WHAT CAN BE SAID ABOUT WHAT IS NOT SAID?

Secrets are obviously themed throughout the bindings of this novel. However, the concealing of information is not always meant to be so evident in narratives like Lady Audley’s Secret. Despite the apparent trigger word located in the book’s title. Could we as readers pick up on such themes if the title was subtler and more ambiguous? Is there a rhetorical intention for applying such a keyword in the title or does Mary Elizabeth Braddon lack the literary creativity to construct a New-York-Times-best-selling-have-to-pick-it-up-catchy-title? Sorry, I don’t know Braddon personally, so I do not know the answer. But we can make some assumptions or educated guesses, right?

Let’s consider the events that have occurred thus far and determine what types of assumptions we can conclude as pointing to the best definitive answer. So the question, once again, is the following:

“Why does Braddon add the word “secret” to the novel’s title?”

Hint: To answer this question, we must see if there are instants in the pages read thus far that show us scenes of some withholding or concealing of information by the characters in the novel.

My Short Answer: There are many examples of concealing information that many characters keep to themselves. I have listed out the following characters that I found “secretive” in some way or another. Take some time to consider what actions or information these characters have possibly hidden. Maybe we found the same or different ones?

  • Lucy
  • Hellen
  • Robert
  • George
  • Mrs. Vincent
  • Mr. Dawson

Stereotyping Women?

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?