Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Descriptive Comparisons of George and the Dead

“I cannot tell how long he sat blankly staring at one paragraph amongst the list of deaths, before his dazed brain tool in its full meaning…”


The quote above can be found in chapter 4 of Lady Audley’s Secret. The more “obvious” reading of the paragraph puts readers in the perspective of George, who has returned from his three year voyage to find out from a paper of his wife’s (Helen) death. What may catch the eye of careful readers is the repetition of terminology for length or time, and also how, when describing widower George’s state, he seems almost dead himself. Upon examining the former point; notice the wording in the line. Terms contrast to pursue significance, such as in the direct “long”-ness of the list of deaths, and George’s focus on only “one”. The contrast of these terms helps to paint the scene for readers, almost as if we are also checking the list with this character. Regarding the latter point, Lady Audley’s Secret is not the first book to demonstrate romantic connections and the feeling of being “unable to go on”, nor will it be the last. What was unique to this paragraph was that George seems to resemble a walking corpse in his shock and disbelief. Take the lines, “…he sat blankly…” and “…his dazed brain…” for example. These are traits we often associate with the deceased, or at least medically deceased. The chapter seems to place George in a state of supreme focus (during the quest to find his wife’s name – or rather to not find it) and then throw him into a numb state of semi-consciousness, where, perhaps as a method for grief, George can only seem to react to the events around him as if his senses were blocked by invisible barriers.


  1. I find your point particularly interesting because when I first read through it, I didn’t really think of of how describing George as “dazed” and as sitting “blankly” evoked images of a dead person. Now with this interpretation presented, I can draw the parallel that the author probably intended–when George read the news of his wife’s death, he died too–emotionally rather than physically being the only difference. Additionally, if we assume Helen is Lucy, the theme of emotional death takes on a stronger parallel within the work, as other blog posts have explored.

  2. George’s macabre fascination with death continues throughout the novel. While out in the country with Robert, George looks at the landscape and explains, “It ought to be an avenue in a churchyard. . . How peacefully the dead might sleep under this sombre shade!” It interesting that George Talboys makes this point while on a fishing trip with his friend. Talboys is unable to forget his wife Helen, and associates everything he experiences with his own sadness, even something as unconnected as death to fishing. The only time in the novel George showed any happiness was on his boat ride from Australia to England when he did not know the fate of his wife. You’re blog post brings up a good point regarding the “semi-conscious” state that George is constantly in. Instead of introducing himself to Alicia in this scene (she appears while George and Robert are walking away from their fishing trip), he talks about death and graveyards, this shows that the singular focus that George has. He is constantly in a daze and cannot come to terms with his loss.

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