Working Relationships: True Deception in Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret

April 30, 2019 by Essay Writer

Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s sensation novel Lady Audley’s Secret presents the astonishing and cynical notion that the “sort of surprise at the fictional company one is keeping, or at the view of the world… is central to a whole genre of fiction” (Introduction). In the story Braddon’s plot reflects this idea through mischievous action and mystery. She vividly expresses the conflict of deception among the characters involved in the dramatic events that occur. This deception exists in the core of every relationship in the novel, namely in the areas of love and family. It ranges from smaller fallacies to grand schemes that influence the lives of all who are associated with them. Relationships within this novel function as a primary means of housing the common quality of deceit. Regardless how well established or personal relationships appear to be, this attribute yet exists to a general or astounding degree. Also, despite the fact that relationships are sometimes tainted by deception, people continue their lives together. By presenting her characters with so many hidden desires and actions, Braddon attempts to reveal that deception embodies a controlling force in the protagonists’ and antagonists’ lives. She implies the idea that deception generally represents a characteristic feature of all relationships.Braddon presents Sir Michael and Lucy Audley’s relationship as a foundationally deceptive relationship that eventually leads to their separation. They choose early on to be deceitful and avoid revealing their intentions. From the beginning, Michael convinces himself to believe that having a young wife, who only loves him for his wealth, does not bother him. He desires to marry Lucy regardless of this fact, and “his hope was that as her life had been most likely one of toil… by a protecting care that should make him necessary to her, win her young heart, and obtain from her fresh and earliest love alone the promise of her hand” (7). This passage illustrates the first instance of deception present in their courtship before marriage. Here Braddon suggests that deception may somehow present itself in any relationship at any time and set the tone for the remainder of it. In this case, deception becomes an inherent dilemma from the beginning of their acquaintance. In “Taking the Measure of Human Relationships: An Interview with Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne,” Joan and Dennis West delve into the workings of a relationship. The authors believe the novel “follows complex characters as they grapple with difficult moral and ethical dilemmas” (14). They reviewed a story where the protagonist has a relationship with his father that is filled with evident deception, and he must choose between loyalty or what is best for himself. The trait of foundational deception links these two stories in that Michael and Lucy have to make the same choice in their relationship. Early on, Michael’s deceitful actions suggest that they will at some point have to come to terms with their problems that encircle the plot of the novel.In an article on “Acts of Madness: Lady Audley and The Meanings of Victorian Feminity,” the author looks at the issue of deception in the realm of private-life relationships in Lady Audley’s Secret. This article examines the idea that deception exists in Michael and Lucy’s relationship as a means for them to secure their own happiness. Lynn Voskuil writes, “a woman might be the compliant conduit of an idealized subjectivity or she might be the assertive protector of her family’s welfare and her own. More to the point, she is most likely playing both roles at once” (612). This idea holds true for Lucy who constantly tries to protect herself at all costs. These attempts lead her into deception as she accepts Michael’s forward proposal. He states, “‘I will not ask too much of you. I dare say I am a romantic old fool; but if you do not dislike me, and if you do not love anyone else, I see no reason why we should not be a very happy couple. Is it a bargain, Lucy?’ ‘Yes'” (11). Because her options as a poor woman are limited, she chooses to satisfy herself although he warns her that marrying someone you do not love has to be one of the greatest sins. Braddon writes, “‘No more dependence, no more drudgery, no more humiliations,’ she said; ‘every trace of the old life melted away – every clue to identity buried and forgotten…'” (12). This is Lucy’s self-convincing statement that appeases her mind concerning any guilt. She feels a sense of assurance in pretending to love Michael, disregarding his true feelings entirely. The notion that deception in the foundation of a relationship can permeate somewhat unnoticed is obvious with this couple. Deception takes a major role in this situation in spite of the magnitude of the honest and sincere commitment expected and necessary in any marriage.Deception follows as Michael and Lucy live their lives together. Over time, Lucy completely deceives her husband and denies even the closest people access to her past life and troubling experiences. Braddon states, “as she spoke he dropped into a chair close to the spot upon which she knelt, and with his hands clasped together, and with his head bent to catch every syllable of those horrible words, he listened as if his whole being had been resolved” (347). Her deceitfulness becomes apparent as Michael learns the truth of her disastrous upbringing and seems reluctant to believe it after so much time has elapsed. Lucy has from the beginning created a rift of deception between them. In “Acts of Madness,” Voskuil lists several observations:Viewed in light of Lewes’s theatrical theories, Lucy Audley is suspect because she realizes not a shared, coherent human nature but a singular, idiosyncratic gendered self – a self that his theories acknowledged latently… psychiatrists account for idiosyncracies that distinguished insanity from normalcy. (615)This passage supports the idea that Lucy’s deception develops from her idiosyncratic desire for self-assurance, and it suggests that she does not reveal her past because she wants to avoid the pain of her own recollection by not disclosing it. Lucy is quite intentionally withholding information in her marriage that could cause her to lose everything she has. It is this act of deception that ultimately leads her into mania and out of this relationship. As Robert Audley finally confronts her, she is unable to cope with the reality that he knows all her secrets and, consequently, overtaken by insanity “I AM MAD!” (346), she proclaims.The relationship between Robert and Alicia Audley is presented as a kinship where elements of subtle deception are present, as in Audley Court. This deception exists between them because they fail to discuss their true feelings and emotions. Braddon writes, “The young man was a great favourite with his uncle, and by no means despised by his pretty, gipsy-faced, light-hearted, hoydenish cousin, Miss Alicia Audley” (33). Although Alicia and Robert are cousins, she loves him, but he never really informs her that he does not share the same feelings. This subtle deception exists as a grey area between them. In “The Greying of Lady Audley’s Secret,” Harriet Blodgett states, “The significant point to Braddon’s control… that greyness is emphasized lies in her denial that truth is a simply knowable distinction between black and white or discoverable in any merely factual account” (137). In actuality their relationship possesses some qualities of truth and deception, so this deception is not easily discoverable, though it is apparent to the readers. Alicia makes underlying reference to her love for Robert in her letters; however, she thinks the idea of his falling in love is ludicrous because he appears very reserved in matters of emotion. Braddon also presents scenes where Alicia scolds him about his mannerisms concerning love and the treatment of dearest friends. He states, “Alicia, my darling, what is it?… What does all this mean? How charmingly she sits her horse! What a pretty figure, too… but to fly at a fellow like that, without the least provocation” (116). Robert’s emotional reservation is a deceptive action even though this is a familial relationship. He remains steadfast and ponders Alicia’s emotional display, refusing to address her feelings and admit his are the opposite.The deception that exists subtly between Robert and Alicia may not be unusual, because people often tend to not mention truths they feel will cause someone emotional distress. Therefore, a person may possibly be unaware of deception. Braddon highlights this fact by revealing that even relatives co-exist with deception among them. Blodgett highlights a bold notion about Robert by stating, “fact finding only brings on an excess of guilt for himself; instead of the truth making him free, he carries” (138). This concept reveals itself with Robert and Alicia because the more they attempt to learn of each other’s thoughts, the more anguish they bring upon themselves. This explains how, when uninvestigated, deception is able to exist without any noticeable affect. This speaks to the way deception occurs in every relationship. In Acts of Madness, Voskuil explores the notion of “natural acting” as a theory explaining the readability of human behavior. “For Lewes, the idealized, transcendent “common [human] nature” enabled the links between interior and exterior selves… By mid-century, according to Roger Smith, most medical writers in Britain had “self-consciously adopted a physiological idiom” (615). Voskuil reviews this theory because it relates to Lady Audley’s Secret in the area of human interaction and relationships, revealing that true character is unknown. Throughout Braddon’s novel numerous relationships are at work, and she reveals the relevancy of deception in the sphere of “common human nature” in everyday life. Deception serves as a common quality simply because individuals choose mostly to keep the harsh reality of inner feelings or truths they have for others to themselves. The two in-laws in this work, Robert and Lucy, have a relationship with qualities of unknown deception between them. The mystery of deceitfulness surrounds their interactions. First, Lucy does her best to postpone and avoid Robert’s visit to Audley Court because she plans to avoid George Talboys who will accompany him. However Robert, being completely in the dark about this matter and her deception, does not think twice about it until later. Braddon writes, “When Robert, therefore, was about to re-enter the inn, it needed but the faintest elevation of Lucy’s eyebrows… to make her husband aware that she did not want to be bored with an introduction…” (55). With these two, Braddon develops the different deceptions that may take place in a seemingly simple relationship, even if the people are not emotionally involved and one party is unaware of the deception. In the article “Relationships in King Lear,” Paul Alpers examines the concept of bonding, familial relationships. He presents the idea that “relationships, in all their messy and palpable complexity, precede and define recognition” and “can become a form of bondage and oppression” (47). Braddon’s novel reflects this concept with Robert and Lucy Audley because the deception present later defines the true nature of their relationship as the complete opposite of what is at first expected. In one instance, Robert innocently inquires about George Talboy, stating, “God forbid! But I cannot help feeling uneasy about him” (87), as Lucy gives a “nervous shudder” and denies any knowledge of the matter. Thus, she makes herself suspect of knowing something. Their relationship exemplifies how deception can be present and influential whether at first known or unknown.In “Edith Wharton’s A Dialectic of Deception: The Age of Innocence,” Jean Witherow explores the concept of deception. “Wharton explores the subtleties of language as language deceives and, inadvertently, mirrors… inner lives… Language as a tool for deception is often noted in critical discourse” (11). This idea of deceiving language is prevalent at Robert’s expense. Lucy attempts to persuade her husband to avoid Robert because he is trying to investigate into her past knowledge of George. Braddon notes:He shall go to-night, Lucy! exclaimed Sir Michael. I’ve been a blind, neglectful fool not to have thought of this before. My lovely little darling, it was scarcely just to Bob to expose the poor lad to your fascinations. I know him to be as good and true-hearted a fellow as ever breathed, but – but – he shall go to-night. (128)According to Witherow’s theory, Lucy is using discourse with her husband to deceive him. Her deceit in turn mirrors her own life, which is filled with guilt and sorrow. She further uses subtle language to deceive Robert about his removal itself, in an attempt to blame what has happened on her husband. Braddon states, “Lucy Audley spoke with that peculiar childish vivacity which seemed so natural to her… animated face” (138). Robert endures this deceitful action because he realizes Lucy is desperately trying to alleviate herself from all suspicion. Wharton considers this “The dialect of deception” (12), where her past secrets are made manifest by her deception, which alerts the suspicions of those around her.Braddon clearly presents deception as a controlling force in the protagonists’ relationships within this novel. She affirms that deception is a basic characteristic in any form of relationship. Throughout the novel she vividly explores the main characters’ experiences with deceit and how it affects them personally. Braddon examines the idea that the true nature of people can never really be known. Sir Michael and Lucy Audley’s relationship characterizes foundational deception because of their duplicitous actions and portrays how some relationships are built on deceit. The implication here is that in their courtship the two of them continually seek to protect themselves from certain feelings and, consequently, have to conceal things. The complexity of a relationship of this magnitude is that people are faced with the ethical dilemma of ensuring their own happiness through whatever means of deception (Joan and Dennis West). Robert Audley and Alicia Audley’s relationship as cousins portrays subtle deception in the most simplistic way. In argument, they both hide their feelings concerning each other for various reasons. Harriet Blodgett writes about the grey area of deception that exists between Robert and Alicia because of the fact that deception as well as truth may not be evident in a relationship. Lastly, Braddon presents Robert and Lucy’s relationship as in-laws in a situation where the deception exudes unknown to both parties. In relationships, language and the lack of discourse can serve as a way to deceive individuals, as revealed in the text. Overall, Braddon brilliantly portrays deception as an inclusive aspect of every relationship. Moreover, it is evident with every relationship explored, whether personal or impersonal, that deception tends to present itself on a general basis and in some form or another.Works CitedAlpers, Paul. “Relationships in King Lear.” Relationships 83.1 (2003): 46-60.Blodgett, Harriet. “The Greying of Lucy Audley’s Secret.” Papers on Language and Literature 37.2 (2001): 132-147.Braddon, Mary Elizabeth. Lucy Audley’s Secret. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.Voskuil, Lynn M. “Acts of Madness: Lucy Audley and the meanings of Victorian Feminity.” Feminist Studies 27.3 (2001): 611-640.West, Joan M., and Dennis. “Taking the Measure of Human Relationships: An interview with Jean-Pierre Derdenne and Luc Dardenne.” Cineaste 28.3 (2003): 14-21.Whitherow, Jean. “A Dialectic of Deception: The Age of Innocence.” Mosaic 36 (2003): 11-21.

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