Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Lucy’s Image

“The winter sunlight, gleaming full upon her face from a side window, lit up the azure in those beautiful eyes, till their colour seemed to flicker and tremble betwixt blue and green, as the opal tints of the sea change upon a summer’s day. The small brush fell from her hand, and blotted out the peasant’s face under a widening circle of a crimson lake” (Braddon 121)

Throughout the novel there has been a conflict or a binary between what is real and what is a merely a facade. This conflict can be seen by the reader in this passage. I was interested in this passage because of the way Lucy visibly reacts to Robert. Here, the image of Lucy’s eyes changing color implies that there is some part of her that is not real, and that she is uncomfortable by Robert. Lucy’s blue eyes are a part of the image of herself that she has created and chooses to show to the world, but when Robert starts to question her and what happened to George; Lucy’s eyes flash a green color thus revealing that a part of her that she keeps hidden is starting to reveal itself. A large part of Lucy’s power comes from her image. Everyone thinks she is a sweet, beautiful, innocent woman, and she needs people to have that idea of her in order for her to maintain her power and position. If Lucy is found out to be Helen, then she will loose her place as Lady Audley and likely be persecuted. Thus Lucy takes advantage of female stereotypes to get what she wants, and to help her achieve her goal. 

In this passage, Braddon also describes Lucy painting a “beautiful Italian peasant, in an impossibly Turneresque atmosphere” (Braddon 121). However after Robert accuses Lucy she messes up her painting. Lucy painting mirrors how she subtly manipulates the situations to benefit her and her needs. However, Lucy is so shocked by Robert’s accusation that she messes up her painting thus revealing that the scene she has set up is beginning to fall apart.

2 Comments

  1. I agree with many of the points in your post. I would have never thought that the changing of the eye color represented how Lucy has been changing herself, but I think you make a good case for it. She has lived two different lives, and while of course her eye color did not really change, this metaphor helps to capture the idea that she can change herself easily; even the most impossible things to change such as eye color. I also think you can push your point about messing up the painting further. There is an increasing amount of “crimson:” the color of blood. Does this hint at murder too?

  2. I think that this chapter of the novel is really quite the turning point for Lady Audley and this passage points out a critical change in her character for the rest of the novel. One specific line I would like to point out is where the narrator states, “My lady put away her colours and sketch-book, and seating herself in the deep recess of another window at a considerable distance from Robert Audley” (Braddon 122). Here, Lady Audley puts her brush away, or quits her lying and storytelling, and physically removes herself from Robert once she realizes her plan is beginning to fall apart. Another turning point for Lady Audley can be found in chapter eighteen where “the pretty roseate flush faded out from her cheeks, and left them waxen white, and angry flashes lightened her blue eyes” (Braddon 142). Here, the author touches on the binary of beautiful versus bland and I think we can see that in this section, both Lady Audley’s color and personality go from being beautiful and confident to pale and frightened. Yet another twist in Lady Audley’s persona to follow in the rest of the novel.

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