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Lady Audley's Secret: A Character Analysis
Lady Audley's Secret (Book Cover)
Lucy Graham, a Female Jekyll and Hyde
I read Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon for my Victorianism class during my junior year in college. I found this to be a very interesting and very different kind of mystery. It wasn't your typical Miss Marple mystery or a Hercule Poirot mystery. It did have its downfalls, such as the narrator running on and on, but since I love mysteries so much, I decided to ignore the run on sentences and gave the book a chance.
Lucy Graham is one of the main characters in the book and, to my mind, the most deceptive. She appears to be a very sweet, poor young woman who took up a job as a Victorian governess. For a woman in those days, the only options were marriage in order to secure a good situation or take up a job as a governess.
Well, fortune comes her way and quite literally. Sir Michael Audley, a wealthy man in his mid-fifties, comes across her path. He becomes quite infatuated with Lucy and soon the the two wed. Sir Michael marries her out of pure love and one would think Lucy would marry him because she loved him, too. Why would a young woman marry a man twenty to thirty years her senior? Chances are, it wouldn't be for his looks and his charms (think Mrs. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice ).
Lucy, according to Mary Elizabeth Braddon, is a beautiful young woman with a childlike face that can do no wrong. She is incapable of harming people. The question is: how does one know she isn't just using her looks as a facade? For all the reader knows, she could be hiding a dark secret that has yet to surface. Even Sir Michael, taken in by her childlike face, doesn't think she could do evil. He doesn't take his wealth into account. "I do not think that throughout his courtship the baronet once calculated upon his wealth or his position as a strong reason for his success" (13 Braddon).
I love how Lucy's Dr. Jekyll personality begins to crumble and the Mr. Hyde of her begins to emerge. The reader finally gets a peek at the true personality of Lady Lucy Audley (Graham) when George Talboys goes missing and when Robert Audley, the nephew of Sir Michael, gets involved with the disappearance. I enjoyed how he did a process of elimination throughout the book and eventually comes to suspect the lovely, childlike Lucy.
Lucy continues to develop into the female version of Mr. Hyde as Robert Audley digs deeper into George's disappearance. He eventually discovers that Lady Audley has an intimate relationship with the missing man and that the name Lucy Graham was nothing more than an alias for her. She hated her situation as a governess and took flight for a new life. As a reader, I kind of had to sympathize with her because she was just really unhappy with her life before she ran away. Who can blame her? At the same time, I wanted to say she was also a coward for not facing the situation considering that, once again, a woman in the Victorian Era didn't have many choices.
Anyway, it was the love of money that drove 'Lucy' to marry Sir Michael. She even admitted to it when she her scheme finally fell apart. "I think I loved him as much as it was in my power to love anybody; not more than I have loved you, Sir Michael; not so much; for when you married me you elevated me to a position that he could never have given me" (346 Braddon).
I don't really remember if I had the option, but if I had I would have elected to compare her to Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde. That would have been fun! So, for anyone looking for a unique mystery novel, I would recommend checking this book out.
Braddon, Mary Elizabeth. Lady Audley's Secret. Penguin Classics: 1998.