Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Stand Out Stand Strong

“Lucy Audley was radiant on this cold and snowy January morning. Other people’s noses are rudely assailed by the sharp fingers of the grim ice-king, but not my lady’s; other people’s lips turn pale and blue with the chilling influence of the bitter weather, but my lady’s pretty little rosebud of a mouth retained its brightest coloring and cheeriest freshness”(pg 141).

First, this passage is a clear example of two opposing sets of binaries.   Words and phrases like “radiant”, “pretty” and “brightest coloring and cheeriest freshness” are in extreme contrast with “rudely assailed”, “sharp fingers of the grim ice-king” and “bitter weather”.  This can be put into the light vs dark category.  On one hand we see this reoccurring idea of Lady Audley’s beauty and her bright defiant smile.  However, on the other lurks the overarching motif of darkness and of course secrets.

Off of this, the passage also showcases two other general themes that are prevalent throughout the book.  The first being the concept of Lady Audley’s strength.  Through the cold and harsh conditions Lady Audley still finds a way to prevail and radiate through.  She once again is breaking societal norms for women in the sense that she preserved through difficult circumstances rather than following what is expected of her (a bad reaction to the weather).  I believe that this shows how tough was Lady Audley really is.

Moreover, her ability to withstand the abrasive weather is also just one more thing that makes Lady Audley different and stand out from those around her.  For whatever reason, she can survive through situations that others can’t, which further separates her from all the other characters and continues to raise suspicion about her true identity.


  1. It is interesting that from these few short lines you could pull different themes from the novel into conversation. I agree with what is being interpreted her, Lady Audley can stand out from the other characters. If she is Helen Talboys, as some might suspect, we see how she turned her life around. She is no longer the poor girl, with a drunken father, that was left alone by her husband to raise their son. Now she has the money and the expensive jewelry, outfits, etc. to make her stand out from the rest. Even though she might be hiding a secret from those around her she is still able to use her appearance to deceive people to secure she remains at the status she is at.

  2. Interesting points. I wonder if we interpret this passage as in fact showcasing Lady Audley’s strength, does this suggest that the author may not view her as the antagonist as we do? I think it could be an interesting point that perhaps we will discover later in the novel that maybe Lady Audley does not have as bad of intentions as we may think now, and that maybe Lady Audley is someone who can break the mold of the societal pressures put on women at the time. I also think that this post could be interpreted as a kind of other worldly power to her- that she is so cold that she is unaffected by the cold. I think it will be interesting to see what happens later in the text.

  3. I think that this quote was almost a foreshadowing moment for the rest of the chapter. It was obvious to the reader that this would more likely than not be an unfavorable meeting for both parties. However, this foreshadowing came true. Although Lady Audley put on a pretty face and acted quite oblivious towards Roberts comments, she still came off to be very cold and on edge which resembled her physical description. I also really appreciate all of the binaries the author created that revolve around Lady Audley. Another one that I would like to point out is the contrast of rich versus poor. This binary can be seen comparing both the wealth and beauty of Lady Audley and Phoebe. One example of this can be found on page 60 of the text where Phoebe is described as “drab” and “sallow” where Lady Audley is “pink” and “rosy”. I am interested to see how this binary will continue to reflect on who these characters are throughout the conclusion of the novel.

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