her fate by controlling the livelihood of people and tampering with evidence.

 

Who will hold on to their power the longest?

Robert is motivated and driven by justice and friendship for his dear friend George Talboys. Lady Audley is motivated by self preservation. But which is stronger? Robert’s power comes from evidence he is gathering, while Lady Audley’s power lies within her charm and emotional influence. This is clearly demonstrated when Lady Audley “avails herself of the very strongest argument” which is to manipulate a “man’s tender heart for the woman he loves” (p. 302, 298). She has solidified the support she needs from Sir Michael to combat Robert is this “war”. It is now time for Robert to be afraid of Lady Audley. However, Robert has collected evidence against Lady Audley, even if Lady Audley could turn Sir Michael against his nephew, Robert has found witnesses who could identify Lady Audley as Helen Talboys. Even without proof that she had anything to do with the disappearance of George, that secret alone could destroy her, which Robert makes very clear in the Lime walk. This power that Robert poses is concrete. His power is rooted in facts and evidence. These things do not vary day to day. They are set in stone and irrefutable. Lady Audley’s power is abstract. It is built upon her influence on other’s emotions, which makes it unreliable. Therefore, Robert’s power is stronger because it will hold up in any circumstance. After all the head does rule the heart, so when it comes down to it Robert’s logical argument will endure Lady Audley’s emotional appeal. In addition, as previously stated, Robert’s motives are pure, he has a “duty to the dead” (p. 291). Robert’s mission is greater than himself. He mentions several times how “a hand stronger than [his] own is beckoning [him] onward” (p. 274). Lady Audley’s motive is selfish and self centered. Her mission is only as big as she is and there is no one, no stronger hand, helping to pull or push her along. Robert’s greater purpose will ensure that he continues on his path no matter what obstacles he faces, whether it is the torment of his uncle or a death threat from his lady. Because Lady Audley serves no greater purpose than for herself, it will be harder for her to continue on through the “war”.

Merely Mad or Mostly Monster?

Braddon begins to establish a sympathetic view of Lady Audley by developing a tone of weakness and tragedy surrounding the main character. Up until this point in the book, Lady Audley has been referred to as child-like and innocent, saying she had the “curiosity of a puzzled child” (Volume 2, Chapter 11: Pg 279). Alongside the narrative of her deceit and mystery, she has been built up as more of a child than a woman which makes it easier for Braddon to turn the readers’ attention to parts of her past that make her situation sympathetic.

When confronted by Robert, she is described as “submissive” and “shivering”, (Pg 280-281). Both of these words lend a view of Lady Audley as weaker than Robert and possibly even frightened. This is turn away from the cool and collected woman who’s escapades we have been reading about until this point. During their conversation, Lady Audley refers to herself as mad and asks Robert “Why have you tormented me so?…Do you know what it is to wrestle with a madwoman?” (Pg 291). This language of Braddon’s helps to turn the tone of the book from mysterious to tragic which provides the reader with a view of Lady Audley that exposes her weaknesses like her weakness of mind and body. Her fear of Robert is one of the scenes that reveal the softer side of Lady Audley and allow readers to relate to her and possibly feel sympathetic toward her.

Another scene that allows the reader to see Lady Audley’s vulnerabilities is her manipulation of Sir Michael. This scene operates with two understandings of Lady Audley; the one where she is purposely lying to Sir Michael, and also the one where she is actually scared and trembling. Braddon shows the reader that up until now, we had only been seeing her actions without the peril that accompanied them. She describes Lady Audley as “trembling”, with “agony” and full of “aguish and terror” (Pg 298). The novel has come to focus on the tragedy that surrounds Lady Audley and how it has been a product of her upbringing and her own actions. Even in her deceit, her feelings were not absent. “It was no simulated grief that shook her slender frame, and tore at her like some ravenous beast…” (Pg 298). Now that the readers have a better understanding of Lady Audley’s weaknesses, possible madness, and how every lie has come at an emotional cost to her, the reader can begin to sympathize with her.

Will this sympathy last through the conclusion of the novel?

Who will last longer?

At this point in the novel, Lady Audley’s Secret, has turned into a war between Lady Audley and Robert. Who has more power you may ask? The answer is they both have a different type of power they can defend themselves with. I believe Lady Audley has the power of wealth/status and Robert has the power of data, having information about her. But, if I were to choose one I would say Lady Audley has slightly more power.

In Chapter 11 volume 2, when Robert confronts her about his suspiciousness of Helen,
-the power of information/knowledge – Lady Audley tells him he is delusional and that they have the same hand writing. Although, it may be true and Lady Audley may be Helen Talboys, Robert may never get to the end of it because of the protection and status Lady Audley has. Being the wife of Sir Michael Audley can come a long way, “you are mad, and my husband shall protect me from your insolence” (pg 287). Being terrified of what this may lead to, Robert becomes afraid that Lady Audley will let everyone know that he is mad and decides to leave and spends the night at the inn. After this scene, the reader can see that Lady Audley has more power just by being the wife of Sir Michael because although the evidence that Robert has may be true, she is above him and that evidence doesn’t matter, or at least for now it doesn’t.

Lady Audley shutting him down, does not stop him from continuing to investigate. I picture Robert as very hard-headed and someone that will eventually get it his way. He goes his own way and Lady Audley still scared that he may open his mouth, follows with a plan, her power out beats his once gain. Lady Audley, sets the inn on fire. If motives could be a form of power, Lady Audley would win this power by her motives when it comes to burning down the inn where Robert is staying at. This war seems to be difficult to really be able to differentiate between who could win, but Lady Audley seems to be advancing quicker because she is quick to act (i.e., the fire). After this action the reader may ask themselves, will Robert take it? Will he uncover the truth? This war seems to be going back and forth with no clear ending, who will last longer?

Does the destitution justify the deceit?

As the plot continued to unravel in “Lady Audley’s Secret,” my perception of Lady Audley began to shift from one of disgust and dislike to one that could sympathize with, although not excuse, her actions. Robert’s findings in Wildernsea especially gave me a better understanding of her actions as an adult.

According to Mrs. Barkamb, whom Robert discovers was Helen Talboys’ landlady, Helen “tried to support herself after her husband’s desertion by giving music lessons” (266), having been left alone with a new baby and having no idea when to expect her husband’s return. See, Mr. Talboy’s only said that he would return after he had made enough of a fortune to make Helen happy, which might have taken decades or never happened at all. Helen had no idea when her husband would return and started out by making a good effort at keeping herself and her child alive. However, “her father took her money from her, and spent it in public-houses” (266), supporting his drinking habit on her hard-earned money and leaving her even more destitute than before. Thus, having been left by her husband and swindled by her father, I can understand how alone and misused Helen must have felt, how she truly did have a “hateful past” (267). There is something within me which cries out that any truly good woman would have waited for her husband to return, but in conditions such as those Helen faced and with little or no promise of her husband actually coming back, I can’t say I would have acted much differently. Robert calls her a “wicked woman, who did not care what misery she might inflict upon the honest heart of the man she betrayed” (284), but I would say that I feel more for Helen than I do for George Talboys. I don’t agree with her deceptions nor do I condone what she does to hide them, but poverty is not an easy place to be, nor is friendlessness and the inability to rely on the people who are supposed to be closest to you.

The Battle of the Sexes: Who has more of it?

As we approach the climax of the novel, a power struggle between Lady Audley and Robert Audley occurs as each attempts to undermine the other.   Each person has several characteristics that give them power, but both are almost equal in their ability to destroy the other.  Robert Audley has the most power in this fight, because of his empirical data, and his gender, which allows him free access to obtain that data.  Meanwhile, Lady Audley is not able to simply act on her own accord freely without her husband. However, she has the money and charisma to convince other people to act on her behalf.

Robert’s collection of history on Lady Audley leads him to learn of her secret: that she was formerly the wife of his best friend.  The power he wields against Lady Audley is his ability to go out of research her background, as he goes from place to place.  Lady Audley tries to keep track of Robert through letters and questioning him (pg 269), but ultimately she is unable to control his ability to learn more about her. The evidence he has complied has the ability to convince anyone of the truth of Lady Audley, despite their relationship with her.  If Robert decides to tell the baronet of his findings, he can remove all of Lady Audley’s influence on others.  Finally, his motivation to take down Lady Audley stems from his wish to honor his best friend, and his promise to his friend’s sister.  This motivation allows him to continue to fight, despite the danger when Lady Audley chooses to not back down during these accusations.

Lady Audley also has many powers that she uses against Robert Audley.  While she cannot leave the house for long, she can convince others to do something for her, with either money or charm.  This is blatant in Chapter 19 of Volume I, when she convinces a blacksmith to break into Robert’s luggage.  In addition, she has control over her husband, which is her source of her power.  In Chapter 12 of Volume II, Lady Audley convinces the baronet that Robert is consumed with madness over his friend, and that he should be taken to a mad house.  Finally, her motivation to not lose her position of wealth and comfort means she’s willing to do anything to retain it.  This power of motivation is seen when she attempts to murder Robert by burning down the inn he’s staying at in Chapter 1 of Volume III.

Is Clara Robert’s Energizer?

The first time the audience meets Clara Talboys, George’s sister, is when Robert has come to see Hartcourt, George’s father, in order to make him aware of his suspicions concerning George’s disappearance. Although a minor character, Clara plays a key role in driving the plot forward through transforming Robert’s character along with offering a contrast to Lady Audley and Phoebe. Where Phoebe is plain, silent, and reserved, Clara is “handsome”, warm, and, when away from her father’s repressive influence, passionate in her devotion to her missing brother. Her devotion goes to the point of saying to Robert, “I will travel from one end of the world to the other to find the secret of his fate, if you refuse to do it for me (pg 221). She serves the important purpose of bolstering Robert’s flagging determination to follow the evidence to her brother’s killer. She becomes his inspiration, his muse so to speak. And perhaps even more importantly, she makes him feel that he is not alone in his search for the truth.

In addition, Clara is the embodiment of femininity when it comes to appearance as well as her character and behavior. As opposed to Lady Audley, she does not act vehemently or aggressively, but instead, her speech is described as “suppressed passion” and “her resolution was the fruit of no transient womanish enthusiasm…her beautiful features transformed into marble by the rigidity of her expression (pg 222). Although feminine, she rejects the stereotypical passivity of her gender when away from her domineering father. By abandoning feminine passivity, she uses her determination to serve a moral end, rather than to benefit herself like Lady Audley would. Clara is able to motivate Robert again. At this moment, Robert finds his ideal of womanhood: “Her beauty was elevated into sublimity by the intensity of her suppressed passion. She was different to all the other women that he had ever seen. His cousin was pretty, his uncle’s wife was lovely, but Clara Talboys was beautiful” (pg 222). Clara transforms Robert’s previously idle character into one of resolution; she functions to further the plot by being Robert’s stimulation to continuing to seek justice for his beloved friend and her brother, George.

 

Why is Clara so important to the story?

Clara Talboys, the sister of George Talboys, is an example of a minor character who has a key role or moment in the story. She seems to be one of the only people who is suspicious about George’s death and plays the role of devil advocate in the story.  Clara gives off the impression of being very cold and reserved, but she can also be very passionate and strong-willed. This is seen when she tells Robert that if he does not find her brother’s murderer, she will do it herself. She is also very intelligent and realizes that something is not right with her brother’s disappearance and will stop at nothing to find the truth.

Clara’s role in the story really centers around Robert and George. Robert who was good friends with George falters in his search for George but Clara is always there to make sure he sees this through. Clara is the one who keeps the search for answers alive and always seems to keep Robert on his toes. Additionally, Robert is entranced by George’s sister Clara, who just so happens to look shockingly like George. This only adds to Robert’s fascination for her and he sees a lot of his friend in her. Clara’s passion for finding her brother is what spurs Robert on. Clara is also in possession of her brother’s letters which could prove to be a very valuable piece of evidence in their search.Clara therefore functions to fuel and drive others, specifically Robert, to avenge her brother. Without her persistence George may never be found, and her continued dedication to finding the truth. We might not really know how to feel about Clara since she is a minor character, but her beauty, her strong-will and dedication to her brother are all admirable characteristics. We can appreciate her love for her brother and how she will do anything for family. Her intelligence allows her to see around everyone lies and drives her search for the truth.

Clara therefore functions to fuel and drive others, specifically Robert, to avenge her brother. Without her persistence George may never be found, and her continued dedication to finding the truth. We might not really know how to feel about Clara since she is a minor character, but her beauty, her strong-will and dedication to her brother are all admirable characteristics. We can appreciate her love for her brother and how she will do anything for family. Her intelligence allows her to see around everyone lies and drives her search for the truth.

Maid or Secret Keeper?

In Lady Audley’s Secret, the character, Phoebe, plays a significant role in the novel. Phoebe’s character development through the beginning of the novel provides thematic development and and insight into another social class. Even though she is a minor character, she gives the reader an important insight into Lady Audley.

The character of Phoebe is described as Lady Audley’s look-alike and shares many memories with Lady before she becomes a Lady. This is important because Phoebe can represent the Lady Audley of the lower class showing that there is no visible difference in the lower and upper classes. When Lady Audley is married, she takes Phoebe with her. Throughout the novel, Phoebe is asked to describe what the Lady was like before she was married. This shows how Phoebe is used as a looking glass not only into the lower class but also into the former life of Lady Audley.

Phoebe, being so close to Lady Audley, is also privy to an abundance of information regarding Lady Audley. She learns secrets and thoughts of Lady Audley that become increasingly interesting as the plot thickens. The most interesting part of Phoebe’s character is that she knows secrets and messages about Lady Audley that even the audience is unaware of. This information makes Phoebe an incredibly important character to Lady Audley and to the readers. The readers might be inclined to feel suspicious of Phoebe and as a result of that, feel suspicious of Lady Audley. Also, because of Phoebe’s rocky relationship to her husband, Luke, the readers could feel increasingly worried for her as the novel progresses.

Psychologist or Barrister?

Braddon utilizes Robert Audley to give readers knowledge (or premonitions) regarding the mystery throughout this sensation novel. Robert, notorious for being a lazy man who rarely uses his occupation as a lawyer to his advantage, begins to shift into a character that a reader can rely on for information. Like a dark horse, Robert slowly reveals that he is capable of understanding the way people work and that he is full of psychological knowledge. Because of the knowledge that Robert holds, the reader is constantly provided with more insight to the plot or to other characters.

Robert’s ability to remain discrete in his questioning allows Braddon to keep the reader unaware of the knowledge required to fully solving the mysteries. It is apparent through Robert’s method of questioning dubious characters, that he realizes his capability of investigation skills. His collection of evidence is sly and he does it well, without having to disclose his reasoning behind his suspicion. As Robert visits with Phoebe Marks, he tells her that she “is a woman who could keep a secret” (pg 163). Such a comment like this is not only Robert’s way of almost warning Phoebe that he may know something, but readers are left with only enough information to create a premonition- perhaps a misleading one.

Robert’s care-for-nothing personality trait is deemed valuable, as his suspects attempt to manipulate his questions with lies that use femininity to their advantage. Although Lady Audley turned “a ghastly ashen grey… [and] had fainted away,” during a dinner filled with potential clues, Robert is impervious to such actions. In addition, Robert recognizes the tactic as “pieces of womanly jugglery” (174). I find it very interesting that Robert is so in tuned with his ability to recognize the woman’s tactic. The fact that Robert is unmoved by such feminine excuses makes me, as a reader, question his character (Braddon would be proud). Does he have some sort of deeper connection with females than most men? Braddon successfully uses Robert’s character to give me premonitions about the plot and characters. The question is… Is this a misleading deception or a valid clue?

Gambling with knowledge?

Knowledge is power, but so is the appearance of having knowledge. Robert Audley demonstrates this when confronting Mr. Maldon about George’s mysterious and sudden disappearance and accuses Mr. Maldon of playing a part in this. Between Robert and the readers, we know a list of possible cues that could lead us to suspect foul play and that Lady Audley as well as Mr. Maldon were apart of this plot. Robert watches “the effect of every syllable as he spoke” (p. 194). Even Robert knows he has no concrete or empirical evidence or knowledge to convict anyone of a crime. He is merely fishing for a reaction and confession from Mr. Maldon. The readers are aware that Robert does not have any hard facts to prove George was murdered and that Mr. Maldon played any role in the act. However, Mr. Maldon lacks this knowledge and does not call Robert on his bluff of accusations against him. It is a bold move for Robert to forwardly accuse Mr. Maldon. Perhaps if Mr. Maldon was not intoxicated and had his wits about him, he would have denied and disregarded Robert’s “knowledge” as superstition. However, Robert is well aware of this, which is why he watches to gauge the “effect of [his] words” on Mr. Maldon (p. 194). The readers know of Robert’s awareness because he previously defines circumstantial evidence to Lady Audley. Right now, all of Robert’s knowledge is circumstantial, but in Robert’s mind it is “yet strong enough to hang a man” (p. 152). Therefore, the appearance of empirical knowledge is just as powerful as having true empirical knowledge. However, it is only as powerful as Robert’s ability to hold the appearance, keep the poker face, and bet that nobody will call his bluff until everybody folds.

Which type of knowledge is more dangerous?

In Lady Audley’s Secret, Braddon succeeds in contrasting the generally accepted empirical knowledge of the time with the not as accepted superstitious based judgements. Through Robert’s conversations with Lady Audley and observations of Phoebe, Braddon establishes a tension between these two knowledges, specifically within the mind of Robert.

In chapter 15, Robert specifically asks Lady Audley about her knowledge of circumstantial evidence, a form of empirical evidence. He asks her if “[she] ever [studied] the theory of circumstantial evidence” in which she essentially replies no to knowing anything about such a “horrid” thing (ch 15). Robert continues by describing circumstantial evidence as “a thousand circumstances so slight as to be forgotten by the criminal, but links of iron in the wonderful chain” that aid in, and are ultimately responsible for, catching a criminal (ch 15). Being a lawyer and all, Robert’s reason for sharing this knowledge about circumstantial evidence with Lady Audley is understandable; however, her dramatic response causes him to draw additional, more speculative, conclusions.

In chapter 17, with knowledge of Lady Audley’s suspicious reaction to their conversation, Robert visits Phoebe at the Castle Inn where he makes another observation that adds to his knowledge in his quest to find George. At one point, Robert observes Phoebe “thoughtfully as she spread the cloth, and drew the table nearer to the fireplace” where he precedes to say, “‘that. . . is a woman who could keep a secret.’” (ch 17). To this point, Robert has been consistent with making very objective and empirically based judgements. However, he gets frustrated later and questions himself.

“Am I never to get any nearer to the truth, but am I to be tormented all my life by vague doubts, and wretched suspicions, which may grow upon me till I become a monomaniac” (ch 17)? Here, Robert, for one of the first times, expresses his disbelief and frustration in seeking out solely empirical knowledge. He isn’t satisfied with the knowledge he’s gathered thus far, and wonders if he might just have to live with his questions and doubts until he is essentially mad. Robert’s frustration with his lack of empirical knowledge is evident and gives rise to the tension, and resulting internal battle, between empirical knowledge and superstition in Robert’s mind. At one point, Robert lets his thoughts run wild and boldly claims that “in plainer, crueler words I believe [George] to be dead,” another speculative conclusion (ch 17).

As humans, it is our natural inclination to make judgments based off what we know and the information we have gathered. To some extent, I think Robert’s superstitious based judgments are valid to an extent, because they are made with his underlying knowledge of empirical evidence.